​Toyota FT-4X concept is a bold swing and a miss

A revival of the legendary FJ40? Not quite. Toyota's newest concept is yet another compact crossover aimed at "outdoorsy millennials."

Antuan Goodwin Reviews Editor / Cars
Antuan Goodwin gained his automotive knowledge the old fashioned way, by turning wrenches in a driveway and picking up speeding tickets. From drivetrain tech and electrification to car audio installs and cabin tech, if it's on wheels, Antuan is knowledgeable.
Expertise Reviewing cars and car technology since 2008 focusing on electrification, driver assistance and infotainment Credentials
  • North American Car, Truck and SUV of the Year (NACTOY) Awards Juror
Antuan Goodwin
2 min read
Sarah Tew/CNET
Watch this: The Toyota FT-4X concept isn't the hardcore off-roader you're looking for

When Toyota announced it would be "four-wheeling and scene stealing" with its FT-4X concept at the 2017 New York auto show, fans got all worked up over a possible successor to the legendary FJ40 or the capable FJ Cruiser.

They wanted a beefy, rugged SUV with lockable axles, crawling differentials, loads of articulation and plenty of torque for the off-roading hardcore. And then Toyota revealed the FT-4X to be yet another rugged compact crossover aimed at outdoorsy millennials.

I suppose we should have known better.

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The FT-4X's size, small-displacement four-cylinder engine and McPherson front suspension setup seem to indicate that Toyota's exploring a rival to the Jeep Renegade rather than a Wrangler fighter or Bronco buster. Penned by the automaker's Calty design studio, the concept draws inspiration from Toyota's 60-year heritage of off-road vehicles, but takes a more "casualcore" approach to the dirt and an increased emphasis on also being friendly in urban environs.

Toyota's heart is sort of in the right place. I've seen unibody crossovers like the Renegade Trailhawk tackle some fairly intense terrain, and the FT-4X claims enhanced off-road capability with its mechanical four-wheel drive system, selectable low-range gearing and double wishbone rear suspension.

Toyota FT-4X concept designed for city and dirt

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Inside, the concept has a multifunction theme and is loaded to the gills with interesting tidbits, such as an armrest that can be removed and unfolded into a North Face sleeping bag, or cabin lighting that can be used as a flashlight outside of the vehicle. Even the rear doors are multifunctional, able to be opened on either side hinges or lifted like a traditional hatchback. Behind the doors are dual temperature-controlled storage boxes, one hot and one cold, for keeping gear, grub or drinks, and underfloor access to more storage.

However, every cool detail is matched with some cringey feature like the GoPro camera built into the driver's side mirror, door handles that double as water bottles or the swappable vertical side panels that can be removed or replaced with solid colored or tinted glass replacements. And the internet is already poking fun at how useful those bright red tow hooks will be when this thing needs to be pulled out back on the road where it belongs.

Toyota FT-4X Concept
Wayne Cunningham/CNET Roadshow

Compact SUVs are the hottest segment of the automotive industry right now, so it's easy to see why Toyota chose to explore this class with the new concept. But for fans of vehicles like the FJ40 Land Cruiser, this city car in rugged trim must seem like a swing and a miss.