We have put another several thousand miles on our FJ, including some serious trail work to prerun our Four Wheeler of the Year competition in the high desert of Southern California, which you can read about on page 26 of this issue.
Out on the trail, we were really able to push the FJ. In deep, sandy washes the well-tuned Bilstein shocks performed admirably and the Torsen center differential worked well to control the torque split. With the wide powerband of the 4.0L DOHC V-6 under foot, the FJ was flexible in Second or Third gears, able to carry big speed down the washes. The chassis is fun and very responsive, with the traction nannies reduced at the push of the button, the FJ could easily be drifted through the deep sand and bound over unforeseen whoops.
Good skidplating does an excellent job of protecting the relatively low-riding FJ Cruiser.
When the sand turned to rock, the rear locker got us up and over the obstacles, and we regularly used our factory rock rails to pivot around obstacles and keep the FJ's body straight and free of gouges. We'd love to see a little more ground clearance to keep the FJ's excellent skidplating from having to do its job as often as it does. Although tires larger than the 265/70R17s our FJ is equipped with would help give the FJ a little extra height, we are glad Toyota decided to equip the TRD Special Edition with BFGoodrich A/Ts. These tires gave us all the traction we required in the rough, floating well in the sand and providing a comfortable highway ride.
All in all, the extra pieces added to the TRD Special Edition over the standard FJ Cruiser are well worth the package price and turn a pretty fun little SUV into an incredibly fun SUV. It is also competent enough for those solo-day excursions into the backcountry. Just be sure to fill up before heading out there, as the FJ's fuel range has continued to be a point of contention with testers.
During this report, we completed our 10,000-mile service on the FJ and had the windshield-washer system repaired under warranty. Otherwise, the FJ Cruiser's reliability has been flawless, and we'll make sure to enjoy our last quarter with the FJ before it heads back to Toyota.
Report: 3 of 4
Previous reports: June '08, Nov. '08
Base price: $23,090
Price as tested: $31,953
Four-wheel-drive system: Full-time two-speed with Torsen center diff-lock
Miles to date: 11,085
Miles since last report: 3,679
Average mpg (this report): 15.06
Test best tank (mpg): 17.50
Test worst tank (mpg): 13.85
10,000-mile Service: $82.42
Problem areas: Windshield washer-Warranty
What's Hot, What's Not
Hot: Fun, fun, fun on the trail, factory rocker protection
Not: A little on the low side, rear doors are awkward in tight spaces
* "I keep writing about the shifter, but the six-speed manual makes the FJ so much fun to drive."
* "It is beeping at me again."
* "Wow, the TRD FJ really is a lot of fun on wide open trails, but also impressed me in the rocky sections."
* "The way the rear door opens down, it tends to hit rocks on the trail."
* "I was never an FJ fan, but the monochromatic paint and gunmetal wheels along with the TRD upgrades really make a difference in looks and performance."