FJ Cruiser is made for off-road duty

What you need to know:

  • One of the Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) being used for the trip is an FJ Toyota Land Cruiser that Nyeko drives. The 2012 model SUV runs on an automatic transmission.

When I meet George Nyeko on a Sunday, he is in the company of six friends from the Geco Tribe Off-roading Group. They are on a week-long East African regional road trip that started in Kenya on August 6, and will end in Tanzania via Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The objective of this trip is to promote tourism within the East African region.

One of the Sport Utility Vehicles (SUV) being used for the trip is an FJ Toyota Land Cruiser that Nyeko drives. The 2012 model SUV runs on an automatic transmission.

A right hand drive with a fuel tank carrying capacity of 75 litres, the FJ Cruiser also runs on a 4000cc V6 petrol engine with 276 horsepower.

Driveability

Unlike most cars with full time Four Wheel Drive (4WD) systems, the one of the FJ Cruiser is an on demand 4WD. This means you can engage or disengage the system when you need to, depending on the terrain. The FJ Cruiser, which is a rare model on Ugandan roads, does not only have rear and front double differentials locks but also traction controls.

This means that when one tyre loses grip with the road surface for different reasons, the system automatically applies brakes to the affected tyre to prevent it from skidding. It has high performance strong grip tyres, where one tyre costs approximately Shs1.3m.

Nyeko’s FJ Cruiser runs on 17-inch rims on which deep and strong grip mud-terrain tyres are housed. It has a three-way suspension system, with a reservoir canister to provide more comfort and articulation as you drive. It has a winch that helps tow other cars upon getting stuck and circular xenon lights. It is a five-seater that was primarily built for off-road performance.

“Initially, the ground clearance of the vehicle stood at four inches to be able to manoeuvre through any kind of rough terrains but I lowered it to three inches and gave it high profile strong mud-grip tyres to still serve the purpose for which it was intended,” Nyeko explains.

Interior

The vehicle was also built with an interior fridge that is connected to an auxiliary battery that powers it. It has a strong roof rack with a carrying capacity of 200 kilogrammes, and a rooftop tent for camping.  It also has an installed water tank and a shower with side night lights for use when camping in the wild and a Very High Frequency (VHF) radio. 

The FJ Cruiser covers between seven to eight kilometres per litre of fuel. This is, however, dependent on the road terrain and your driving speed. The lower part of the vehicle was built with a strong bash plate from the front to where the gearbox is positioned to protect the underneath from damage.

Service and maintenance

The FJ Cruiser also runs the same engine as the 4000cc Land Cruiser Prado. The cost of service depends on what is being serviced.

“When I replace the air filter, engine oil, fuel filter and a few other basics, I spend KShs24,000 (approximately Shs780,000). I use fully synthetic oil, which gives me more mileage of between 7,000kms to 8,000kms. But because I travel to dusty places, I prefer servicing after covering more 5,000km,” Nyeko says.

Safety

According to motortrend.com, the 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser is one of the most uniquely styled vehicles in the automaker’s line up. The exterior styling was inspired by the FJ40, which first entered Toyota’s lineup in the early 1950s. The resemblance is especially noticeable in the front, which features round headlights, a wide grille with a vintage Toyota nameplate, an upright windshield, and wide fenders.

The white-capped roof is another vintage touch. The rear features a side-hinged tailgate with an exterior mounted spare tyre.

“With limited rear visibility, the FJ Cruiser is available with rear parking assist sonar for safer reverse situations on and off the road. Additionally, it comes standard with Toyota’s Star Safety System, which includes four-wheel ABS with electronic brake-force distribution, and brake assist, traction control, and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC). Six airbags are standard for front, front side, and full curtain protection. Rounding off the safety list are side-impact door beams and a tire pressure monitor system,” the portal says.

Cost

Eddie Matovu, a car importer, says FJ Cruisers are expensive cars that you will find online for grabs at approximately $42,000, which is equivalent to Shs159m.

When you factor in taxes of approximately Shs65m, the cost of the FJ Cruiser rises to Shs224m. The cost depends on the car features, location, condition, and mileage of the vehicle.  

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