If Toyota hasn't had much of a reputation for style in recent years, the Japanese giant makes up for that with the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Styled by Toyota's Southern California-based Calty Design Research and introduced as a concept vehicle at the 2003 Detroit Auto Show, the FJ Cruiser pays homage to the FJ40 4x4 that was sold in the United States from 1960 through 1983 and is a sought-after collectible today. The retro style of the new FJ will appeal to many people and almost guarantees its success.
But the new FJ is about far more than style. As Toyota's Land Cruiser and even 4Runner grew up and became more expensive, a hole opened in the affordable and off-road-capable niche in the Toyota truck line. The FJ fills that hole well through careful use of preexisting components.
The 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser Is based on the same chassis as the current 4Runner and the Lexus GX470, although the FJ is shorter. Both 4x2 and 4x4 models are offered, all with the 239-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6 also found in the 4Runner.
The interior is as stylish as the exterior and made of rugged moisture-resistant materials. It's definitely not retro in the safety department, with antilock disc brakes, Toyota's stability-control program, and traction control standard. Its audio systems acknowledge contemporary formats and devices, including MP3 CDs and MP3 players. Toyota has taken an interesting approach to navigation--instead of building an LCD into the dash, a portable Garmin GPS device will be offered as an option, complete with an integrated-mounting solution.
The 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser is a vehicle designed for young outdoor enthusiasts, and Toyota has priced it for young budgets. The base price for our 4x4 automatic-transmission model was $23,300. Options add significantly to this, however. Our test FJ had a Convenience Package with remote keyless entry, cruise control, power outside mirrors, a rear parking sonar, privacy glass, a rear wiper, and daytime running lights for $1,840; front side and full-length side curtain air bags for $650; the Upgrade #2 package of the A-TRAC off-road traction-control system, a rear-differential lock, extra instrumentation, alloy wheels, an upgraded audio system, a leather-covered steering wheel (with auxiliary audio and cruise controls), interior trim, and a rear-mounted subwoofer for $2,620; carpet floor and cargo mats for $199; a security system for $479; a spare-tire cover for $169; and a destination charge of $580. That makes for a $29,837 FJ Cruiser.
The 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser borrows heavily from the venerable FJ40 Land Cruiser for its style, especially in the grille, the inset round headlights, the hood and fender shape, and the two-tone color scheme with white roof. Parts of the frame and suspension are visible underneath the body, adding to its rugged, vintage look. Those classic cues are added to a Hummer-esque body shape--relatively low, wide, and short, with minimal overhangs and large, angular wheel arches. Our test example drew curious looks and positive comments wherever we went.
As in some other ex-concept cars that reached production, cutting-edge style demands the sacrifice of a certain amount of practicality. In the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser, that sacrifice is visibility in nearly all directions. The low gunport windows that give it the look reduce visibility, particularly forward and up, directly to the rear, where the externally mounted spare further intrudes into the center of the field of vision and to the rear quarters. The long B-, C-, and D-pillars mean that rear-quarter vision is strictly by way of the outside mirrors. Fortunately, they are large, tall truck mirrors and provide decent rearward visibility. Unfortunately, their size and the thick A-pillars they're mounted to makes for some large forward blind spots.
Interior design and materials are fashionably industrial, with body-color panels on the doors (part of the upgrade packages) and instrument panel, as well as simple geometric shapes. A variety of high-quality synthetic materials of differing texture and color keeps it interesting. Fit and finish inside and out are as expected from Toyota: first rate.
The rear half doors can be opened only when the front doors are open.
One awkward point is the rear-door arrangement: half-length, rear-hinged suicide doors that can be opened only after the corresponding front door is opened. The latches for these doors are on the inside, and finding them from the outside of the car takes a little hunting around. Despite the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser's prodigious ground clearance, seat-cushion height is not too high, and grab handles make front access easier. Rear access is basic, helped only by folding the front seat backs.
Seat comfort, front and rear, is very good for the price, and on the road, the cabin is quiet, especially for a truck. Front seats are manually adjustable in keeping with cost and simplicity. The rear seat is split 60/40, with flip-up cushions for a large, flat load area when needed. The rear-seat windows don't open, but the standard air-conditioning system works quickly and efficiently.
Three different audio systems are available, with the baseline being a six-speaker AM/FM/CD unit that also plays MP3 and WMA discs. Our test vehicle had an upgraded system with an MP3 and WMA-compatible, in-dash six-CD changer, as well as an AM/FM radio. It's prewired for XM or Sirius Satellite Radio, but neither was installed. It displays track information for MP3s or WMAs, although the small monochrome LCD panel limits the characters. An auxiliary jack at the bottom of the stack allows use of an MP3 player or an iPod.
The FJ Cruiser's in-dash six-CD changer handles WMA and MP3 CDs.
The upgraded audio system is available with or without a subwoofer mounted in the side of the cargo area. Regardless, a pair of NXT SurfaceSound transducers convert the FJ's ceiling into a speaker diaphragm for better sound dispersal and a more three-dimensional effect. It works quite well, with clean, well-separated sound.
No built-in navigation system was offered at the time of our test, which is not surprising, given the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser's price and market. An add-in Garmin Quest 2 portable unit is slated for availability in the summer of 2006.
However, as part of the Upgrade Package #2, there are three entertaining gauges: a compass, a thermometer, and a combination fore-and-aft and lateral inclinometer. A small covered storage compartment is placed in front of the driver.
Also part of that option pack is an inverter system that adds 400-watt AC power-generation capability to the FJ. The standard three-prong outlet is in the cargo area. This can be useful on camping trips or even at home during a power outage.
There is no cell phone integration, which is also not surprising, considering the basic nature of the FJ's cabin electronics.
The 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser has body-on-frame construction and in heritage is a real Land Cruiser, as that frame is from a vehicle known in some markets as the Land Cruiser Prado. It's a close relative to the Toyota 4Runner and the Lexus GX470, but it's 4 inches shorter in wheelbase. Suspension is conventional for a modern SUV, independent with double wishbones and coil springs in front, as well as a coil-sprung live axle that has a four-link location at the rear. Wheels are 17 inches, with pressed steel standard or optional aluminum alloy, and tires are of the extralarge P265/70 truck variety. All this adds up to a trucklike ride, not particularly well dampened but stiffly rugged, with the large tires adding some cushioning. It handles poorly paved roads very well.
The only engine choice is a 4.0-liter V-6. Like all current Toyota power plants, it has dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, and the VVT-i variable-valve-timing system. Aluminum-alloy block and head construction helps keep weight down, while a two-stage variable-length intake manifold, 12-orifice fuel injectors, distributorless direct ignition, and electronic throttle control help it make both solid power--239 horsepower at 5,200rpm and 278 pound-feet at 3,700rpm--and a low LEV-2/Tier 2 Bin 5 emissions rating. We found acceleration to be more than adequate, considering the car's 4,300-pound mass.
The automatic transmission, which delivers good off-road performance, is a practical choice for the FJ Cruiser.
The 4x2 model is offered only with a five-speed automatic; the 4x4 can be had with a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic with Toyota's artificial-intelligence shift control, which varies shifting based on road conditions and driving style. Manual models have the same full-time four-wheel-drive transfer case as the V-6 4Runner (unsurprising, as the engine is also the same), while automatics get a part-time system. Unlike most crossover SUVs, all 4x4 FJs are dual range for more serious off-pavement conditions. Manual models are the most serious.
Not that the automatic is a lightweight: Sometime before our test week, which was spent (like the life of most SUVs) entirely on pavement, we had the opportunity to drive an automatic 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser on a technical off-road course set up at the State Vehicular Recreational Area in Hollister Hills, California. Spotters were needed--and provided. The FJ breezed through the course, which included minimal traction surfaces of loose rock and gravel, as well as dirt. Only a small percentage of FJ owners will try that sort of driving, but they should be pleased. The good 4x4 system; the copious torque; the 9.6 inches of ground clearance; the strategically placed skid plates under the engine; the transfer case; the gas tank; and the 34-degree approach and 30-degree departure angles make the FJ Cruiser work well off-road. The optional A-TRAC off-road traction-control system further enhances ability by allowing more slip than an on-road system.
Fuel economy is as expected for a heavy SUV. EPA ratings are 17mpg in the city and 21mpg on the highway. We saw 17mpg in mixed driving.
The 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser has standard dual front air bags, with front-side, front, and rear side curtain air bags available for $650. As with all other Toyota SUVs, the Star Safety System--composed of vehicle stability control (VSC), traction control, antilock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, and brake assist--is standard. The brakes are large ventilated discs, both front and rear. Triple windshield wipers do a better job of keeping the Cruiser's wide but short windshield clean than would the usual double wipers.
An optional set of gauges includes an inclinometer--to see what kinds of slopes and slants the FJ Cruiser can handle.
The 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser has not yet been rated for crash performance. The closely related 4Runner rates four stars for frontal-impact protection, five stars for side impact, and three stars for rollovers, all on both driver and passenger sides. Thus, we expect the FJ to score similarly in the protection department.
Safety-related options include the RS3200 Plus security system, with which our test example was fitted. Daytime running lights and a rear sonar-based parking-assistance system are part of the $1,840 Convenience Package. Considering the poor visibility, the parking-assistance system is a necessity.
Toyota's 36-month/36,000-mile warranty covers all components except normal wear-and-tear items. The power train is covered by a 60-month/60,000-mile warranty. Corrosion-perforation coverage is for 60 months/unlimited mileage.