Toyota Looking to Build Small, Hardcore Off-Road SUV

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Toyota exec reveals plans for a compact, body-on-frame, four-wheel drive SUV built for real off-roaders!

Since the death of the FJ Cruiser, Toyota has left us with a huge void. But their intentions to build a rugged, small sport utility vehicle have become quite clear with the recent unveilings of the FT-4X and FT-AC concepts. And now we’ve received a pretty solid confirmation that Toyota is in fact thinking about reentering the market with a smaller (than the FJ) off-road ‘ute.

The revelation comes to us from the folks at Motor Trend, who spoke with Toyota Motor North America CEO Jim Lentz in private at the 2018 North American International Auto Show. “There’s room for an authentic small off-road SUV,” Lentz told MT. “Everyone moved out of that segment because of truck CAFE ratings. But we’re getting a lot of requests from folks who want another FJ or some variant.”

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The fact that Toyota fans are clamoring for such an animal should come as no surprise. We all certainly love our Tacomas and 4Runners, but the later has grown up considerably over the years. With the success of the Jeep Wrangler and the return of the Ford Bronco, it seems like the time is right for Toyota to build a small, dedicated off-roader once again.

While Toyota already sells the wildly popular RAV4, this new ‘ute promises to be more focused and traditional. “There is room on the lower end, in terms of price or authenticity, for an off-road, frame-based SUV,” Lentz said. “This would be for people going outdoors, but truly going offroad. This would not be all-wheel-drive for safety, this would be four-wheel-drive with ground clearance.”

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Which is all music to our ears. It’s pretty clear that Lentz is well aware of the need for something enthusiasts can ring out on local trails. “The difference is in wheel travel, and you can only do that with frame-based,” Lentz said. “This could be FJ sized, but for an enthusiast, it’s gotta be something with a small wheelbase to be more maneuverable when in the rocks.”

Lentz stopped short of predicting when we might see this new compact off-roader. As well as actually confirming that it’s happening. But judging by his statements, Toyota is clearly serious about reentering this red hot market segment. And we couldn’t be more excited!

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