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I just returned from the LA Auto Show, and a decent one it was, too, with the ZR1 convertible, Subaru’s new three-row Ascent, Lexus’ new three-row RX and, of course, Jeep’s new Wrangler. Speaking of the Wrangler, among the more important LA concepts is Toyota’s FT-AC, or Future Toyota Adventure Concept in Toyotaspeak. As concepts go it isn’t the best-looking or the flashiest I’ve seen, but it has significance in spades: As one of the more off-roadie trucklets Toyota has shown, I could see it taking aim straight at the Wrangler.

And about time, too. Small crossover/SUV sales continue to boom, and yet the Wrangler’s off-road prowess and bare-bones-ness sort of leaves it in its own category. Why other automakers haven’t tried to steal some Jeep thunder over the years is beyond me. Toyota looking at maybe taking a shot seems like a no-brainer.

With sunny Southern California’s outdoorsy lifestyle, the LA Auto Show is the perfect place to measure whether taking that shot is a good idea or not. According to Toyota, “this is a city with a population that likes to head for the hills, deserts or beaches for their much-needed weekend recharges.” I don’t blame ’em for wanting to get away from the god-awful traffic. Makes me wonder why Toyota got rid of the FJ Cruiser a few years ago …

Toyota is testing the baby crossover waters again with another concept

Anyway, the FT-AC’s roof-mounted LEDs front and rear are able to light up the area around the truck, plus there are heavy-duty skid plates, tow hooks and 20-inch wheels. The side mirrors have infrared cameras to record your off-road hijinks, and an integrated Wi-Fi hotspot allows you to upload the videos and save them for later. Out back is a built-in, retractable bike rack.

Other than that, Toyota gave very few details. Officials wouldn’t even tell us how big it actually is, though it looks slightly smaller than an FJ Cruiser but bigger than the little CH-R. No powertrain information was revealed, but the C-HR’s naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four (144 hp/139 lb-ft) would be a perfect starting point. Toyota did say the concept has torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, variable terrain settings and four-wheel lock, and also says a production version could be a hybrid. I’d make sure a six-speed manual was available and I’d make sure the CH-R’s CVT was not. Come to think of it, since it already builds Toyota’s 86, maybe Subaru builds on the relationship, jacks up the Crosstrek’s platform and drops the FT-AC’s body on it.

Whatever, it needs to happen sooner rather than later.

Wes Raynal

Wes Raynal – Wes Raynal joined Crain Communications’ circulation department while still in college. When he graduated in 1986, he became a reporter for Autoweek sister publication Automotive News. He has worked as Autoweek’s associate editor, news editor, motorsports editor and executive editor before being named editor in 2009.
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