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Test Drive: 2014 Trail Teams Ultimate Edition FJ Cruiser

Written by  Dennis Lloyd
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2014 Trail Team Special Edition FJ Cruiser | Toyota Magazine

It’s the end of the trail for the FJ Cruiser and Toyota leaves us with the special edition FJ Cruiser Trail Team Ultimate Edition (FJ UE). The FJ UE marks nine years of Toyotas modern style SUV which paid homage to the original and renowned FJ40. In those nine years the FJ has become an off road legend and shows its prowess as one of the most capable vehicles. It’s no slouch in stock form, but a few add on items get you a serious trail rig. The FJ has seen several special editions over the years, including the very popular Trail Teams Editions and the original TRD Special Edition, as well as a few lesser known vehicles such as the ARB Edition FJ Crawler and XPLORE Edition. All of these vehicles had the 4.0-liter V6 and 4x4 underpinnings, but were equipped with various accessories which boosted performance and/or off road capabilities.

 

Like other FJs before it, we suspect the new Ultimate Edition will forever carry on Toyotas reputation for reliability. The running commentary among Toyota off roaders is that it isn’t broken in until it hits 100k miles on the odometer. We’ve read numerous accounts of FJs around the world trekking through terrain from deserts to beaches, rock gardens to wash board roads and coming back for more each time. It’s seen harsh conditions exploring the continent of Africa, playing in and around the base of Mt. Fuji, snowfields in rural Russia and bouncing along dunes in Dubai. But you don’t have to take it on an epic journey, just throw it around on your local trails and it will make you smile every time as it provides hours of fun in the dirt.

We’ve come to love the FJ in all of the various flavors. Not only is it reliable, but the big, boxy tank-like, goofy to some and cool to others “SUV” has brought together thousands of like-minded individuals out on the trails. In the early days of production, online forums and our own FJC Magazine were started to provide owners and potential buyers a place to virtually meet, greet and discuss their love of the FJ - what accessories to buy, what performance mod to install, and where to get it dirty. The FJ Cruiser culture sprung to life and has created lifelong friendships and camaraderie among its peers. It has truly galvanized the Toyota off road culture and now we’ve come full circle with the final Ultimate Edition.

2014 Trail Team Special Edition FJ Cruiser | Toyota Magazine

We picked up our Ultimate Edition in Torrance, CA at Toyota HQ, thanks to Toyota’s press team who gave us unprecedented access to their last limited FJ. Our plan was to bring it home then take it out on the next day to some of our favorite local tracks. Our primary test track (Silverado Canyon) was closed due to high fire danger, so we went to our alternate dirt patch near Trabuco, CA known as Holy Jim. Although it’s a mild trail with a few semi-challenging side trips, we put the FJ through her paces nonetheless.

The next morning before starting our trail ride we got a good look at the truck. First you’ll notice the new white grill reminiscent of the FJ40s of the past. If there is anything that says FJ40, it’s the white grill, which is a fitting tribute to the venerable heritage of the FJ40. Even Toyota indicates the importance of the lineage of FJs by naming the new paint color ‘Heritage Blue’. The color is similar to blues (Capri Blue and Horizon Blue) found on FJ40s during the 60s and 70s. Like previous Trail Team Editions, the Ultimate Edition gets a paint matched roof, black mirrors and door handles, roof rack, Trail Team badge on the rear, and TRD Edition wheels mounted to BFGoodrich All-Terrains.

2014 Trail Team Special Edition FJ Cruiser | Toyota Magazine

The interior, like FJs before remains unchanged except for a special metal badge on the dash that reads, “Ultimate Edition Limited Production ONE of 2,500”. The FJ Cruiser logo on the badge also has a white painted grill. The Heritage Blue paint continues on door panel inserts and the dash surround. Although our model didn’t come with them, we’re told that the front and rear seats will come with grey inserts on the Ultimate Edition. It also comes with black glossy transmission and transfer case shift knobs with FJ engraved on the top of the transmission shift knob. Of course the Ultimate Edition comes standard with 4x4 and includes Active Traction Control (A-TRAC), Crawl Control (CRAWL available with automatic transmission only), Vehicle Skid Control (VSC) with off switch and electronically controlled locking rear differential. Our model did not have the CRAWL feature nor did it have the overhead console first found on 2013 models.

2014 Trail Team Special Edition FJ Cruiser | Toyota Magazine

As we started our trail ride to Holy Jim, the hard pack was dotted with plenty of 2’x2’ wide pot holes (from previous California “rainstorms”) which put the new race-inspired Toyota Race Development (TRD) Bilsteins to the test. Hit them hard or soft, the new front 60mm coilovers plus new 50mm rear reservoir shocks and springs held up just fine. The TRD beadlock styled wheels mated to BFGoodrich All-Terrains crawled up and over rocks, through washes, across water, gravel and deep ruts without incident. The suspension was specifically tuned for increased dampening, articulation and high-speed stability. These should do well in the deserts on long stretches of dusty trails where the suspension can show off its full potential. The front end is also lifted to level out the stance from front to back with the new front shocks. The Ultimate Edition also got some under armor protection via 1/4” aluminum front skid plate emblazoned with an oversized TRD logo. Unlike the thin metal of the “shovel” skid plate on previous Trail Team Editions, this new skid plate is made to take some considerable hits.

2014 Trail Team Special Edition FJ Cruiser | Toyota Magazine

Under the hood, the Ultimate Edition has the standard V6 4.0-liter engine first produced on the 2010 FJ Cruiser. A proven power plant off road, the dual overhead cam, 24 valve engine produces 260 horsepower and 271 ft-lbs. of torque. We were surprised to learn that an FJ dubbed Ultimate Edition would not be sporting a TRD Cold Air Intake or exhaust system. Although the prototype we drove did have a fancy chrome exhaust tip - waiting to be crushed by a boulder on the trail.

The FJ TT Ultimate Edition reminded us how fun an FJ is in its stock form - before adding weight via aftermarket bumpers, armor, suspension, roof racks, roof top tents and various interior accoutrements to our rigs. It’s spry on the trail and we had plenty of fun pushing it through S turns in gravel and riding whoops. It’s fun, it’s reliable, it’s an FJ through and through and this new Ultimate Edition will carry on the FJC legacy like no other. Toyota should be proud knowing that they designed and produced the first and last FJ Cruiser in a form that’s truly inspired by the grandfather FJ40. We’ve already seen a list of people on the FJ Cruiser Forums getting ready to receive their new FJ Ultimate Editions with much fervor and anticipation. It’s one last hurrah to Toyota’s proud heritage of capable off roaders. We look forward to seeing it in the wild surrounded by its FJ brothers in dirt, and yet we wonder, what’s next for Toyota Off Road Vehicles?

2014 Trail Team Special Edition FJ Cruiser | Toyota Magazine

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