Rumors have been buzzing since last autumn, when Toyota registered the new trademark, FT-4X. What might that be used for? The initial inklings suggested it would likely show up on a light truck, perhaps the replacement for the old FJ Cruiser, dropped after the 2014 model-year.
The Japanese maker is now confirming a concept using that badge will make its debut at the New York International Auto Show next month, and from the teaser image accompanying that terse announcement, it’s safe to assume the show car will be some form of utility vehicle.
But what type of ute does Toyota have in mind? A “soft-roader,” ala the RAV4, seems unlikely. The betting would suggest that the new Toyota FJ-4X will be a serious off-roader, perhaps even something opting for a body-on-frame design, that would take aim at the likes of the new Ford Bronco or next-generation Jeep Wrangler.
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Toyota already has a serious rock-crusher in the form of the big Land Cruiser. But its price puts that four-wheeler well beyond the reach of most buyers. The FJ Cruiser was supposed to fill the niche for those who wanted something tougher than a RAV4.
The Cruiser certainly gave the appearance of a tough truck capable of challenging the Wrangler, with its retro, boxy shape. But the FJ never really connected, reviewers lambasting both its design and less than impressive performance.
What to expect from the NY show car? In Toyota parlance, FT – short for Future Toyota — is a designation used specifically for concept vehicles it wants to build, while the 4X indicates it’s a true four-wheel (versus a less capable all-wheel) drive system.
While the FT-4X will be a concept, if recent experience is any indication, it is likely to be only a thinly disguised one, Toyota teasing a product that is already well under development. We’ve been seeing this approach repeatedly with models including the new Toyota C-HR ute.
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The timing of the FT-4X certainly makes sense. Yes, Toyota also has the 4Runner, but there’s still a big hole in its tough-truck line-up. And there seems to be widespread industry speculation that such products are making a comeback after a steady shift to less rugged crossovers, such as the RAV4.
Ford is making a big bet on that trend with the rival of the once-popular Bronco, which will offer trail riders an alternative to the now unibody-based Explorer. And Jeep, if anything, is getting ready to toughen up the next Wrangler which will go into production roughly a year from now.
We wouldn’t be surprised if Toyota drops a few more hints about its new concept ute, but we can expect to get a good look at the FT-4X on April 12th at the New York Auto Show.
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