Here's a bit of history about the marque. The legendary Land Cruiser name has graced the bodywork of over four million vehicles since its introduction back in 1954. The FJ 40 nameplate came along six years later and was continued for another 24 years.
Although Toyota sold these vehicles in most parts of the world, they are probably most famous for the remote areas that they managed to reach. To many people in these far-flung towns and villages, it was possibly the first vehicle they ever clapped eyes on. Together with their main competitor in those days, Land Rovers, they blazed trails into some of the remotest parts of our planet.
With a reputation for being rugged and dependable all-terrain vehicles, they were used by game wardens, the military and just about anyone who wanted to venture into parts previously un-travelled by motorized transport.
To say that the Land Cruiser name became a legendary symbol throughout the world is in no way a marketing boast, it is simply a fact. With that said, how could anyone hope to resurrect such a famous name without being put under extreme scrutiny? Well Toyota thought that they could, so I decided to take up the challenge and put their new offering to the test.
Let's start by looking at the exterior. The new FJ Cruiser certainly reflects some of the heritage of designs of the past; it has the close-together headlamps, similar-looking fenders and of course the same white-painted roof. This white roof idea was never a styling issue; it was used by Toyota and many of its competitors to help keep the trucks cool under the blazing sun. Practicality was the point then and still is one of the key points to any good off-road machine.
The FJ has fairly good ground clearance (9.6 in.) and there is plenty of room under the wheel arches. This is important for two reasons; space under the wheel arches usually translates to good wheel travel and if you're in deep sticky mud, offers plenty of room before it totally clogs up the wheels. The fender flairs are made from black plastic and will therefore take a few bumps and scratches without spoiling the vehicles looks.
The optional roof rack is of sturdy design, unlike some which are more for show than practical use. A rear-step bumper aids in the loading of this useful rack. Then there's the rear door-mounted spare wheel carrier. In my opinion, there are only three places on which to mount a spare wheel on an off-road vehicle -- on the rear door, on the roof or on the hood, all well above the mud level.
The exterior of the FJ has been designed to be washed down with ease and, after spending a day playing in the gooey stuff, this is something that usually requires a bucket and sponge. All the body lines are smooth and anything that does jut out such, as the light units, are nicely rounded, meaning no cuts and scrapes on wash day.
The aluminum wheels look great but the 17-in. rims might limit tire choice and will probably be a little more costly to replace than the 15-in. or 16-in. that we're used to seeing -- but then, they look good!
The FJ sports a three-wiper-blade system that sweeps the windshield extremely effectively. When coupled with some of the most high-powered washer jets that I have encountered, I can't imagine any mud splatters staying on there for very long.
The FJ's front bumper doesn't quite live up to the rest of the vehicle in the ruggedness department, as it appears a little lightweight. Never mind, the aftermarket company, ARB, already has a bolt-on winch-mount bumper on sale for the new FJ Cruiser.
This brings me nicely to the amazing thing about this truck. Toyota is not shy in encouraging owners to take this truck off the paved roads. While most SUV manufacturers like to portray their products as “go anywhere vehicles,” many frown when you actually do so. Not Toyota, as they are standing behind their product, as are numerous FJ Cruiser clubs which are springing up all over North America.
The FJ Cruiser comes standard with useful off-road features such as the centre locking differential and a pushbutton rear locker (this you don't usually find as a standard feature). On top of that, the option list includes things like rock sliders and underbody protection plates. (The FJ comes with standard underbody protection for the engine, transfer case and fuel tank; the optional ones are heavy duty).
If you want some more proof of Toyota's commitment to the vehicle's off-road prowess, check out the FJ section of its website or pick up a brochure -- there is not a single on-road picture in it!
Moving on to the interior, which is easy to access through the clamshell-like doors, it also appears to have been approached with practicality in mind. The wipe-clean resin flooring, which I think is an excellent idea in an off-road vehicle, had been so cleverly covered with form-fitting rubber over-mats that I hadn't noticed the lack of carpets. Kudos to Toyota on that.
The dashboard is possibly the first thing that grabs your attention. It has a solid look and appears all businesslike, with easy to read dials and gauges. There are places already available for extra light switches and any other little add-ons that owners might want to fit. My only minor negative comment on the controls was that the leather-rimmed steering wheel was only standard fitment on the high-end package and the base wheel did not have the nicest feel to it.
This could be cured quite easy by fitting a nice-sized sunroof but alas that is not on the option list. There is however a reason for this, to compliment the very nice sound system, Toyota has integrated speakers into the headliner to give a virtual “sound shower.” This speaker system is very impressive and I understand that it's a first in the industry. I would however, personally like to see a sunroof even if it upsets the sound shower as I think that the truck needs a little more interior light.
Rear cargo is easily accessed by a swing-open rear door that yields 66.8 cu ft of cargo space, which is pretty good carrying capacity for a truck of this size.
The FJ Cruiser is powered by 4.0 litre V6 DOHC engine with 24 valves, variable valve timing and sequential multi port fuel injection. It produces 239 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque. This vehicle moves!
I think that anyone is going to be impressed by its performance; compared to the old FJ it's like strapping a rocket to its backside.
My test vehicle was fitted with the six-speed manual gearbox and full-time 4WD, although it is also available with an electronically controlled five-speed auto transmission with part-time 4WD. Many people prefer an auto box, particularly for off-roading, but I just loved the six-speed gearbox. Some manufacturers have stopped offering manual transmissions as they say there is no demand, which I think is a mistake, as in a vehicle like this, it is a big part of the fun.
The underside of the FJ is basically derived from the Tacoma/4Runner platform and so the ride will be familiar to many Toyota owners, who can vouch for its distinct qualities. Braking is no longer 'stomp and hope' like in the FJ models of the past. The new version comes with ventilated discs all around, ABS, EBD and brake assist.
Steering is of rack and pinion type with variable gear ratio (VGRS),;it is precise and the vehicle tracks very nicely at highway speeds.
The Toyota FJ has a rated towing capacity of around 5,000 lb, which should handle most owners' requirements. Overall, the FJ drives like a truck -- quite a comfortable truck -- but still a truck, but then, isn't that what people want from a vehicle like this?
It was now time to make a decision. Did the new FJ Cruiser live up to its famed pedigree?
As far as living up to the original FJ, anyone who has owned an original is not going to be too upset with Toyota's new offering. It still is a very capable vehicle and they have kept as close as they could to the traditional idea while using the modern technologies that we have come to expect.
The original FJ was designed as a multi-purpose unit -- it could be used as an off-road workhorse or as a 4x4 adventure vehicle and the same can be said for the new one. Obviously Toyota is reaching out to the active, outdoorsy types, which leads one to instantly think 'young people'. But I think that this truck is going to appeal to a lot of age groups.
At $29,990 for the base model and $36,985 loaded, the price that Toyota has set on this vehicle is almost unbelievable. In my opinion it has to be the best value-for-money true off-road SUV on the market today.
Kevin's rating 9+ / 10.
Note: This rating is the highest I have ever given any vehicle and reflects what I see as value for money in this product. If I was in the market for this type of vehicle I wouldn't think twice, it's a bargain!
Price Range (MSRP): $29,990 - $36,985
Body Type: five-door SUV, ladder-frame
Layout: front engine, 4WD
Engine: 239-hp, 278 lb-ft of torque, 4.0L, 24-valve, DOHC V6
Transmission: 6-spd manual (optional 5-spd auto)
Brakes (front/rear): disc/disc, ABS, EBD, BA
Curb Weight (manual-auto): 1,946 - 1,948 kg (4,290 - 4,295 lbs)
Seating Capacity: 5
Cargo Volume (behind 2nd row/1st row): 790 - 1,890 L (27.9 / 66.8 cu ft)
Payload: 601 kg (1,325 lbs)
Exterior Dimensions (L/W/H/WB): 4,670 / 1,905 / 1,830 / 2,690 mm (183.9 / 75.0 / 72.0 / 105.9 in)
Ground Clearance: 245 mm (9.6 in.)
Towing Capacity: 2,268 kg (5,000 lb)
Fuel Economy (city/hwy): 14.5 / 11.2 L/100 km (6-spd manual)
Warranty (mo./km): 36/60,000 comprehensive - 60/100,000 powertrain