The original Toyota FJ40 vehicle was produced for over two decades from 1960 through 1983. The FJ40 was always known for its off-road capabilities and unique styling. As time passed, Toyota came out with newer FJ-model vehicles such as the FJ45, with its truck-type rear bed, and the FJ55, the first sport-utility-style FJ in the Toyota lineup. In '91, Toyota came out with the FJ80 Land Cruiser, and its popularity rose by leaps and bounds. Although that vehicle is very capable off-road when properly equipped, many off-road enthusiasts felt abandoned by Toyota for the lack of afour-wheel-drive-inspired, FJ40-style rig.
With the release of its new '07 FJ Cruiser, Toyota feels that it has not only addressed the growing concerns of enthusiasts everywhere but also produced a quality four-wheel-drive vehicle encompassing some old school design. Toyota recently turned over the keys to one of its new FJs and allowed me to spend some time testing it out in order to give a hands-on, four-wheel-drive owner's review.
A few of the available options for the FJ are: locking rear differential, accessory power outlets, multi-information display unit, FJammer audio package, backup sonar system, A-Trac (four-wheel traction control), roof rack and utility system, rock rails, Garmin Quest 2 navigation unit, and much more.
Both on- and off-road I was thoroughly impressed with how comfortable the FJ Cruiser was. The stability was there, the control was there with not as much body roll as I first thought, as was a great 4WD system and plenty of in-cab space. This was also one of the most rubbernecked vehicles I have ever driven. Driving a pre-production model around town usually results in questions, but I had never experienced what happened to me on Saturday before I returned the rig to Toyota.
While heading to the local hardware store I noticed I was being followed by a woman in a Honda Element. As I was parking, she pulled up behind me and asked if I would please talk to her husband who was on the other end of her cell phone's line. Ernie Ramirez has been an L.A. County firefighter for over 24 years and is also a true 4WD fan. He informed me that he had already put a down payment on the arrival of his FJ without ever having seen one in person -- only through photographs over the Internet. We made arrangements to meet up so he could get a firsthand look at the vehicle. It was confirmed that he was a true enthusiast when he pulled up in a mint condition early Bronco.
After some chitchat, I invited him to take a trip off-roading with me, and he gladly accepted with a grin from ear to ear. We spent the next three hours testing out the four-wheel-drive capabilities of the FJ. The day ended as Ernie turned to me and said, "Thank you for making my day!" There is no doubt this new vehicle will grace the pages of this magazine in the future, as it is certainly going to be something our readers will be purchasing. In the end, there are only a few words I can say about the new '07 Toyota FJ Cruiser: I want one.
Opening up both the front and rear access doors you will find plenty of cab room even for tall occupants. I comfortably stuffed four passengers measuring from 5'9" to 6'3" into the FJ. The seats are made from a breathable fabric that consists of five layers and is water resistant. This doesn't mean you can drive through your local river, but it should protect the seats from basic spills and moisture. On top of the standard multistage front airbags, you also have the available optional side and side curtain airbags. Notice the lack of carpet on the flooring aside from the floor mats? The durable floor finish will make cleaning the mud, dirt and grime out of your vehicle a breeze.
The large functional dash definitely has a youth-oriented styling with its oversized A/C control knobs and shifting levers. The gauge cluster is well laid out and easy to read. It is nice to see the transfer case lever returned to the FJ. The transfer case has available settings of H2, H4, N, and L4 for the automatic transmission models and H4, H4L, N, and L4L settings for the available full-time 4WD six-speed manual transmission models. The audio system is quite incredible with options ranging from an in-dash, six-disc CD changer to an auxiliary jack for a portable MP3 device and an optional rear subwoofer enclosure that would bring the total number of speakers in the FJ to nine. Atop the dash you will also notice the optional inclinometer/compass/outside-temperature display unit which will come in handy during weekend getaways.
Coming around the rear of the FJ you will notice the consistent theme of oversized components. The large side mirrors and brake lights have been mounted high so they are easily seen by following vehicles. The rear tire carrier holds a fullsize spare tire and does not affect the operation of the rear door or glass hatch. I did notice a slight blind spot due to the rear design of the vehicle, but it's nothing that isn't tolerable. This pre-production FJ was rolling on 16-inch alloy wheels; however, Toyota will be offering an upgrade package with the available 17-inch alloy wheels and 32-inch all-terrain tires.
Looking over the exterior of the FJ, you can see an FJ40 hidden beneath the new design. The rugged exterior of the FJ has a signature white roof, true Toyota center badge, integrated hoodscoop, over-tire fender flares, and a nearly flat windshield using a three-wiper configuration. The chassis is a fully boxed frame with large-diameter body mounts which help assist in cabin isolation from road and drivetrain vibration. It will be available in three models: 2WD with automatic transmission, 4WD with manual transmission, and 4WD with automatic transmission.
Under the hood of the Cruiser is Toyota's highly successful 1GR-FE 4.0L V-6 DOHC, 24-valve VVT-i powerplant. This engine comes standard for both 4x2 and 4x4 models and is the same engine used in the Tacoma, Tundra, and 4Runner models. I never felt a lack of power driving the FJ on the road or through the rocks. The engine produces 239 hp at 5,200 rpm and 278 lb-ft at 3,700 rpm.
The front suspension is much like what you would find on the Tacoma -- double A-arm front suspension in long-stroke design utilizing coilovers with 7.88 inches of wheel travel. Through both dirt and rock, the front suspension felt very responsive and was always in control. Even tackling some rough sections at speeds upward of 50 mph, I always felt comfortable and never felt the vehicle getting away from me.
The rear four-link suspension has a solid axle with a Panhard rod providing 9 inches of wheel travel without sacrificing ride quality. I made sure during testing to get the vehicle off the ground and was consistently impressed with both front and rear stability. The standard towing capacity of the FJ is 5,000 pounds with a tongue weight of 500 pounds.