More stories related to Chicago Auto Show Toyota Motor Corp. unveils its ’06 FJ Cruiser SUV at the 2005 Chicago Auto Show.

Set to go on sale in the U.S. in early 2006, the vehicle is a production version of the concept Toyota rolled out at the 2003 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“The FJ Cruiser effectively fills a gap in the Toyota lineup which was once our core heritage – affordable and durable vehicles that are youthful, fun-to-drive, aggressive and tough,” says Don Esmond, senior vice president and general manager-Toyota Div., in a statement.

Esmond says the FJ Cruiser will be available at “a very low price, making it accessible for a large volume of young buyers.”

Toyota, which says it is aiming the off-roader at “young buyers with active outdoor lifestyles,” will be chasing the same Gen Y and Gen X U.S. market demographic as Nissan Motor Co. Ltd.’s Xterra model. Nissan always has considered Xterra to be in a “segment of one.”

’06 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Toyota says preliminary numbers show the SUV’s 4L V-6 engine will make 245 hp and 282 lb.-ft. (382 Nm) of torque. Nissan’s 4L V-6 in the ’05 Xterra produces 265 hp and 284 lb.-ft. (385 Nm) of torque.

Towing capability will be on par with Xterra, however, at 5,000 lbs. (2,178 kg).

There will be a standard 5-speed automatic transmission on both 2- and 4-wheel-drive versions of the SUV, with an optional 6-speed manual transmission available on the 4WD model.

Toyota says the production version has stayed true to the 2003 concept, as Calty Design Research, the Toyota California design studio that developed the concept FJ Cruiser, also created the final production model.

Toyota says its history provided the basis for the vehicle, with the FJ 40, original 4Runner and 4WD compact pickups used as inspiration.

The reference to the original FJ of the 1950s is most obvious in the vehicle’s wide and narrow grille, round headlights and offset combination lamps.

Other hints of the past include the FJ Cruiser’s upright windshield, white cap roof and wraparound rear corners.

As Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. Chief Operating Officer Jim Press told Ward’s last month, the FJ Cruiser will offer modern amenities. (See related story: Toyota’s FJ Cruiser Not Bare Bones SUV)

Built off a modified 4Runner platform, the new model will feature standard 17-in. steel wheels, 4-wheel antilock disc brakes and vehicle stability control. The 2WD models will have standard automatic limited slip differential.

For increased utility, a 2-part rear hatch with flip-up glass will be offered, as well as black overfenders with mudguards. A rear access door also is featured for easy entry into the back seat of the 2-door vehicle.

Inside, the instrument panel uses an exterior color trim, while the steering wheel and center-mounted shifter exhibit “tool-like simplicity,” says Toyota. Rear seats fold flat, creating more cargo space.

Air conditioning, AM/FM/CD stereo system with six speakers, tilt steering wheel and four cupholders are among standard features.

Options include 17-in. aluminum alloy wheels, rear differential lock, electronic 4-wheel traction control (4WD only), running boards, rear sonar backup assist and front seat-mounted side airbags and front- and rear-side curtain airbags.

The FJ Cruiser’s overall length is 177.6 ins. (451 cm), 74.6 ins. (189 cm) wide, with an overall height of 70.9 ins. (180 cm). Wheelbase is 105.9 ins. (269 cm). It will seat five.

cschweinsberg@primediabusiness.com