As a new kid on the SUV block, to succeed you need to stand-out from the crowd and Toyota’s cool FJ Cruiser certainly does that.
Brilliantly styled by Toyota North America, the Toyota FJ Cruiser tips its hat at the original FJ140 LandCruiser from 50 years ago but occupies a unique place in the Japanese brand’s 4WD family.
It’s a sign of the changes at Toyota to have a vehicle which really pushes the edge of the styling envelope and after a week behind the wheel, we’re huge fans of this beast.
Toyota FJ Cruiser Overview
Toyota quality, standout looks and value, the Toyota FJ Cruiser delivers like no other mid-size SUV. At first glance, it’s somewhat imposing but in fact the Toyota FJ Cruiser is a genuine mid-size SUV, 4670mm in length, 1905mm wide and 1830mm tall.
And behind the ground-breaking looks is Toyota’s expected engineering expertise – for example those rear-opening doors still provide the side-impact crash protection demanded by North America’s tough NHTSA standards.
There’s room for five and an easy-clean interior tailor-made for families and weekend adventurers.
Toyota FJ Cruiser Engine
Toyota’s venerable 4.0-litre quad-cam V6 petrol engine is well-known for its handy performance and refined operation.
With 200kW at 5600rpm and peak torque of 380Nm at 4400 rpm, the silky V6 provides commendable acceleration for the 2510kgs Toyota FJ Cruiser.
Toyota says the combined cycle fuel consumption for the FJ Cruiser is 11.4l/100kms (a smidge better than the similarly-powered Prado).
Drive is via Toyota’s five-speed manual transmission and part-time 4WD with a two-speed transfer and electric differential lock.
Toyota FJ Cruiser The Interior
Good as the Toyota FJ Cruiser looks on the outside, the interior too is innovative, engaging and just a little retro – there’s body-colour metal highlights just like the original FJ140 LandCruiser. The whole interior is easy-clean with no carpets (rubber floor mats) and even the trim/seat materials are washable.
Front seats have armrests, are spacious (this is a car designed for the American market) and the driver has adjustment for height and lumbar. Curiously there is only rake adjustment for the steering wheel.
Instrumentation is comprehensive and includes the hallmark Toyota center-dash cluster which provides outside temperature, a compass and inclinometer.
We liked the chunky gear and 4WD selector levers (Toyota says they’re designed for easy use even when wearing ski gloves).
Audio is a six-speaker CD system with a 4.3-inch LCD screen, Bluetooth and audio streaming.
Access to the rear seats via the rearward-opening doors is a little cumbersome due to the high ride-height of the Toyota FJ Cruiser but you soon work it out (front seat passengers need to undo their seatbelts). Once settled, the rear seat provides adequate space and legroom plus grab handles mounted on the rear of the front seats (a feature suggested by Toyota Australia engineers).
Toyota FJ Cruiser Exterior & Styling
In cyberspace the debate rages: is the Toyota FJ Cruiser a ‘retro’ like Volkswagen’s New Beetle and the MINI or a funky new direction for mid-size SUVs?
We’ll go with the significant styling cues from Toyota’s globe-conquering original LandCruiser FJ40 (white roof, upright windscreen with three wipers, round headlights, ‘TOYOTA’ grille and blistered front guards.
Retro or not, the Toyota FJ Cruiser delivers standout looks that had people staring and pointing wherever we went. And when we stopped and opened the rear-opening rear doors, passers-by were fascinated.
Toyota drew on the success of its cool SCION brand in attracting younger buyers particularly in style-conscious North America and asked its young Korean designer Jin Kim to deliver a similarly appealing ‘RYU’ (‘Rugged Youth Utility’). His success is easily measured by the hordes of Toyota FJ Cruisers you now see in hip places like Hollywood and Miami Beach.
Toyota FJ Cruiser On The Road
We first drove the Toyota FJ Cruiser some months ago at the national media press launch based in rural South Australia and since then have been curious about how it would perform in the city and everyday life. The tough Toyota didn’t let us down.
Sure it felt large and street parking presented some challenges, but overall we still reckon the Toyota FJ Cruiser compares very favourably with Toyota’s top-selling Prado and Kluger models for on-road refinement. And of course we already knew from the extreme workouts we tackled at the media launch how good the FJ Cruiser is off-road.
Based on the Toyota Prado chassis – sized between the three-door and five-door models - the Toyota FJ Cruiser runs Toyota’s well-honed double wishbone front/five-link rear suspension with gas dampers, coil springs and anti-roll bars. However Toyota Australia’s engineering team undertook considerable local development to enhance the FJ Cruiser in many ways.
Naturally there was the usual extra insulation to get NVH levels to an acceptably low level on our coarse chip secondary roads. But the local development s also extended to recalibrated dampers (10 per cent firmer than FJ Cruisers sold elsewhere), a re-tune of the power steering and fitment of 265/70R 17 tyres (which deliver a rolling diameter one inch larger than Prado).
The result is an overall ride quality we think challenges the Prado’s excellent standards.
Toyota FJ Cruiser sustained criticism from some for its body roll in corners. Hold on you F1 racers, this thing has 224mm of ground clearance and a break-over angle of 29 degrees (essential for its off-road talents) so it ain’t going to rival Mark Webber’s Red Bull in the twisty stuff but it still matches Ford’s highly-praised new Territory, it’s Prado and Kluger siblings and other segment benchmarks.
We liked the Toyota FJ Cruiser’s suspension calibration (nice compliance and precision even over our high-speed mountain roads test loop) and the steering feedback was amongst the best in this segment.
We tackled numerous CBD carparks during our week with the Toyota FJ Cruiser and - notwithstanding the restricted rear three-quarter visibility - the excellent 2.4-metre turning circle, standard reversing camera and only 2.7 turns lock-to-lock on the steering meant we overcame all obstacles.
Toyota FJ Cruiser Challenges
The only shortcomings for the FJ Cruiser center on the rear-opening doors and related components. Entry/exit to the rear seat is cumbersome and reverse parking into a street parking spot is difficult due to the restricted rear three-quarter visibility.
Both are easily conquered (the reversing camera helps parking) and must be considered in the context of the brilliant overall design of the Toyota FJ Cruiser – if you can’t live with the doors, buy a Prado…but the whole point of the FJ Cruiser is it’s different!
Toyota FJ Cruiser Verdict
The Toyota FJ Cruiser is all about its cutting-edge style – and that’s not a phrase you traditionally associate with a Toyota vehicle.
This thing has a presence only rivaled by GM’s Hummer (sadly no longer in production). But Toyota being Toyota, the FJ Cruiser comes with the brand’s hallmark quality and SUV off-road prowess/on-road refinement.
You can get a lot of mid-size SUVs for around $44,990 but there’s only one Toyota FJ Cruiser – and that’s a masterstroke by Toyota.
Toyota FJ Cruiser The Competition
On the basis of its styling, if it’s a genuine retro, the Toyota FJ Cruiser really compares with say the Jeep Wrangler and Land Rover Defender.
But if it’s not retro, then maybe the Hummer could have come close and then there’s the Dodge Nitro SXT – we like its ‘American-ness’ but the Toyota FJ Cruiser is newer so its driving dynamics are more modern.
Of the conventional mid-size SUVs, you can take your pick between Ford’s new Territory, Holden’s Captiva, Kia’s Sorento or Toyota’s own Kluger and Prado – but none of those hold a candle to the avant-garde looks of the Toyota FJ Cruiser.
So the question is: do you want a mid-size SUV or a mid-size SUV which turns heads?