Rumors Of Its Death Are Highly Exaggerated (2011 FJ Cruiser)

Since the introduction of Toyota’s FJ Cruiser  in 2006 (it was called a 2007), rumors run rampant that THIS was the last year of production.   With forum poster trying to impress others with their insider scoop of the rigs demise, its death has been declared again and again.  Yet each year Toyota has continued to release a new model year.

Toyota has announced the 2011 FJ Cruiser (FJC) will be coming off the assembly line.  A couple of notable updates for the 2011 model year include:

  • Two new colors
    • Calvary Blue
    • Quicksand
  • New Trail Teams Special Edition in Army Green
  • New Audio Systems, Including  Available JBL Premium System
  • Standard Locking Rear Differential (standard on manual transmission/ optional for automatic)
  • Improved Visibility and Rear Seat Access (Didn’t know it needed improvement)
  • Standard iPod® Connectivity and XM Satellite Radio

Out of the box the FJC 4×4 has ground clearance of 9.6 inches, 260 hp @ 5,600 rpm, 271 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm, dual transfer case and a 41.84:1 crawl ratio making it a capable trail rig.  In fact for 2010 Consumer Reports put the Toyota FJ Cruiser at the top of its “Best Off-Road” vehicle list.

If you want the full scoop on the upcoming 2011 FJ Cruiser take a look at the Toyota 2011 FJ Cruiser product information from Toyota’s press room.

We’re glad to see the rig is maintaining its funky style, white roof and solid off-road performance. And while it’s not voodoo…  the new blue is pretty sick.

No idea how long Toyota will continue to produce this rig but we are sure it will be produced in 2011.

UPDATE: Toyota announced in 2013 that 2014 is the last year of production of the FJ Cruiser for the U.S. market. With thousands of Toyota FJ Cruisers on the road there will be plenty of them around for years to come so that everyone can continue to use them for what they were intended, off-road adventures.

Falken Rocky Mountain Tires First Impressions

After 65,000 miles it was time for some new tires…  These things don’t last forever you know.  Take a quick tour of the Internet and you quickly discover there are lots of choices out there so we had some decisions to make.

The Blue Bunny is part daily driver, part extreme off-road rig and part overland explorer which means we needed a tire that feels at home in all sorts of conditions including the rain and snow of the pacific northwest.  With this in mind we decided to turn to a pro and give Travis over at Discount Tires a call…  Ok really we just emailed him since it was 2:00 am, but let me tell the story in my own way.  After a few email exchanges back and forth as well as a real call to discuss what we wanted out these tires Travis had a suggestion for us.  He had just returned from the 2010 North America JK Experience where he had seen tires put through their paces in the one of the toughest Jeep challenges anywhere.

Newly developed by Falken the Rocky Mountain ATS tire delivers tough off-road traction while at the same time providing highway comfort and handling. Rugged design and long tread life makes it an exceptional value. Our 285/70/17 size (Rocky Mountain is available in 15-inch to 20-inch sizes) feature a 3-ply sidewall construction for great off-road durability.

Some of the features Travis pointed out included:

  • Four wide, aggressive multi-angled grooves for clearing out water, mud and snow
  • Block tread edges providing solid traction and control
  • Smooth quite ride (remember the Blue Bunny still serves daily driving duties)
  • Two steel belts and 3-ply sidewalls for protection and strength
  • 50,000 mile tread life warranty

Now as everyone knows, tires are only as good as the dealer who stands behind them.  Discount Tires has 750 stores in 22 states making it the world’s largest independent tire and wheel retailer today.  These guys will also drop ship tires directly to your doorstep if you plan on mounting them yourself or at another local tire shop.

We headed down to our local Discount Tire dealer in Bremerton, WA. where Nick and the guys took care of us.  One of the cool things about showing up with a handful camera gear is that it gets you into places that are normally off limits.  With the rig in the bay we got to go back and see everything as the guys quickly went to work.  Sure on the trail you can break a tire bead and pull it off a wheel with a hi-lift jack but when professionals mount tires they get to use all the cool tools.

In no time the guys had the new rubber mounted on our original stock rims and were throwing them on the balancing machine.  You really do have to credit the guy who figured out how to apply centrifugal force and computers together in a way that would perfectly balance all that alloy and rubber.

Ok I know I’m gushing a little but really the crew there was great.  We chatted about some of the adventures we’d been on and a couple still in the planning stages.  We talked tires… go figure…  and got to see how it all works behind the scenes.  While this wasn’t an NASCAR pit time, they did have us in and out in less than thirty minutes.  And remember that stand behind the tire thing.  These guys warrant their tires from any of those 750 stores across the country.

The first thing you notice…  dang these are smooth and quiet on the highway…  For a while now I thought I’ve been loosing my hearing having to crank the stereo up to obscene levels to hear it over the road noise…  But no more.  I can now enjoy the stereo and carry on a conversation cruising down the highway.  They also hold the road well and let us carve through the corners without worry…  Remember though we are in a rig not a Porsche so our carving is relative…  but it feels good through the corners.  And on a short jaunt down some two tracks the tires responded nicely.  Not to mention they look pretty sick on the rig.

Of course we plan on putting these Falken Rocky Mountain ATS through more serious off-road tests soon and we’ll let you know how well they hold up to the trails, mud and snow.  Look for a longer term review soon but for now these are looking like a good all-terrain choice.

—– follow up —-

Well after a bunch of miles we put up the results of our Tire Test of Falken Rocky Mountain All-Terrains.  Check out the video and write up for more info.

Think Camel and Eye of a Needle

While not recommended, letting your thoughts drift as you drive down the highway is a favorite past time for many.  On the trail, letting your attention drift usually results in carnage or at the very least, dings and dents.  At times on this off-road adventure I swear it seemed like we were driving on a wide hiking trail rather than a 4×4 trail (not to worry my Tread Lightly friends, it was a marked 4×4 trail…  just a very narrow one).

Awhile back we played in the Naches area camping and wheeling with friends.  Coming back we took the historic Naches Wagon Trail over the Cascades.   There is something about wheeling on historic trails that gives you a sense of how lucky we are to stand on the shoulders of the men and women who came before us.  Living in the Pacific Northwest is a blessing often taken for granted by those of us who did not endure the hardships of getting here.  While I try to honor the past and the accomplishments of others, I can only hope my children will stand a little taller because of the legacy I leave behind…  what ever that maybe.

But in the mean time we will focus on our driving and squeezing down the trail. Be the camel… naa naa naa naa naaaa.

Putting The Mobile Into Mobile PC

When we last left our off-road adventure heroine, Hula Betty had just put together a mobile GPS command center. For a test run, throwing the laptop on the front seat was fine but having the brains of the navigation center bouncing around on the trail is no way to go through life.  Turns out for my birthday, Hula Betty came up with a solution.

A local northwest company called RAM Mounts makes all sorts of cool gadget attaching stuff…  and by attaching stuff we mean just about anything to anything.  The anything that caught our eye was the vehicle based laptop mount, although the articulating, swivel beer can mount for kayaks is pretty cool too.

RAM Vehicle Laptop Mounts are designed to install quickly without drilling any holes.  They accomplish this feat of marvel by having a unique base plate for each vehicle that ties into the bolt pattern of the front seat.  The rest of the mounting uses common components letting you mix and match or move from one rig to the next (provided you have base plates for each).

Installing the RAM Mounts is just as easy as they say.  Remove the two front bolts holding the passenger seat in place, bolt in the RAM Mounts base with the new bolts than together the rest of the components.

These guys make a number of different components for holding your laptop in place and we decided to keep it pretty basic.  We can always add the map light, note pad try or power caddy down the road.  Our base set up included:

  • Universal laptop mount tray
  • 8″ telescoping pole top
  • Telescoping pole base
  • Double swing arm with socket arm
  • Toyota FJ vehicle base

To keep thing stable and secure when the rig is off camber or bombing down a washboard dirt road we added:

  • Laptop screen support
  • 24″ support leg

When its all together our laptop is held securely in place and manages to take the bumps in stride although it doesn’t leave much room for a passenger.  However when not in use, pull the laptop mount try and the swing arm folds out of the way allowing for a passenger to stretch out.

The 17″ laptop we built our mobile GPS command center around is heavy but the RAM Mount keeps it in place.  The double swing arm allows us to adjust the laptop’s location and angle to ensure proper placement.

Perched up at dash level you can easily glance over and see position, speed, and altitude.  Adjust the position for quick reach to move between maps  or lower the laptop screen when not in use.

When we first set the laptop in place we found  the larger 17″ screen had a tendency to block the view of the passenger side mirror.  A couple of adjustments swinging the arms around and the laptop seemed to settle in a spot that kept the mirror and system in view.

Simple, strong and a nice finish make our new laptop mount a nice addition to our rig and we’re sure to be putting it to the real test soon.