Inspired by the legendary Toyota FJ40 4x4 utility vehicle, which roamed from 1960 until it was discontinued in 1983, the FJ Cruiser is truly funky SUV that's a mountain goat off-road. Limited visibility, high levels of road noise and a cramped back seat can make everyday driving on the pavement a bit of a chore, but its unique look and vintage charm make the FJ Crusier well worth a look for those seeking an off-road-focused ride.
Many of the FJ Crusier's styling elements recall the old FJ40, including the contours of the hood and fenders along with the front grille and round headlights. Rear-hinged back doors are a unique touch for the segment, but their small size impedes back seat access.
Mechanically, the FJ Cruiser is a true old-school SUV. It uses a sturdy body-on-frame configuration, while the suspension consists of a double-wishbone setup in front with nearly eight inches of wheel travel and an off-road-friendly live axle at the rear with over nine-inches of travel. Skid plates are mounted over the engine/front suspension and transfer case to ensure that close encounters with rocks won't lead to leaking fluids or trashed components. The tires are fitted on tough-looking black steel wheels or optional alloy rims.
Power comes from a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 260 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel-drive is standard and four-wheel-drive is available as an option, with the latter including a two-speed transfer case and a limited-slip center differential. Transmission choices include a six-speed manual (4x4 only) and a five-speed automatic. Fuel economy is rated at 17/20 city/highway mpg for the automatic model with rear-drive or 4x4, while the manual-equipped 4x4 variant returns 15/18 mpg.
Befitting the truck's simple and rugged nature, the interior features a boxy dashboard with intuitive controls and durable materials. Large pillars and a high beltline means that visibility is limited, extremely so at the sides thanks to oversized C-pillars. Water-resistant cloth upholstery and heavy-duty floor mats mean the cabin can stand up to muddy boots and wet swimsuits.
Standard and Optional Features
The FJ Cruise comes in a single trim level that includes A/C, power windows and locks, power-adjustable front seats, an AM/FM/CD sound system, Bluetooth connectivity and 17-inch steel wheels. Newly standard for the latest model year are power-adjustable exterior mirrors.
Options include an upgraded sound system and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Trail Teams Special Edition
Those looking for an even more stripped-down, off-road-capable FJ Cruise should opt for the Trail Teams Special Edition. Model-specific features include Ttrail-tuned Bilstein shock absorbers, a rear differential lock and Toyota Racing Development alloy wheels shod with BF Goodrich 265/75R16 All-Terrain tires with wheel locks.
Exterior changes include a unique Cement Grey paint color and blacked-out bumpers, grille and door handles, while special edition badges are of course also part of the package. The interior is spruced up with Cement Grey accents and a multi-information display in addition to extra standard content in the form of cruise control, a rearview camera and rear privacy glass.
All FJ Cruisers come with dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and brake assist.
The off road-minded Toyota FJ finds its stiffest competition in the capable Jeep Wrangler and Nissan Xterra - and although Toyota won't admit it, buyers probably cross-shop the automaker's own 4Runner as well.