2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Xtreme Review: Hardcore Enough?

An improved FJ, but at a considerable cost
Imthishan Giado

 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Xtreme

This is the second of two FJ special editions Al Futtaim Motors has built, the other being the Street that Shahzad really didn’t like very much.

You all know the FJ, it’s been here since 2008 and so I’m not going to waste your time.

Is it any different?

The interior is exactly the same as a base FJ: lots of (good quality) plastic and very basic controls.You get decent Bluetooth in the Chinese-looking stereo and a strong A/C but that’s really it. No climate control, no subwoofer, no autodimming mirror, no telescopic-steering wheel, no LCD screens. Don’t get me wrong, it all feels very robust and easy to clean. It also feels quite last century.

The Xtreme conversion is done by 4×4 specialist Arctic Trucks; I’ve driven their work before and they know how to make a mean-looking vehicle. This Xtreme features Bushwacker pocket fender flares which look quite good and LED lights front and rear, which do not. Regular FJs have 17” 265/70 Dunlop all-terrain tyres; the Xtreme gets 275/70 BFG T/A KOs on Artic’s own 16-inch wheels.

It’s the same brand of tyre used on the Raptor and is quite heavy, which means the FJ feels slightly sluggish off the line on initial throttle tip-in. With their aggressive tread pattern, the BFGs are noisy on the highway, too, though the FJ doesn’t really help with its near-vertical glass presenting the aerodynamics of a Lego escaping from Colditz. Basically, only masochists need venture beyond 120kph.

The video review

Is it better offroad?

What you’re paying the premium for on the Xtreme is the suspension: stiffer Fox Stage 1 shocks with Eibach springs, netting a 2-inch lift over a base car. On the road, the ride is slightly firmer and definitely more grainy; you can feel tiny imperfections in the road transmitted to your caboose, though it’s not unpleasant by any means. More rigidity means the handling is much improved as well; the FJ now holds a nice line through the bends rather than wallowing like the regular shocks would.

Offroad, the increase in height means you won’t get hung up crossing tricky crests. The reason you want stiffer suspension offroad is so that it soaks up big bumps and absorb impacts when coming down hard on big dunes. It also helps when travelling fast on straight sections; a well-tuned suspension can keep the body flat and the wheels planted on the sand instead of hopping around all over the place.

For example, the Raptor’s triple-bypass Fox shocks means it’s easily capable of speeds in excess of 160kph on loose surfaces. Not to mention, superior flight time, if you are so inclined. Are the Fox shocks in the Xtreme as good? These shocks aren’t as expensive as the Ford’s and it shows. The suspension copes well with uneven ground and hard impacts but the front coilovers are still a little soft for my liking; on corrugated sections the front end bobs up and down where it should be dead flat and that only slows you down.

These shocks are the cheapest Fox items you can buy: serious offroaders will want to upgrade them further if high-speed running is on the agenda.

Verdict

The Xtreme is a butch-looking update to the FJ but ironically doesn’t go quite far enough. More stiffness would help – at the inevitable cost of a brutal ride. And for the price Al Futtaim is charging – AED149,000 – you can buy a base AED115k FJ and build the rally suspension of your dreams. Which would likely come from King, not Fox, these days.

So it’s a repeat of Shahzad’s verdict – save your money and buy a base FJ then decide for yourself what your priorities are, or if you even need the Xtreme’s suspension boost. The standard vehicle is a truly excellent offroader and the local aftermarket is more than capable of building you a car that’s more capable than the Xtreme at a fraction of the cost.

Read Shahzad’s review of the 2014 FJ Street

Read my long term report on the manual FJ Cruiser

 

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