Off-road EVs are having all the fun. One glance at YouTube will show you dozens of videos of the new GMC Hummer EV truck climbing impossible hills, or the new Jeep Magneto 2.0 dashing through the mud and grime. Not too long ago, those same video feeds were dominated by Toyota FJ Cruisers or fas-powered SUVs mixing it up on rocks, in the sand, and those same steep hills. Toyota stopped selling the FJ Cruiser here in 2014.
And then late last year Toyota showed us the Compact Cruiser, a small electric off-road EV SUV that looks like the spiritual successor to the FJ.
EVs are perfect for off-roading
The electric SUV market is dominated by tall crossover EVs, like the Ford Mustang Mach E, the Kia Niro or the Volvo XC40 Recharge. They’re great crossovers, but they aren’t going to cut it off road.
Instead, off-road enthusiasts are salivating over the new four-wheel-drives from Jeep, GMC, Rivian, and Ford, as well as the promised off-roaders from Tesla, Alpha Wolf and Lordstown.
Range for electric vehicles is increasing, reducing the range anxiety that many fear when they’re out in the middle of nowhere.
But the big thing for off-roaders is the instant torque that an EV motor offers. A gas motor has to be spun up to a few hundred, or thousand, RPM, to make sufficient torque to climb hills. But, an EV makes 100% of its torque at 0 rpm. By simply taking your foot off the brake, you can get maximum power.
It’s like an all-electric FJ Cruiser
The Compact Cruiser could bring all of the goods of the tough little FJ, but with a powerful electric motor and Toyota’s nifty four-wheel-drive system.
For hybrid versions of Highlanders, RAV4s and Sienna minivans, Toyota has created a nifty four-wheel-drive system that works differently than any other system. Instead of connecting the motor in the front to the wheel in the back with a long driveshaft, Toyota ditches the driveshaft. Instead, the rear wheels are controlled by their own electric motor. It’s completely controlled by the computer. When it senses that a little extra boost of power will help, it engages seamlessly.
Toyota has a nifty four-wheel-drive system
Toyota said that it is bringing 15 new all-electric vehicles to market by 2025, and the Compact Cruiser was one that the company showed off in December. It’s also working on an electric version of the EV Toyota Tacoma truck, which means we could see an all-electric version of the 4Runner, too.
So far, Toyota has not shown us any more than the concept of the Compact Cruiser in the same Voodoo Blue that many FJs came in.
Could the bZ4X hint at a new Compact Crossover SUV?
Toyota’s new bZ4X SUV doesn’ have the off-road chops of an FJ. But it does have all wheel drive. The bZ4X will use Toyota’s new e-TNGA, or Toyota New Global Architecture, platform.
Curiously, on the spec sheet for the bZ4X Toyota lists an X-MODE for driving in snow and mud, but it doesn’t check the boxes for the 2023 bZ4X. Does that mean future models will have off-road capability? Could that preview the Compact Crossover?