crankandpiston goes behind the scenes with the awesome Toyota FJ Cruiser Xtreme and Arctic Trucks’ Hjalti Hjaltason to see what makes the newboy tick.[Not a valid template]
The venerable Toyota FJ Cruiser has been around since 2006, but it’s a sign of its inherent charm that it doesn’t feel due for an upgrade. It’s comfortable-but-rugged approach to action SUVs continues to win plenty of fans. However, if you’re one of the few that disagrees, then maybe this is the FJ for you. Launched in March, the second generation of the FJ Cruiser Xtreme breathes new life into a well-loved favourite in the Middle East. Produced in the Middle East for the local dealer, Al Futtaim, by legendary Icelandic modifiers Arctic Trucks, the FJ Xtreme aims to give more off-road bang for a relatively modest increase in buck.
The link between Toyota and Arctic Trucks in the region dates back to 2009. The Nordic company, perhaps best known for its work designing a beefed-up Hilux for the TV show Top Gear (and which crankandpiston drove in 2012) set up a facility in Dubai and together with Al Futtaim started producing Xtreme versions of the Land Cruiser. It proved popular with customers, and so ideas began over how else the two companies could work together. The FJ Cruiser seemed the next logical step, and in 2012 the first generation of FJ Xtreme was launched with enhanced suspension, larger wheels and a general badass attitude. It too proved a hit, selling around 400 units before it was time for an upgrade.
First unveiled at the Dubai Motor Show in 2013, the second generation of FJ Xtreme builds on the original, following feedback from customers over two years. Compared to the standard FJ, it features a two-inch lift in ground clearance, and new wheels – 16-inch black rims with chunky BF Goodrich off-road tyres. These are slightly smaller than the first FJ Xtreme for practicality purposes, to try and keep the overall size of the wheel the same as standard while improving performance.
Behind the wheels are Fox suspension struts, with coilovers using Eibach springs at the front. They replace the Old Man Emu ARB units in the first FJ Xtreme, explains Hjalti Hjaltason of Arctic Trucks. We’re standing in the firm’s facility on the outskirts of Dubai and watching as a standard FJ is converted to Xtreme specification by hand.
“The ARB suspension was brilliant but the customers were demanding something more,” Hjalti says. “Since Arctic Trucks international started to work very closely with Fox suspension, we decided to put in a stage one Fox set-up. That definitely builds up the credibility of our product; since we work with Fox globally we were able to get a very good price.”
Up front, the bonnet has a scoop in it for extra cooling – something that’s not just there to look funky. Hjalti reckons it makes a five-degree difference compared to the non-scooped hood, and in the heat of the Middle Eastern desert, that could make quite a difference.
Over the wheels are Bushwacker fender flares that give the FJ Xtreme a beefier stance. The lights too have been upgraded to LED numbers to further differentiate the Xtreme models from the regular FJs.
The key attraction for customers of the FJ Xtreme is not necessarily the individual modifications, it’s the overall package. As Hjalti explains, Arctic Trucks are experts in modifying Toyotas – the vehicles they produce in Iceland and other Nordic countries are literally capable of traversing glaciers and climbing mountains. Not only can they produce the FJ Xtreme at a favourable rate compared with purchasing the mods individually, but all the mods are approved by Al Futtaim, meaning that the warranty of the Toyota is not affected.
Are there more Xtreme models to come from Arctic Trucks? Nothing is confirmed yet, but Hjalti says that, technically at least, there’s plenty more capability, both in the FJ and the wider Toyota range. Which is excellent news for fans of off-road awesomeness.
But enough talk. We’re here to see how those modifications actually work…
STAND BY FOR PART TWO, COMING SOON
|Toyota||FJ Cruiser Xtreme|
|Engine:||V6 / DOHC 24 VALVE / Dual VVT-I / unleaded with catalytic convertor / 3956cc|
|Power:||270hp @ 5600rpm|
|Torque:||280lb ft @ 4400rpm|
|Transmission:||Five-speed automatic transmission|
|Front suspension:||FOX stage1 / independent MacPherson|
|Rear suspension:||FOX stage1 / solid axel|
|Wheels:||16-inch Matt Black Alloy Wheels|
|Tyres:||LT 257/70 R16 All-Terrain T/A KO|