2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser

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Review: 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser

This 2007 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2014.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

New SUV is modern, but reminiscent of classic Toyota Land Cruisers.
Pros:
  • Roomy
  • Rugged
  • Good off-road abilities
Cons:
  • Strained retro styling
  • Rear blind spots
  • Closed-in rear seat feeling

Blend retro styling with modern comfort features and mechanical prowess and you end up with the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser.

The FJ Cruiser has styling reminiscent of Toyota's tough FJ40 Land Cruisers of the 1960s. It has the same flat windshield, round headlights that straddle a rectangular mesh grille, wraparound rear corner glass and white top of the old FJ40. (Roofs were reflective white decades ago because air conditioning was uncommon.)

Younger drivers gave my test FJ Cruiser a thumbs up, but an elderly neighbor said it was "the ugliest thing I've ever seen." However, she's hardly part of Toyota's youthful target market for this SUV. And the FJ Cruiser turns heads of people of all ages because it doesn't look like other SUVs.

The question is, do you want to be in the driver's seat when all those heads are turned?

Derived From Concept Vehicle
The midsize FJ Cruiser is a production version of the concept FJ Cruiser that generated buzz when first shown at the 2003 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

This new Toyota costs from $21,710 for a rear-wheel-drive version with a 5-speed automatic transmission to $23,300 for the 4-wheel-drive version with the automatic. A 6-speed manual gearbox with rather long shift throws also is offered. But my test FJ had the responsive automatic, which seems to make more sense for a fairly big, heavy SUV.

The old FJ40 had two doors and the FJ Cruiser has four doors to satisfy today's buyer demands. However, the FJ Cruiser looks like a two-door model because it has two concealed rear-hinged doors opened with an interior handle that—alas—is awkward to reach after the front doors are opened.

Compromises
Put a concept vehicle in production, and you often end up with a variety of compromises that don't play all that well on the street.

For instance, athletic moves are needed to get in or out of this new Toyota's roomy rear-seat area, although the rear clamshell "half doors" swing out 90 degrees and operate like those on many pickup trucks.

You can order $345 running boards to make it easier to get in and out of the front or rear, but they're too narrow for anyone with large shoes—although they add to the retro look.

Small, fixed rear side windows and thick back roof pillars can cause a claustrophobic feeling for rear occupants. Those pillars, a rather small back window and the outside-mounted spare tire on the tailgate create rear driver blind spots.

Strong Engine
The FJ Cruiser is based on the modified platform of Toyota's seasoned 4Runner SUV and is built in Japan. Its stout 4.0-liter 239-horsepower V6 has good torque and provides lively merging and 65-75 mph passing.

Estimated fuel economy of this 4,050-4,295-pound SUV ranges from 16-18 mpg in the city and 19-22 on highways, depending on the drive setup and transmission.

The 4-wheel drive has low-range gearing and the optional All-Trac off-road traction control system is a definite plus for rugged driving off pavement.

Decent Roadability
Steering is about right for a tall, heavy SUV that must do well off-road but be agile enough for daily on-road use. The rather stiff-but-compliant ride also is good for an on/off-road truck. The FJ Cruiser doesn't encourage snaking quickly through curves, but standard stability control and traction control systems help here.

The brake pedal has a linear action and stopping distances are short with the anti-lock brakes, which have electronic brake force distribution and brake assist for sure, quick stops.

An $1,840 Convenience package has such items as remote keyless entry, cruise control, power side mirrors and a rear-obstacle detection system to help with those rear blind spots when backing up. Nifty alloy wheels and a premium audio system are two prime options.

Roomy Interior
Front seats are supportive, and four to five tall adults fit in the roomy, rather utilitarian interior. However, four adults is a more practical number because the center of the rear seat is too hard for anything but short trips.

The speedometer can be read quickly, but other gauges are rather small. The optional small compass, thermometer and inclinometer gauges set atop the center of the dashboard are hard to read.

Power mirror controls are nearly hidden behind the steering wheel, but major controls are large and easily reached. There's decent cabin storage, but the automatic shift lever is oddly oversized.

Rugged features in keeping with the FJ Cruiser's character include water-resistant seat fabric and washable rubber-like floor covering.

Plenty of Comforts
The old Land Cruisers had few creature comforts, but the FJ Cruiser has plenty of standard comfort and convenience items. They include air conditioning, a tilt wheel, a manual height-adjustable driver seat, console with cupholders, an AM/FM/CD audio system with 6 speakers, skid plates and power windows and door locks. Three windshield wipers sweep almost every inch of the glass.

The tailgate seems clumsy with its heavy bold-on spare tire, and that full-size spare makes loading through the tailgate's flip-up glass area somewhat difficult. At least the tailgate swings open from curbside for easy loading.

The cargo area is large, although its wide opening is rather high. Seatbacks and the removable seat bottoms of the split 60-40 rear seat easily flip forward to enlarge the cargo area.

The FJ Cruiser's retro styling and off-road-biased nature don't let it match the daily practicality of most competitors. But it's refreshing that Toyota is willing to take a chance on an offbeat vehicle, and the automaker's solid reputation is sure to help sales.

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BB03 - 7/30/2014 10:39:37 PM