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March 26, 2008 > Auto review: Toyota FJ Cruiser

Auto review: Toyota FJ Cruiser

Toyota introduced the FJ Cruiser as a 2007 model. Toyota's goal for the FJ Cruiser was to fill a gap in their model line and provide a modern, off-road, 4X4 vehicle. It continues the tradition of Toyota's old FJ40 which ceased production in the 1980s.

The FJ is designed to provide 4X4 ruggedness, performance and unique styling at an affordable price. It delivers all those qualities. Our FJ Cruiser was one of the 4-wheel drive models (2-wheel drive is also available).

The FJ uses a boxed steel, ladder-braced frame to start off with a strong platform on which to build. The front suspension travel is 8.7 inches with 9.1 inches of travel available in the rear to enhance suspension articulation. The ground clearance is 9.6 inches. Toyota adds an electronic traction control system to add to both on-road and off-road performance.

To power the FJ, Toyota chose their 4-liter, V-6, double overhead valve engine. It produces 239 HP and 278 foot pounds of torque. The EPA numbers are 18/22 for the 4X2 and 17/21 for the 4X4. The automatic transmission is a five-speed unit. If you get a 4X4 you can choose a six-speed manual transmission. The 4X4's two-speed transfer case normally distributes the power 40 percent to the front wheels and 60 percent to the rear wheels. The electronics can sense how the road conditions are changing and will vary that relationship for optimal traction.

The FJ's interior is dominated by a dash that is bordered by upper and lower tubular forms that frame rectangular flat panels. It is an unusual design, and you either like it a lot or dislike it a lot. All the gages and controls are easy to reach and use. The front seats are good with plenty of adjustments to fit all sizes of bodies. The windshield seemed virtually rectangular from the driver's seat. This gave a weird sensation for forward vision, and I felt I was peering out a slot. Rear vision was okay but with some blind spots, and I was glad our FJ had the optional rear sonar to help.

The back seats don't have a lot of leg room when tall people sit in the front. Another FJ unique feature is the two back doors. They don't just swing open like other back doors they swing out and down a little. The first time I opened one, I almost thought it was going to fall off the FJ. At the back, the FJ has a side-hinged door that opens to access the cargo area. The spare tire is mounted on that door.

The FJ Cruiser is fun to drive and has plenty of power for what it was designed to do. It accelerates well and its ride is smooth with just a hint of stiffness over bumpy roads. It handled well for a 4X4 type of vehicle. My only driving complaint came when I tried to shift the automatic transmission manually. To shift from first to second to third, etc. the shift lever had to be moved in a strange combination of left right movements as well as forward. It was not a big issue, just strange.

Three audio systems can be chosen. When one of the two premium systems are chosen, NXT SurfaceSound transducers are used to convert the FJ's entire ceiling into a speaker diaphragm. That must really rock the occupants.

The base price is $23,725 for the 4X4 FJ Cruiser and $22,545 for the two-wheel drive model. There are many options and packages to choose from, so you can focus on major off-road usage or just cruising down the boulevards. The choice of purchasing an FJ Cruiser really comes down to whether or not you like its styling.

By Dick Ryan
Freelance Automotive Journalist
Member of the Western Automotive Journalists

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