Detroit Auto Show Wrapup: Toyota FJ Cruiser hands-on impressions

Although you've seen the full spate of specs and some pricing guidance here before, this was Autoblog's first chance to get our mitts on the production-spec Toyota FJ Cruiser, so we took full advantage of the opportunity.

First impressions? While not a classically handsome exterior, this is certainly a head-turner, and should do well in a marketplace starved for character-rich "small" hardcore SUVs. At once profoundly aware of its lineage, yet not a wholesale copy, the FJ is a likeable mess of curves and angles. The smallish grille with inboard round headlamps give it an expressive face (not unlike a mountain man with small wire-rimmed spectacles) as do the protruding -- if gigantic, turn signals. In profile, strong elements like the rectilinear wheel openings, oversized door handles and thick-framed mirrors lend additional presence to an intrinsically beefy design (you could hide half the Tour de France behind that c-pillar). Out back, a plastic spare-tire cover with tire-tread relief looks to further abbreviate what can only already be described as daunting rear visibility.

[more impressions and photos after the jump]

Inside, many of the original FJ Cruiser's lovely alloy bits have since been downgraded to plastic, as might reasonably be expected when a vehicle has to be mass-produced and built to a price). The resins in question aren't really up to Toyota's usual standards, but it somehow seems appropriately coarse in a rough-and-tumble SUV. The bluff-faced dashboard is a little jarring in body-color (at least as here on this yellow FJ), and the switchgear lacks the brand's traditional polish in execution and operation, but again, that hasn't hurt sales of likely cross-shops like the Nissan Xterra and Jeep Wrangler. Rear seat access is a challenge even with the rear demi-doors, and it's seriously dark back there, a byproduct of the chopped roofline and hefty pillars.

Visibility vacillations and problematic polymers aside, if the driveline is half as good as we imagine (and if Toyota dealers can resist the temptation to pad the FJ's Monroneys), the automaker should have a blockbuster on its hands among the young and the young-at-heart.

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