The Toyota FJ Cruiser is not your typical off-road vehicle.
Browse through the entire lineup of Toyota models and you’ll notice that the FJ Cruiser is the only that looks completely out of place. Before you start questioning Toyota’s rationale for giving the FJ Cruiser a retro look, understand that there’s a reason behind that. The model is actually inspired by the iconic FJ40 4x4 utility vehicle that sold in the U.S. from 1960 to 1983, so that explanation fits why the FJ Cruiser looks the way it does.
If being different is what the FJ Cruiser is going for, then Toyota certainly hit this one out of the park. But the real question is if being "different" means that the FJ Cruiser is a good purchase relative to the kind of off-road vehicles it’s been slotted against.
Whatever the case may be, what we can all agree on is that the FJ Cruiser is definitely a good conversation piece.
Find out what we think of the FJ Cruiser after the jump
The FJ Cruiser is definitely an acquired taste, particularly the round headlights, which, while nostalgic, we’re not sure fits into the current trend of building sleek and aggressive looking vehicles. The headlight setup is made even more perplexing, considering the entire body of the FJ Cruiser looks too big relative to the miniscule-looking fascia. It’s like that bodybuilder that bulks up to no end, except that while the rest of his body expanded, his head didn’t. That’s the problem we see with the FJ Cruiser. Some people will like it because of that nostalgia factor, but other than that, the seeming absence of proportion just doesn’t cut it for us.
| Exterior Dimensions || || |
| Wheelbase || 105.9 in. || |
| Overall Length || 183.9 in. || |
| Overall Width || 75.0 in. || |
| Overall Height || 71.3 in. (4x2) || 72.0 in. (4x4) |
| Tread Width (Front/Rear) || 63.2/63.2 in. || |
| Ground Clearance || 8.7 in. (4x2) || 9.6 in. (4x4) |
| Angle of Approach/Departure || 32/30 degrees (4x2) || 34/31 degrees (4x4) |
Standard Exterior Features
- P265/70R 17-inch tires on black steel wheels with full size spare (back door mount)
- Silver painted outside rear view mirrors
- Two-tone exterior color (color-keyed body with white roof top), mono-tone ---*Iceberg White exterior color
- Rear liftgate glass window with release lever
- Washer-linked variable intermittent windshield wipers
- Rear window defogger with intelligent timer
- Multi-reflector halogen headlamps
- Black bumpers with metallic silver trim
- Two full doors and two access doors with silver trim door handles
- Black overfenders with integrated mudguards
- Daytime Running Lights
- Power outside mirrors with illuminated markers
The FJ Cruiser’s interior is, in a word, utilitarian. If you’re looking for a posh interior with all sorts of digs and trinkets, look somewhere else; the FJ Cruiser’s interior, particularly the dash, is all about function. The three gauges on top of the dashboard are all FJ40-inspired, which is a pretty neat thing. Make no mistake, the overall simplicity of the interior is a good thing because you don’t have to worry about wondering where the controls are. Everything, pretty much, is right in front of you.
The eight-way adjustable driver’s seat is neatly done, allowing the driver the comfort and convenience he’ll probably need when he’s driving around whatever off-road trail he finds himself on. Toyota also said that the seating materials on the FJ Cruiser are water-repellant, something that could be of great use for anybody who goes inside dripping wet.
Other than providing the most rudimentary of needs of a driver, there’s little about the interior of the FJ Cruiser that stands out. And really, that’s not a bad thing because the expected buyer of this SUV is the type who probably won’t need a whole lot of trinkets to begin with.
| Interior Dimensions || |
| Seating Capacity || 5 |
| Headroom (Front/Rear) || 41.3/40.3 in. |
| Legroom (Front/Rear) || 41.9/31.3 in. |
| Shoulder Room (Front/Rear) || 58.4/53.9 in. |
| Hip Room (Front/Rear) || 55.4/51.0 in. |
| EPA Cargo Volume || With rear seats folded: 66.8 cu. ft. |
| || Behind rear seat: 27.9 cu. ft. |
Standard Interior Features
- Air conditioning with air filter and second row vents
- Tilt three-spoke steering wheel with silver trim
- Four cup holders (center console), two bottle holders (access doors)
- Flat dash panels with pipe-like structure with silver instrument panel trim
- Analog instrument meters with backlit white surface area on tachometer, speedometer, fuel, temp and volt meters
- Power windows and door locks
- Digital clock
- Dual sun visors
- Four assist grips (two A-pillars, two above front doors)
- Four map pockets (one per door)
- Map lamps
- Water resistant seat fabric with adjustable headrest in each position
- Heavy duty all-weather flooring
- Fabric trimmed eight-way manually adjustable driver seat with armrest
- Fabric trimmed four-way manually adjustable passenger seat with seatback pocket
- Exterior color-keyed center instrument panel trim
- Fabric trimmed 60/40 split rear seats with tumble/removable bottom cushion and fold-down
- Driver-side non-lit vanity mirror
- Key cylinder light
- Folding headrests on outboard positions of rear seats
The FJ Cruiser is powered by a DOHC 4.0-liter V-6 engine that produces 260 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque. The high displacement doesn’t bode well for the fuel efficiency. The FJ Cruiser is available either as in 4x2 or 4x4 configurations, with the former being equipped with a five-speed automatic transmission with the latter offered with a choice of either a six-speed manual transmission or an electronically shifted five-speed automatic transmission.
Compared to the Jeep Wrangler, the FJ Cruiser still can’t seem to quite stack up to its American competitor, which now boasts of an output of 285 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque.
Ultimately, we still can’t seem to find a performance characteristic of the FJ Cruiser that jumps off the page apart from what looks like a thirst that can only be quenched by loads and loads of fuel.
| Engine Specifications || |
| Type, Materials || 4.0-liter, 6-cylinder, 24-valve DOHC with Dual VVT-i, EFI, aluminum alloy block with aluminum alloy head |
| Valvetrain || 4-valve/cylinder |
| Displacement || 3,956 cc |
| Bore x Stroke || 3.70 x 3.74 in. |
| Compression Ratio || 10.4:1 |
| Horsepower || 260 hp @ 5,600 rpm |
| Torque || 271 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm |
| Ignition System || Toyota Direct Ignition (TDI) |
| Fuel System || EFI |
| Recommended Fuel || 87-octane unleaded |
| Emission Certification || LEV II (Tier2 Bin5) |
| EPA Estimated Fuel Economy* || 17/22 (4x2 AT) (city/highway MPG) 15/19 (4x4 MT) 17/21 (4x4 AT) |
*2012 EPA Estimates. Actual mileage will vary.
"Autoguide, in particular, observed that the SUV's ruggedness unmistakably manifests itself in its unbridled thirst for being a gas guzzler."
As expected, a number of our colleagues have similarly mixed reactions to the FJ Cruiser. Autoguide, in particular, observed that the SUV’s ruggedness unmistakably manifests itself in its unbridled thirst for being a gas guzzler. There’s nothing about the FJ Cruiser that can be identified as "smooth". On the flip side, Karl Brauer of Edmunds does find a lot of appeal to the FJ Cruiser, particularly because, as far as he’s concerned, "if you never go off road you’ll like it, and if you always go off road you’ll LOVE it".
Admittedly, we’re not as sold as Brauer is although we do respect his take on the SUV. To us, buying the FJ Cruiser is a double-edged sword that any buyer will have to take note of. If you want a ride that can tackle just about any surface you put it on, the FJ Cruiser is a suitable choice. You just have to not mind the way it looks, which if we’re being honest, is really subject to the eye of the beholder.
Effective last December, Toyota increased the price of the 2013 FJ Cruiser to $27,030 for the 4x2 automatic and $28,620 for the 4x4 automatic. Those are incremental increase in numbers, so you shouldn’t be too worried about the slightly higher price tag from past model years.
2013 Jeep Wrangler
The closest in terms of a competing model to the FJ Cruiser is the Jeep Wrangler, a comparison that wasn’t lost on us considering that both cars look like they’ve been transported all the way from the halcyon days of their predecessors. Unlike the FJ Cruiser, the look of the Wrangler feels more natural and more in-tune with what an off-roader is supposed to be. Power also lies on the Wrangler’s side with its 285-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine, although it’s really not that much of a difference between the two.
Variety of trim models is also an advantage for the Wrangler. Whereas the FJ Cruiser only has two trim models - the 4x2 and the 4x4 - the Wrangler has the Sport ($22,195), the Sport S ($24,495), the Sahara ($27,795), the Freedom Edition ($27,995), the Rubicon ($30,595), and the Moab Edition ($32,995) with the first two trims costing significantly less than any of the FJ Cruiser trims being offered in the market today.
2012 Nissan Xterra
The Xterra carries the same displacement and output as that of the FJ Cruiser - a 4.0-liter V-6 that produces 261 horsepower. You won’t find a lot of mechanical and efficiency differences between the two. Where there are dissimilarities lies in the kind of amenities that the Xterra has over the FJ Cruiser.
As far as handling is concerned, the Xterra doesn’t inspire much confidence in that regard. It’s a little rough around the edges, which might pose a problem should you plan to go on an off-road excursion. In that environment, the FJ Cruiser handles its business much better than the Xterra, which is a pretty important qualification, considering that both models are supposed to be built for the off-road.
Lastly, the Xterra comes with a cheaper base price of $25,480 for the S 4dr trim. Likewise, base price for the X 4dr is $27,530 while the top-of-the-range
Pro-4X 4dr retails for $30,640.
We’re not sold on the FJ Cruiser. Although it does hold its own, as far as its core purpose of off-roading is concerned, it doesn’t hold up in the aesthetics department. Some people like the retro-inspired look, but we’re not fans of it. Add that to the relatively poor fuel economy and the higher base price, and you have an off-road SUV that we’re more than likely to leave to others.
| Category || Rating || Details |
| Driving || C+ || It handles itself well relative to its core purpose |
| Performance || B- || It’s got performance creds |
| Look || C || We don’t like the retro look |
| Value || C+ || More expensive than the rest of the competition |
| Overall || C+ || We see why some people might like it; we also see why some people don’t |