Ever since the end of Toyota FJ production in 2014, we’ve been waiting for a new, affordable off-road-oriented SUV to continue the lineage established by the original Land Cruiser. At the New York Auto Show, Toyota’s design team offered up the FT-4X, or “Future Toyota Four-Wheel Drive,” as a potential successor.
The FT-4X is a pure concept, and little of it appears ready for production. But think of it as a smaller, urbanized look at the potential future of the FJ lineage. Toyota is thinking about young urbanites who want the image of off-road capability, even if they’re never going to crawl over rocks. You know, something perfect for the perilous journey to Coachella.
However casual its off-road intentions, the design team nailed the look. In person, the FT-4X successfully adapts the cues of the brand’s iconic SUVs to a modern appearance, making the design appear ready to carry the torch. The overall exterior size nearly mirrors that of the subcompact Toyota C-HR, placing a potential production version in the same class as other compact off-roaders such as the Jeep Renegade Trailhawk.
Without being specific, Toyota’s design team imagines a production version with a four-cylinder engine and a mechanical four-wheel-drive system with a low range. That sounds plausible — and necessary to do the design justice — but like most concepts, the FT-4X’s features have varying levels of production reality. The power outlets on the roof and door handles that double as water bottles probably aren’t feasible, as are the trick vertical slats above the rear wheels that can be interchanged with tinted glass or removed entirely.
But the rear hatch that opens both vertically and split horizontally is a smart idea for loading in space-constricted areas. The same goes for the large handles that remain usable when you’re wearing big fuzzy gloves. North Face interior branding seems obvious, too (because there’s nothing those millennials love more than corporate brand synergy).
One curiosity is the absence of an onboard navigation or entertainment screen. Instead, the FT-4X has a phone mount above the gauge cluster; the designers imagine younger buyers are more likely to rely on phones and app-based navigation anyway. We agree but would prefer to do so through integrated Android Auto or Apple CarPlay on an onboard screen.
Overall, the FT-4X gives an appealing look at a potential continuation of Toyota’s off-roading history. We hope whatever comes to production has the mechanical chops to back up the rugged design.