Next month's New York International Auto Show is finally starting to heat up. Toyota has just announced a surprise debut, dubbed FT-4X Concept, which should help amp up what was starting to feel like a sleepy show.
While an official teaser image doesn't show any actual bodywork, the rugged Y-spoke wheels and meaty 225/55 18-inch Goodyears suggest a proper rough-and-tumble off-roader is afoot.
That notion is further reinforced by the mystery vehicle's FT-4X alphanumeric designation, a name whose trademark came to light last October. "4X" suggests four-wheel drive and "FT" is company-speak for "Future Toyota."
While Toyota already has a brace of off-road-capable pickups and SUVs in its stable, the departure of the hardcore, retro-styled in 2013 left a hole in its lineup. With Ford and continuing to sell like gangbusters (and it's got a new generation on the way), perhaps the Japanese automaker is keen to test the segment's waters again.
Sold between 2006 and 2013 in North America, the FJ Cruiser only enjoyed a couple years of strong sales before a precipitous decline. However, the distinctively styled body-on-frame SUV remains sought after on the used-vehicle market, and residual values are very strong. And it's not just resale prices -- the FJ Cruiser has managed to retain that sort of elusive, cult-like following that automakers prize and love to cultivate.
If Toyota is exploring whether there's renewed interest in a midsize or compact off-road SUV, a new show truck would seem to be a grand way to do it. We'll know more on April 12.