2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser

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.

Occupant Safety
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.