A concept that Toyota calls a “reincarnation” of the original FJ LandCruiser made its global debut at the New York Auto Show this past April – and is a concept that may point the way to a future retro-inspired production model.
With the FJ Cruiser ending production last year, Toyota is without a bare-bones, retro-inspired model in their current SUV lineup. The ‘FT-4X’ may change that.
Born in California
Standing for ‘Future Toyota 4WD Crossover’, the FT-4X Concept is the product of Toyota’s Calty Design Research studio in California and is said to be inspired by the FJ40 and BJ40 Series LandCruisers that lasted from 1960 through to 1984.
Calty’s president, Kevin Hunter, describes the FT-4X as a “four-wheel drive toolbox,” with “rugged charm.”
"The FT-4X is not simply a concept where style meets function; it is a thoughtful, charming and engaging experience that adds real pleasure and convenience to the journey," Hunter said.
"We focused on how a crossover vehicle can add fun and value to casual adventures both I and out of the city, thinking about how someone would use it, and what they would love to do with it."
The “X” Factor
Based on the Toyota New Global Architecture C-platform, the FT-4X is inspired by a simple, sturdy "X theme".
Seen in profile, the FT-4X’s X-theme is apparent, with the “middle” of the X containing the front door handles, with the styling then flaring out to form the “arms” of the X and encompass the wheelarches, which wrap over 18-inch wheels, and the rest of the bodywork.
The FT-4X’s platform and 2640mm wheelbase is the same as the recently-released C-HR compact crossover, but the concept’s squarer, boxier styling means it’s shorter than the C-HR and thus has improved approach and departure angles, but is wider and higher – 4250mm x 1820mm x 1620mm (LxWxH) against 4360mm x 1795mm x 1565mm for the C-HR.
Notable exterior design elements include the deeply-shrouded headlights, tow hooks front and rear, bold ‘Toyota’ branding on the grille, chunky front wheelarch flares and a ribbed roof, but perhaps the cleverest touch is at the back.
The tailgate, what Toyota calls a Multi-Hatch, can open two ways: either barn door-style with two doors; or lift-up tailgate style. Toyota says the two styles allow for roadside loading via the barn doors in town, while the full tailgate option improves overall access for easier loading and unloading out in the bush.
Another element here is the oversized handle that allows the barn doors to be opened with a gloved hand.
The asymmetric C-pillar colour treatment is actually what Toyota calls a “picture window”, which can be left as is to let more light in for rear seat passengers, or replaced with tinted glass or an opaque blanking panel, allowing a degree of individual customisation.
Another neat touch is the driver’s side rear-view mirror, which features a built-in GoPro HERO5 Session camera for capturing off-road action.
A look inside the FT-4X and there’s no mistaking it’s a concept, with some pretty fanciful, albeit interesting, design elements.
There are colour-coded storage options (blue for closed, orange for option), heated and chilled storage boxes, a “wet zone” for storing damp clothing and muddy gear in the open centre console, as well as tracks in the cargo floor for tying down luggage and other gear.
There’s additional storage space under the floor and USB outlets in the rear door armrests, while a North Face sleeping bag, positioned between the front seats, doubles as an armrest - a neat feature.
More clever thinking inside includes water bottles incorporated in the door handles, interior lighting that’s removable for use as a torch, plus an interior dome light that can also serve as an external camp light or beacon.
The dash-mounted multimedia system is also removable, while the compact, cylindrical instrument cluster is designed to take a smartphone, eliminating the need for a screen for the in-car navigation system: an acknowledgment, Toyota says, that modern drivers are increasingly relying on their smartphone or other devices for navigation directions.
Although the concept was not fitted with any sort of powerplant for its New York debut, Toyota says the FT-4X would like employ a small-displacement four-cylinder engine in production form. Should the FT-4X reach production, that powerplant could be the 1.2-litre turbo petrol engine currently used in the C-HR, matched to a manual or CVT transmission.
Toyota adds that other mechanical spec would likely include a mechanical 4WD system with selectable low range, as well as independent suspension.
Of course, it’s way too early to predict if the FT-4X Concept will become a production reality, but should it do so, it could make for an interesting addition to the range and a more off-road focussed companion for the C-HR crossover.
Expect to see the FT-4X doing the rounds at other auto shows throughout the year to gauge consumer interest in the concept and its features.