We Get A Taste Of Toyota's Top FJ
While the FJ Cruiser was a big hit with consumers when it debuted, our first impression of Toyota's premier trail rig was positive, but mixed, voting the FJ Cruiser a third-place finisher in the 2007 Four Wheeler of the Year competition within a crowded field of contenders. While the staff was amazed at the FJ's ride and handling, cargo capacity, and comfort in the dirt and on the highway, they found the styling and some functionality a mixed bag, including the suicide-style rear doors, a smallish back seat, and box-van visibility. To help us understand and get to know the FJ Cruiser, the folks at Toyota graciously offered to let us have one of their last limited-production TRD models in inventory to test for an entire year-assuring us that once we lived with one, we would be as enthusiastic as all of the FJ Cruiser owners.
Toyota's FJ Cruiser has a very reasonable base price of $23,090, and the all-inclusive TRD model adds $7,265 to that number. For the money, you get a monochromatic exterior paint job in Black Diamond (that's right, no white roof here), gunmetal 16x7.5-inch TRD wheels, Bilstein shocks, BFGoodrich All-Terrain tires, a TRD exhaust system, factory rock rails, and a locker synchronized with the A-TRAC traction control system that is less invasive, allowing for smoother boulder hopping. The inside of the TRD Cruiser is basically a loaded FJ, with the addition of various TRD badging and accoutrements, such as a special TRD shift knob-constant reminders that you are driving the cream of the FJ crop. Only 3,200 FJ Cruiser TRDs were produced for 2007.
In addition to the TRD package, our six-speed manual-transmission FJ Cruiser was optioned with the towing hitch and wiring harness ($349), an armrest ($125), and a security system ($479), bringing the total price as tested to a still palatable $31,953.
Powering all FJ Cruisers is Toyota's smooth-revving 4.0L DOHC V-6, putting out 239 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque on a recommended diet of premium fuel. The window sticker rates fuel economy at 16 city and 19 highway, which we haven't quite seen, even in highway driving. So far our FJ has averaged 14.65 mpg on premium, so we plan to run a few tanks of mid-grade in the future and see if we notice any change in power, driveability, or economy.
The Bilstein-damped suspension on the TRD version is righteous; with 8 inches of front travel and 9 inches of rear, there is plenty of travel to enjoy fast-paced roads. The nearly 32-inch-tall BFG All-Terrains help the FJ to achieve almost 10 inches of ground clearance and give it plenty of off-pavement traction while remaining perfectly docile and still quite a good handler on the road. Our testers have commented on how fun the FJ is to drive, with just-right suspension tuning and fantastic chassis dynamics.
In the snow, the full-time four-wheel-drive FJ, with its Torsen center differential, has proven to be a great all-weather vehicle, sure-footedly transporting our occupants to their destinations safely and without incident.
While living with the FJ has been great so far, it hasn't been without complaint. We still aren't crazy about the rear doors that open outward and down, which could be problematic in uneven terrain, or the rear blind spot that hides anything smaller than an Excursion, but each day we are getting a little more used to it. One last thing we'd change is giving the rear-seat occupants a bit more legroom by moving the rear seat back a couple of inches, as it can be cramped back there, especially since the cargo areas is disproportionately voluminous.
The FJ Cruiser continues to be a staff favorite for those weekend getaways, so we'll continue putting our newest long-termer through its paces and at this point, we are guessing that our year with the FJ Cruiser is going to be as fun as Toyota promises it will be.
Report: 1 Of 4
Base price: $23,090
Price as tested: $31,953
Four-wheel-drive system: Full-time with Torsen center differential and low range
Miles to date: 3,908
Miles since last report: First report
Average mpg (this report): 14.65
Test best tank (mpg): 15.72
Test worst tank (mpg): 13.85
This period: None
Problem areas: Front windshield washer not working properly
What's hot, what's not:
Hot: Great value, superior chassis dynamics, smooth V-6
Not: Jury is still out on styling, suicide doors, rear visibility
* "Requires Premium fuel-that is surprising."
* "Fun to drive! Great power builds with the revs."
* "Ergonomically pleasing, all controls within easy reach."
* "The rear visibility sucks!"
* "Side door arrangement can pose a challenge to baby seat removal."
* "Took a while to realize that the rear window opens independently of the rear door-that's handy"