We take a ride into the desert in Toyota’s TRD-SPEC FJ Cruiser, a dedicated off-roader with everything you need for dominating the dunes…

TOYOTA’S QUIRKY RETRO LOW- FRILLS, high thrills off-roader gets a makeover courtesy of the Japanese automaker’s performance division, TRD (Toyota Racing Development). TRD recently launched its UAE base late last year, and now offers aftermarket parts and TRD-spec versions of Toyota’s passenger car range, the FJ being the most recent addition. For most of the range, the modifications are almost purely cosmetic, with aero kits, alloy wheels, chromed exhausts, and so on. However, the FJ Cruiser’s mods go much more than just skin deep. Sure, there are the cosmetic touches, such as the rather nice-looking black 17-inch alloys, the chromed TRD exhaust, shift-knob and fender flares, which do all add to the overall visual effect. But then there are some serious additions which are dedicated specifically to the fine art of desert driving.IMG_1445

For example, there are the special TRD shocks and coil springs that add ground clearance, and underbody protection in the form of a skid plate and side sill protectors. There’s the compass/inclinometer setup on the dashboard (an inclinometer is that ball floating in liquid that tells you whether you’re upside down or not…). And then there is the built-in air compressor for inflating your tyres after you’ve let them down for desert driving, which is probably the most useful feature of all. Not so useful, but cool anyway, is the TRD flagpole that screws into a mount on the roof, so that people can spot you from a distance when traversing the undulating dunes of the desert! Other standard features on the TRD FJ which add icing to the cake are the navigation system and rear parking camera on the infotainment screen, as well as cruise control.

The engine for the TRD FJ remains the same – Toyota’s 4.0l V6, which puts out 268hp and 380Nm of torque through the five-speed automatic transmission, which itself can be manually shifted between 2WD, 4-High and 4-Low. Being geared more towards torque than horsepower, the FJ is not the fastest SUV on the road, but the considerable torque will churn through or over most obstacles with little fuss, helped along by the FJ’s relatively lightweight design.

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Other standard features on the TRD FJ which add icing to the cake are the navigation system and rear parking camera on the infotainment screen, as well as cruise control.

There are also such useful driver aids as the A-Trac Active Traction Control, Hill Start Assist, Hill Descent Control and differential lock. The TRD FJ suffers from the same complaints as the standard FJ Cruiser, namely a budget-looking plasticky interior, cramped rear seats and unrefined on-road ride comfort. However, for serious 4WD enthusiasts, these issues are secondary to off-road performance, and in that regard, few SUVs offer as much bang for your buck as the TRD FJ. Indeed, most of the parts that come standard are only available as aftermarket or third-party parts on most 4WDs. At around AED155,000, the TRD FJ is pricey compared to the standard FJ Cruiser, but in our opinion, if you like to hit the desert, you won’t be disappointed.