Toyota is Killing The FJ Cruiser Three Years After It Leaves U.S.
Toyota is ending production of the FJ Cruiser more than a decade after the retro-styled SUV hit U.S. shores. But, if you’re like most, you thought the FJ Cruiser was dead since 2014 when it stopped sitting in Toyota showrooms here in the U.S. However, that’s not the case as the 4Runner-based SUV has been on-sale in Toyota’s home market of Japan. Toyota isn’t giving the FJ Cruiser a loveless ending, though. The automaker is releasing a special edition of the FJ Cruiser appropriately dubbed the “Final Edition.”
The FJ Cruiser Final Edition is a Japan-only model and comes in a single color option: Beige. The spartan interior also gets the beige treatment with beige center sections on the cloth seats and beige trim on the dashboard. Other changes include 20-inch alloy wheels, black side steps, and that cool JDM mirror on the front fender. Toyota isn’t changing anything with the drivetrain – and why would it? The FJ Cruiser has soldiered on for a decade with that tired 4.0-liter V-6 and five-speed automatic transmission. 4WD is most likely standard, but at the very least, is an option. Of course, the FJ Crusier’s most endearing quality is its ruggedness afforded by its body-on-frame construction, solid rear axle, independent front suspension, and its part-time 4WD system. An honest SUV was hidden under that retro bodywork and awkward interior. It was the FJ’s weirdness that both gained it a loyal following and ultimately brought its demise. Sales exceeding 55,000 in 2006 and 2007 quickly nosedived during the recession of 2008 and never recovered. Toyota only managed to sell 14,718 in 2014, making the bean counters’ decision to axe the SUV within the U.S. an easy one. Compare that to the 4Runner’s U.S. sales in 2014 of nearly 77,000 and its sales in 2016 of 112,000. It’s clear which body-on-frame SUV Toyota customers wanted.
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Toyota Quietly Kills Regular Cab Tundra for 2018
Amid Toyota’s February 2017 debut of the slightly updated 2018 Tundra pickup, the brand buried its plot to end production of the Tundra regular cab. The once-popular cab style has faded from glory as customers choose pickups versions with more interior room. As it turns out, the regular cab Tundra only mustered an abysmally low 0.4 percent rake-rate in the first five months of 2017. The larger Double Cab accounted for 34.1 percent of Tundra sales during the same period, while the Crew Max represented 65.5 percent of the 43,809 Tundras sold between January and May. Do the math, and Toyota only sold 175 regular cab Tundras in five months.
This isn’t a new trend, of course, with regular cab trucks from every automaker losing out to more spacious cab configurations. It’s also worth noting Toyota trails in half-ton pickup truck sales, followed only by the new Nissan Titan and Titan XD pickups, whose production is still being ramped up following their recent introductions. In contrast, Ford sold 351,965 F-Series pickups between January and May, while Chevrolet sold 212,425. The domestic brands also control the vast majority of the fleet and work-truck segments, which still skew towards low-cost trims and cab configurations. That presents this question: Why isn’t Toyota marketing to these segments? Other automakers do very well selling high-quantity, low-content pickups, Ford especially. Let’s explore this more below.
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2015 - 2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro – Driven
The 2015 – 2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro is Toyota’s most rugged and capable SUV. Thanks to some clever engineering in the Toyota Racing Development labs, the 4Runner enjoys a truly hard-core off-road version that usurps even the venerable Trail Edition 4Runner. Heavy duty Bilstein shocks with remote reservoirs, thick coil springs with a 1.0-inch suspension lift, upgraded wheels and tires, and a tank-like front skid plate makes the TRD Pro a natural in the dirt. All the same off-road tech on the 4Runner Trail Edition carries over to the TRD Pro, too. This includes the electronic locking rear differential, manual transfer case, and Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select system.
A unique front grille with the blocky T-O-Y-O-T-A lettering sets the TRD Pro apart, along with TRD Pro badging on the C-pillars and bespoke TRD Pro wheels and all-terrain tires. Things inside aren’t much different than other 4Runners, beside a TRD gear shifter and some like-branded floor mats. So how does the TRD Pro handle everyday life and the sandy trails of Central Florida? Keep reading to find out.
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2017 Toyota FJ by ICON
Jonathan Ward has been working with Toyota FJs for well over a decade. His company, Toyota Land Cruisers (or TLC for short), specializes in buying, restoring, selling, and servicing Toyota SUVs ranging from the venerable FJ40 up through modern stuff like the FJ Cruiser. In fact, TLC was contracted by Toyota to build the first three FJ Cruiser prototypes ahead of its 2005 debut. But TLC isn’t Ward’s only operation. ICON has gained quite the notoriety in recent years by building high-dollar, custom vehicles for discerning customers. The bread-n-butter of ICON’s menu is the original Toyota FJ.
ICON offers four versions of its FJ series, aligning with the original FJ models produced by Toyota from 1960 to 1983. The FJ40 is the iconic, two-door Jeep CJ competitor, the FJ43 offers two doors with a longer wheelbase, the FJ44 uses the 43’s wheelbase but adds four doors, and the FJ45 is a two-door pickup variant. Each FJ ICON builds is for a specific customer looking for a rugged and reliable vehicle that’s built well enough to tackle daily driving. We’re taking a deep dive into ICON’s FJ lineup here, so keep reading for specifics.
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Toyota Land Speed Cruiser Sets World Speed Record
Toyota has a rich history of building outlandish one-off projects, but none of them can match the wild nature of this Land Cruiser. Built to break the world record for the fastest SUV, Toyota named this three-row, body-on-frame beast the Land Speed Cruiser. The play on works helps the reality of the project sink in. Engineers had to make a 5,800-pound SUV perform like a sports car in order to break the 211-mph top speed record in the SUV category. The stock 5.7-liter V-8 was heavily modified to make more than 2,000 horsepower, while the suspension was given new life with high-dollar speed parts.
The Land Cruiser’s interior also received a handful of updates like a FIA-certified racing seat and roll cage, along with information displays for keeping tabs on the mechanicals. Surprisingly, the rest of the interior remains factory. The wood grain and leather steering wheel, dashboard, and center console are all intact. A new shifter replaces the stock unit, however, as Toyota updated the gearbox with a new racing transmission designed for the extra power and speed. And all but the driver’s seat was removed for weight reduction. Toyota then put former NASCAR driver Carl Edwards behind the wheel at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. So how fast did the Land Speed Cruiser go? Keep reading for the official speed.
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BJ Baldwin Proves Trucks Can Fly in Recoil 4
Famed Baja racer BJ Baldwin is back again with is Recoil series, and boy, is it worth the wait! Recoil 4 takes place in Cuba, whose borders were just recently opened to U.S. citizens. It seems Baldwin didn’t care to tread lightly, despite the fledgling relationship between the two governments. Armed with his 850-horsepower Toyota trophy truck, Baldwin tears through the hilly streets of Havana and the vegetation surrounding the historic coastal city.
Think of Recoil as the off-road version of Ken Block’s Gymkhana. Insane stunts followed by high-horsepower rampages down empty streets followed by slow-motion, high-resolution videography showcasing the vehicle’s and driver’s abilities.
Recoil 4 earned some world records in the process. Baldwin’s custom-built truck soared 191 feet through the air, setting the record for the longest residential jump in a trophy truck. Undoubtedly, Cuba has never seen anything like this before.
Those fascinated by slow-motion video of suspension systems in action should find this nine-minute film nearly pornographic. Especially eye-catching is Baldwin’s dance over logs at the 4:45 mark. It’s amazing how that long-arm suspension and those King racing shocks soak up the bumps at blistering speed. It’s also incredible how much capability big tires and huge power give a rear-wheel drive truck. This thing is unstoppable!
2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro – Driven
Toyota has a long history with mid-sized, high-riding pickups in America. Many might remember Marty McFly’s 1985 Toyota truck with its tube bumpers, lifted suspension, alloy wheels, and black paint job. While most of these trucks have rusted into the history books, their spirit lives on in Toyota’s modern Tacoma – and no more so than with the Tacoma TRD Pro. This lifted truck with its blacked-out wheels and bold grille give it a flair for the past, while still answering the trends of today.
I had the chance to spend a week with the 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, which came dressed in Super White and built on the Double Cab platform. I spent an extensive amount of time driving the highways and surface streets surrounding my Central Florida home. And of course, I sampled the deep, sandy ruts of trails running through wooded landscapes that appeared untouched since the Spanish Conquistadors landed in the 1500s.
The Tacoma TRD Pro attracted a lot of attention during its stay in my driveway, and it’s no wonder. The Tacoma is the best-selling mid-size pickup in the U.S. these days, outselling the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, Nissan Frontier, and Honda Ridgeline. There’s something about the truck that snags people’s interest. Most comments tended to focus on the black-on-white color scheme and the blocky TOYOTA grille.
So what’s it like living with the Taco Supreme? It’s spicy… but sometimes not in a good way. Keep reading for the explanation.
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2017 Colorado ZR2 vs 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro
These are exciting times for truck enthusiasts who also like off-roading. The 2017 Ford Raptor is out, launching the second generation of Ford’s halo F-150. Toyota has its new-for-2017 Tacoma TRD Pro that’s based on the new-for-2016 Tacoma. And Chevy comes late to the party with its Colorado ZR2 – a production truck based on the concept version from 2014. These three trucks represent the upper crust of the pickup segment. It’s a prestigious group that’s focused on going fast over rough terrain while still conquering the daily commute.
The Raptor might be the premiere pickup, having birthed this niche segment back in 2010, but the Toyota and Chevy new-comers aren’t slackers. In fact, thanks to their smaller sizes compared to the full-size Raptor, these mid-size pickups are more agile and can fit down narrower trails. The famed Rubicon train in California, for instance, is too narrow for the Raptor’s immensely wide track. The Tacoma TRD Pro and Colorado ZR2, however, should have no problem traversing the tight terrain.
The Toyota and Chevy are also less expensive (or rumored to be) than the Raptor. That puts them basically in a head-to-head fight for customers. Typical things like design, features, and brand loyalty goes a long way in choosing which truck is best, but a more objective comparison should be made. That’s especially true for someone who’s ready to pull the trigger on a purchase.
That’s where this article comes in. We’re going to dive deep into the features and specs of both the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and the Chevy Colorado ZR2 in order to help you, the customer, make a better-informed decision.
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Is Toyota Working on an FJ-Inspired Concept Called the FT-4X?
The U.S. Trademark and Patent Office often reveals automakers’ plans years in advance. That’s what we’re hoping is happening with Toyota’s recent filing. On October 10, 2016, Toyota filed to trademark the name “Toyota FT-4X.” Toyota has been using the “FT,” for Future Toyota, nomenclature to name its concepts for a few years now. Combine that with the “4X” name, and we’re anticipating a 4WD SUV that could fill the retired FJ-Cruiser’s shoes.
First discovered by Autoguide, the trademark filing is a promising bit of news. Toyota has built all previous “FT” concepts, including the FT-86 that became the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ, as well as the FT-1, believed to be the upcoming Toyota Supra sports car.
The idea of a FJ-Cruiser-style SUV makes sense. SUVs and crossover sales are on fire these days and other automakers are investing big money into the segments. Ford, for example, is set to revive the Bronco name. Jeep is giving the Wrangler a full make-over for the 2018 model year, and GMC has been rumored to be working on a hard-core Wrangler competitor.
Toyota knows how to build SUVs and off-roaders. The current 4Runner is a great example. Its body-on-frame design is coupled with its solid rear axle and loads of available off-road tech. The TRD Pro model turns the dial to 11, offering high-performance shock absorbers, meaty tires, increased ground clearance, underbody skid plating, and Toyota’s CRAWL Control system. The Tacoma TRD Pro also features many of the same technologies.
Currently the 4Runner is Toyota’s only off-road biased SUV and is one of the industries last-surviving traditionalists. While Toyota’s plans are completely unknown, we’re hoping the 4Runner will live on while being supplemented by this new FT-4X vehicle. We’ll keep you posted as information becomes available.
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Toyota Expanding Tacoma Production in Tijuana
Toyota is investing $150 million into its Tijuana, Mexico assembly plant in an effort to increase the production capacity of the Tacoma midsize pickup. This comes in response to the high demand Toyota says it’s experienced for the Tacoma.
The investment will push production from roughly 100,000 units to around 160,000 units annually. The investment should be fully realized and production in full swing by late 2017 or early 2018.
Toyota has already added a third shift to the Tijuana plant back in April of 2015, allowing it to run 24 hours a day Monday through Friday, with two shifts on Saturday. Toyota has also added a Saturday shift at its San Antonio assembly plant, which produces the bulk of Tacomas and every Tundra pickup.
“Demand for trucks has grown exponentially,” Toyota Motor North America CEO Jim Lentz said. “By leveraging our manufacturing facilities’ availability and expertise, we can be nimbler and better adjust to market needs in a just-in-time manner.”
Automotive News reports Tacoma sales were up four percent in 2016 through August despite it losing market share to the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and new Honda Ridgeline. The Tacoma dropped from holding 51 percent of the midsize pickup market to 43 percent. Nevertheless, Toyota’s David Crouch, the Vice president of administration and production control at the San Antonio plant, says the automaker hopes to regain market share with the increased production.
Crouch told AM that Toyota dealers don’t have enough pickup inventory on the lot to tempt shoppers to buy. “Obviously, one of the biggest challenges that we have for Tundra and Tacoma is we’re capacity-limited. We could sell a lot more trucks right now.”
Having the supply to meet consumer demand is obviously a huge part of doing business, and for Toyota, it seems business is doing exceptionally well.
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Off-Road Shootout – Ram Rebel VS Toyota Tundra TRD Pro: Video
The pickup truck segment is red-hot these days, especially in the off-road niche. Two of the biggest players come from Toyota and Ram. These trucks are upfitted with special equipment and features not found on lesser-level trucks. But which one is better suited for the dirt? Well, the guys over at Off-Road.com pitted the contenders together to find out.
Up first, the Toyota Tundra TRD Pro comes motivated with the venerable 5.7-liter iForce V-8 backed by a six-speed automatic transmission. By checking the TRD Pro option box, the Tundra then gets a fantastic-sounding dual exhaust system, TRD-branded coil-over shocks with remote reservoirs, and an extra two inches of ground clearance. What’s more, the TRD Pro brings a unique front grille, bespoke interior trimmings, and a cool TRD Pro stamping on the cargo bed.
Also powered by a 5.7-liter V-8 is the Ram Rebel. But the Ram’s Hemi is no high-tech DOHC engine. Nope, it’s a good ole-fashioned cam-in-block, pushrod V-8, though it does have cylinder deactivation. It pumps out an impressive 395 horsepower and 410 pound-feet of torque, out-classing the Tundra’s 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. Controlling the Hemi’s power is an eight-speed automatic transmission.
Both trucks come with part-time 4WD systems with electronic engagement and low range gearing. Neither truck, however, offers a selectable locking rear differential, though limited-slip diffs in both offer more traction than a conventional open differential.
Setting the Ram apart is its air suspension system. It gives the driver the option of a standard and off-road ride height. When in its highest position, the Ram matches the Tundra TRD Pro’s ground clearance. And thanks to the air suspension’s self-leveling feature, the Ram offers a flatter ride when hooked to a tongue-heavy trailer. The Toyota just goes nose up.
These trucks are awesome and all, but both command premium price tags. The Tundra TRD Pro edges out the Ram, carrying an as-tested price around $46,000. At round $53,000, the Ram Rebel is more expensive, but as this video review points out, it offers more features commonly favored among modern truck buyers.
So which is better in the dirt? Well, I can’t spoil the review, so check it out above.
Motor Trend Pits the Mercedes G65 Against Icon’s FJ44 Prototype
It’s not everyday you see two quarter-million dollar SUVs plunging into rocky riverbeds and barreling through muddy ditches, but that’s exactly what’s happening in Motor Trend’s latest episode of Head2Head.
Most everybody is familiar with the Mercedes G-Wagen. It’s Mercedes answer to the Jeep, and likewise, the G served its time in the military. However, the most common place to find a G-Wagen is on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California. Mercedes’ most plush, powerful, and opulent version of G-Wagen is the Mercedes-AMG G65. It comes packing a 6.0-liter V-12 that cranks out 621 horsepower and an insane 738 pound-feet of torque.
Sadly, as our dubious hosts point out, the V-12 is a hunk of old-school tech that is in need of serious updating. Turbo lag and a small power band are the highest offences. On the other side of the muddy ditch is a 6.2-liter V-8 packing a supercharger within the Icon FJ44’s engine bay. This GM small-block might have its origins in the 1950s, but it still lays down 465 horsepower.
Now both SUVs are plenty capable off-road, but the Icon is certainly the more rugged of the two. Its no-nonsense interior and tall ground clearance allow it to traverse anywhere without damage – something we can’t say for the Mercedes G65. Conversely, the FJ44 would be nearly impossible to daily drive, whereas the Benz fits right in at your local Whole Foods or billionaire’s club.
So which SUV wins this crazy head to head? You’ll have to watch the video to find out. All I’ll say is it’s rather surprising and unforeseen. Click HD and full screen for the full effect.