The time is right for a new Japanese retro off-road fighter.
Striking gold in the motor industry sometimes comes down to a little bit of luck and a lot of predicting the right time to release a product. Retro-themed cars are hot property right now, with manufacturers reviving old names and styling new cars like their old counterparts. The Hyundai Ioniq 5 is inspired by the first Hyundai car, the Pony, while Ford has gone full retro with the 2022 Ford Bronco, a Jeep Wrangler fighter that makes the most of historic throwbacks, rugged off-road bias, and retro styling that has impressed almost everyone to cast an eye over it. But few remember that Toyota did it first, albeit with far less success.
We're talking about the Toyota FJ Cruiser, the retro off-roader that had a brief stint in the USA from 2007-2014 before fading into screaming obscurity. But perhaps it's time Toyota relooked at the case for the FJ Cruiser, and designer Enoch Gonzales has taken a stab at what he thinks it should look like.
Gonzales has digitally penned his design just a couple of weeks after Toyota showcased a compact off-road EV bearing a striking similarity to the FJ Cruiser, but like us, feels the time is right for a retro 4x4 from the Japanese manufacturer.
According to Gonzales, "The discontinuation of the FJ Cruiser in most markets left a big room for a retro 4x4 SUV in Toyota's line-up." He rationalizes that one of the reasons for the FJ's failure was the awkward half-door design that was highly impractical, as opposed to two- and four-door options as found on the Wrangler and Bronco, meaning many buyers favored the more practical Toyota 4Runner.
His modern interpretation of the FJ Cruiser inherits the iconic grille and headlights, but finds the latter paired with secondary light units - split headlight clusters are all the rage right now after all. The side profile boasts notched fenders, strong hip and shoulder lines, and the FJ Cruiser's signature sloping roofline. While the Bronco and Wrangler come in short-wheelbase two-door derivatives, Gonzales has envisaged the 2024 FJ only in long-wheelbase four-door form, but these doors can be fully removed, as can the roof.
Unlike the Compact Cruiser EV concept, this FJ Cruiser is still combustion-powered, but we have no doubt that the platform would be accommodating of hybridization in order to rival the Wrangler 4xe. Truth be told, we're fans of the concept and feel that with a little more differentiation, Toyota could build a hardy retro 4x4 to ride on the coattails of the Bronco's current popularity.