MOAB, Utah -- Sandstorm is the sandy shade of body paint decorating a new dirt-dog Trail Teams Special Edition of Toyota's go-anywhere four-wheel-drive (4WD) SUV, the rugged FJ Cruiser.
This thing looks a safari vehicle with the Sandstorm body and blackout paint coating a patch of the hood, plus the prow, wheelwell wraps and tubular roof rack.
It works as a safari vehicle too because FJ ranks as the most capable off-road vehicle among all 4WD Toyotas.
The 2010 FJ Cruiser Trail Teams Special Edition carries components of FJ's optional Off Road Package, such as trail-tuned Bilstein shocks, a rear differential lock and Toyota's active traction control (A-TRAC) system, plus under-chassis protective skid plates fore and aft, rock rails and TRD beadlock-style alloy wheels capped by BFG All-Terrain tires.
Extra equipment aboard includes illumination markers on power-motivated side mirrors, an auto-dimming interior mirror with integrated backup camera video monitor, beige fabric inserts on seats, all-weather mats lining the floor and cargo bay plus 12-volt and 115-volt power points.
And there are extra amenities in the cabin, like a remote keyless entry device, multi-information display, cruise control, color-keyed trim on doors and dash, rear wiper, steering wheel audio controls and a nine-speaker audio kit (AM/FM/CDx6/MP3).
But off-road prowess is the point for this machine and to prove its 4WD capability, one FJ Cruiser with manual shifter and the differential locked tackles a daunting sandstone slope on Poison Spider Mesa near Utah's off-road mecca of Moab.
Shifting to bottom gear in lowest range of the full-time 4WD system, a driver nudges Toyota's SUV forward to confront a seemingly sheer grade. The nose tilts upward at a severe angle with front wheels articulating vertically to get a grip on the red-rock slope.
Then those deep-tread tires smother the stone as FJ's enhanced V6 musters awesome engine torque and the strength of a stampede of horses to move two tons of mechanized metal in cat-claw increments up the bald side of Poison Spider.
As it parks on top of the Moab rock, that FJ looks like the King of the Hill.
It presents a flush face featuring round headlamps linked to a horizontal grille, styling traits of Toyota's legendary Land Cruiser FJ40 from the 1960s and '70s.
Bumpers bulge in front and wrap around flanks to form angular wheelwells.
The hood is virtually flat and the windshield's nearly vertical, with the roof also flat like FJ40.
On each flat flank there are double doors: Front one's hinged at the front but the adjoining rear door has hinges on the tail side and both doors open wide in suicide-door fashion to forge a broad pillar-less opening on each side.
Inside, FJ Cruiser has a flat-faced dashboard and decorative touches of metal finish and paint in the sheetmetal shade.
The cabin contains a front row of bucket seats with center console and a three-person bench in back with fold-flat seatbacks followed by a cargo bay clad in a rubberized hard surface that sweeps out and wipes down fast.
Like a truck, the FJ Cruiser is constructed with a body-on-frame chassis. The ladder-format platform with boxed steel rails forms a rigid foundation to support a welded steel body.
Suspension amounts to an independent double wishbone design up front with tubular shock absorbers and a solid axle in back set in four-link arrangement also with tubular shocks and anti-sway bar.
The scheme sets up a generous amount of suspension articulation (7.87 inches of vertical wheel travel up front and 9.1 inches in the rear) to enable the FJ to scamper up a stairstep set of boulders or crawl over logs and other lumpy obstacles along a trail.
FJ Cruiser in two-wheel-drive (2WD) format stocks a limited-slip differential (LSD) tied to a sophisticated traction control system (TRAC) to manage the grip of both rear wheels on slippery surfaces.
A standard set of wheels on FJ measures to 32 inches, which positions the chassis ground clearance at 9.6 inches for 4WD or 8.7 inches for 2WD.
And with wheels set on corners of the structure, the SUV scores solid numbers for approach/departure angles (34 degrees/31 degrees for 4WD).
A disc brake mounts at each wheel with linkage to the anti-lock brake system (ABS), brake assist (BA) and electronic brake force distribution (EBD) equipment, plus TRAC and vehicle skid control (VSC) devices.
And for a 4WD Cruiser, there's the A-TRAC electronic four-wheel traction control.
Unlike most trucks, however, the steering is controlled by rack and pinion with hydraulically assisted power. It reacts quickly and feels firmly weighted.
Toyota's dual-cam 4.0-liter aluminum-block six-pack is on tap to propel the FJ Cruiser, and for 2010 the engine gains a new VVT-i system (variable valve timing with intelligence) featuring variable phasing for both intake and exhaust cams.
Adding VVT-i helps boost engine output - the V6 now pumps 259 hp at 5500 rpm and 270 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm.
FJ transmission choices are a six-speed manual or five-speed electronically-controlled automatic.
The two-speed transfer case employed with a 4WD FJ Cruiser varies with manual or automatic transmission.
For the six-speed manual, a full-time 4WD system has a limited-slip open center differential which can vary the power to front and rear wheels. It normally channels 40 percent of the torque to the front wheels and 60 percent to the rear ones, although these proportions may change depending on the steering angle and slippage of the wheels.
In lock mode, this system splits torque evenly -- 50/50 -- between front and rear wheels.
With FJ's automatic transmission, the 4WD system has a part-time transfer case with automatic disconnecting front differential (ADD).
Toyota sets price points for the 2010 FJ Cruiser models at $23,680 for a 2WD automatic transmission, $24,860 for the 4WD manual shifter and $25,270 for a 4WD automatic.