Loyalists may find the new FJ Cruiser far out, as Toyotas go. But it's no Scion — in spite of a boxy appearance that draws comparisons with the youth brand's xB model.

The 2-tone color scheme — a white roof, colored body panels — and rugged demeanor ensure it will stand out. Even dressed in boring burgundy, the FJ garners flirtatious glances from men and women in the hills of Santa Barbara.

Toyota is hoping the FJ Cruiser will transition buyers from its Scion brand and snag rugged types who enjoy off-roading and “like to drink beer…any beer,” says Jim Farley, vice president-marketing.

Built off a modified version of the short-wheelbase Land Crusier Prado (Lexus GX) platform, the '07 FJ Cruiser sports a beefy wheelbase. The overall width belies the FJ Cruiser's body-on-frame structure, providing a smooth, steady ride.

The FJ Cruiser is powered by Toyota's proven 239-hp 4L, 24-valve DOHC V-6 found in the Tacoma and Tundra pickups. A 5-speed automatic is the only available transmission in the 2WD model, while the 4WD FJ also offers a 6-speed manual.

The manual comes with a clutch-start cancel switch, allowing the vehicle to start in gear without depressing the clutch. This is useful on steep grades.

Manual models also have a full-time front differential used by 4Runner V-8 models. FJ Cruisers with an automatic transmission receive Toyota's Automatic Disconnecting Differential, borrowed from the 4Runner V-6 and Tacoma 4×4 models.

The FJ Cruiser has an independent, double-wishbone front suspension, which allows for 7.9 ins. (20 cm) of wheel travel. In the rear, Toyota uses a solid axle 4-link coil-spring suspension system, enabling wheels to travel up to 9.1 ins. (23.1 cm). Tubular shock absorbers and an anti-roll bar are employed both front and rear.

An automatic limited-slip differential, operated by an advanced traction-control system designed to allow the vehicle's rear wheels to grip in slippery conditions, is standard with 2WD. An electronic locking rear differential is optional on the 2WD model and standard with 4WD.

All FJ Cruisers have ventilated disc-type brakes and can tow a maximum 5,000 lbs. (2,268 kg) with the optional hitch.

On a treacherous off-road course, the FJ Cruiser is a surprising performer. A quick flick of the rear-differential lock button gets the vehicle up a particularly slippery slope.

Even so, like most “rugged” SUVs, the FJ Cruiser will spend more time on paved roads than the Rubicon Trail. For this reason, Toyota has done a good job making the interior utilitarian and comfortable. Seats are firm but comfortable for a long road trip. Rear legroom is adequate.

Interior materials are pedestrian: not overly flashy or complicated but durable. The optional premium FJammer audio system impresses. NXT SurfaceSound transducers convert the ceiling into a speaker diaphragm, and sound is pumped out to passengers from every direction.

Pricing will be released closer to the March launch. Plan to pay about $25,000 for a nicely equipped model. Toyota expects to sell about 60,000 FJ Cruisers annually by next year. Demand may outstrip supply.

Thanks to its compact dimensions, spacious interior, sporty stance and eye-catching design, the FJ Cruiser likely will appeal to more than just rugged, outdoorsy, beer-swilling males.

'07 Toyota FJ Cruiser (4WD)

Vehicle type: Front-engine, four-wheel drive, 5-passenger 4-door SUV

Engine: 4L (3,956 cc) DOHC V-6, aluminum block/aluminum heads

Power (SAE net): 239 hp @ 5,200 rpm

Torque: 278 lb.-ft. (377 Nm) @ 3,700 rpm

Compression ratio: 10:1

Bore × stroke (mm): 94 × 95

Transmission: 5-speed automatic

Wheelbase: 105.9 ins. (269 cm)

Overall length: 183.9 ins. (467 cm)

Overall width: 74.6 ins. (189 cm)

Overall height: 71.6 ins. (182 cm)

Curb weight: 4,295 lbs. (1,949 kg)

EPA fuel economy, city/highway (mpg): 17/21

Market competition: Hummer H3; Jeep Wranger; Nissan Xterra