A growl from the past

2011-08-26 14:22

There is no doubt that Toyota is one of the most successful brands in South Africa, and evidently the unbreakable customer loyalty gives them the audacity to bring a five-year-old car to these shores and present it as new.

Enter the “new” FJ Cruiser.

To everyone else the car is old news, but it has just been unveiled in South Africa and in Australia. Just like the little Toyota Aygo that was launched here earlier this year when it had been on the international market for six years.

It’s thanks to the determination shown by the Aussies – typical of them – to get the FJ Cruiser as a right-hand drive, luck came our way too.

But does it really matter? Toyota SA plans to sell about 120 units a month and already has a three-month waiting list of confirmed customers.

And while some people are hurt that we’re an after-thought, most Toyota enthusiasts do not give a hoot because of their unconditional love for the Japanese brand.

The FJ would make offroading a little boring, but then again you don’t have to push all the buttons to help you out.

But it’s not only the FJ that takes the fun out of going over challenging terrains.

While the Hummers and Jeep Wranglers still have that rugged feel and make you work on the off-road, other brands leave you spoilt.

The Land Rover Discovery 4, Nissan Pathfinder and Jeep’s Grand Cherokee all come packed with driver aids that chew up rocks and steep inclines.

Where avid offroaders would usually take a day or two to do serious trips, these kind of vehicles can cut that time because the job is already half done.

Would I still buy an FJ Cruiser though? Absolutely.

Launched in the hustle and bustle of Bra Joe’s Butchery in the heart of Alexandra, north of Joburg, Toyota wanted to emphasise that the FJ Cruiser is something different.

And before we headed out to Hekpoort in North West for some serious bundu-bashing, we had pap and vleis for breakfast – yes, breakfast – with music blaring out of speakers, taxis hooting incessantly and people milling about.

The FJs are legendary cars with a 40-year heritage in South Africa. This FJ has similar design cues from the original FJ40 from the 1960s and the JF45s launched locally in 1971. It still has the same white roof, the rear-wrap quarter windows and wrap-around grille.

There’s also the three-arm wiper system to cover the huge windscreen.

Its rugged and modern design has a go-anywhere-and-do-anything attitude about it, and it has all the looks and features to support that stance.

It has a 245mm ground clearance and is built to handle the rougher terrains. Standard features include active-traction control and a rear-locking differential to make offroading a breeze.

Usually I stay bolted in the passenger seat and always have to be encouraged to take the wheel when it comes to rocky roads, but I was eager to give the bundu-bashing a go in the FJ Cruiser and didn’t want to stop driving.

The car is extremely capable and makes even difficult obstacles seem easy without taking too much fun out of it.

I would buy one even if it does not seem to make much sense.

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