Toyota clearly hasn’t given up its toy box, as a Tonka truck come to life is really the best way to describe its FT-4X concept at the NYIAS 2017 this week. Pitched as an “always ready” SUV for city-dwelling Generation Y drivers, the chunky 4×4 can’t resist every automaker’s current obsession: Millennials. As Toyota sees it, they’re looking for “Rugged Charm”.
Look beyond the branding, and what you find is a crossover with attitude, intended to strum the heart-strings just as much as it tackles tricky terrain. Designed at Toyota’s Calty studio, the team started – unusually – at the rear of the SUV. Their argument is that it’s where most of the outdoors action happens, around the tailgate.
As a result, there’s a broad rear with a so-called Multi-Hatch door. It can open horizontally for use in the city, or vertically when out in the wild. With the former, the door opens into two sections for dealing with limited space; in the latter, it can be used as an impromptu shelter from the rain. The control – a meaty handle that rotates to switch between the two – is designed to be used even by gloved hands.
Underneath the hatch are two red hooks, which can be used to tie down loads or even drag the FT-4X out of terrain too challenging for its permanent AWD. The flat roof is reinforced and gets load hooks at each corner; power outlets there too can be used to hook up campsite electronics or roof rack accessories.
Toward the front, meanwhile, there’s an extra-large Toyota logo and LED headlamps. More red tie-down hooks feature, and the automaker says the classic FJ Land Cruiser inspires the horizontal grille, headlamp, and bumper layout. Also like old Toyota SUVs and pickups, the window glass can be popped out; in the concept, it can be replaced with various opaque and tinted glass panels.
Built into the driver’s side rearview mirror is a GoPro HERO5 Session camera, one of numerous technology tricks the FT-4X has up its metaphorical sleeve. Inside the Multi-Hatch are two storage boxes, one warm and the other cold, intended to lug picnics, sports equipment, and more. The cabin as a whole is designated into zones varying by dirt level: a clean zone at the front, with rugged floor mats and door sills inspired by Japanese wood flooring; a Wet Zone just behind the front seats, for taking off snow boots and such; and finally a Rear Cargo Zone.
Toyota’s designers have gone a little mad with the multi-purpose tweaks, indeed. The door handles at the rear double as water bottles, slotting into doors that have USB outlets built into the armrests. The dome light and rear ceiling light can be removed and used as camping lamps. Between the front passenger seats, the armrest is actually a tightly-bundled The North Face sleeping bag.
Even the audio system can be pulled out of the dashboard and used as a portable boom-box. Toyota has eschewed a traditional built-in navigation system, mounting a smartphone holder atop the dashboard instead. Toyota envisages any production version of the FT-4X coming with a custom off-road mapping app.
Indeed, while production isn’t planned any time soon, there’s been some thought given to practical decisions. A relatively small 4-cylinder engine is likely, with a selectable low-range and MacPherson strut front, double-wishbone rear suspension. Altogether, while it looks large, the 167.3-inch length and 71.7-inch width wouldn’t be too unwieldy in the city, where the Millennial target audience probably would end up most of the time.