A TRD Package Ups The FJ's Fun Factor
This quarter we've been busily getting used to our FJ Cruiser, spending quality time with it out on the open road, in the snow, and on the trail.
So far we are really enjoying our FJ, which regularly elicits positive comments from people wanting to know all about the TRD Edition-specific black roof and gunmetal wheels. We have also been enjoying the sweet sounds of the TRD exhaust system.
The FJ Cruiser is proving to be a sweet ride, especially with the TRD/Bilstein shocks, which are tuned to be sporty and when combined with the short-throw TRD six-speed (which fixes everything we didn't like about the shift action in our mechanically similar '05 Tacoma TRD long termer), the FJ is an engaging machine. The quick-revving 3.5L 239hp V-6 has a broad powerband with enough grunt to allow the FJ to maintain highway speeds on mountain roads without the need to downshift out of Sixth.
However, in order to make that advertised horsepower, Toyota recommends premium fuel, so in the interest of science, we decided to run mid-grade fuel for 1,000 miles to see if we could see a difference in fuel economy or driveability. We have to say any differential in performance was negligible and our difference in fuel economy between premium and mid grade was a measly 0.13 mpg in premium's favor. With the experiment out of the way, we'll continue to run with Toyota's recommendation of premium fuel for the remainder of the test.
During this report, the FJ was used for a vacation to the Sierras and got a little wintry wheeling in-something we don't often have the chance to do in L.A. Our tester reported that the lever-actuated transfer case was great, with positive engagement, and that the full-time four-wheel-drive FJ performed flawlessly in the snow and ice, and carried its fun-to-drive nature off the pavement.
If there are any complaints about the FJ, it still has to be the visibility, especially over the shoulder for lane-change maneuvers, but we are getting used to it, despite tall and skinny mirrors that leave something to be desired. Rear visibility is also compromised, but the rear parking assist helps with that. We also have comments about the FJ's propensity to beep at everything we do, whether it be putting the transmission in Reverse, triggering stability control in the dirt, or simply pressing a button on the key fob. Testers have also complained about the seats, which lack lumbar and side bolsters and really start to wear on the passengers on long trips. Perhaps the excellent seats from the Tacoma TRD are just too big and would hamper rear-seat legroom, but we'd like to see a better seat in the FJ-especially this premium model. Lastly, despite the 19-gallon fuel tank, we have been hard-pressed to reach 300 miles before the "low fuel" light comes on.
With those complaints out in the air, we'll be focusing on the qualities of the FJ that make it such a fun vehicle, and we are looking forward to some more wheeling opportunities before the next report.
Report: 2 Of 4
Previous reports: June '08
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: 7,406
Miles since last report: 4,938
Average mpg (this report): 14.34
Test best tank (mpg): 17.50
Test worst tank (mpg): 13.85
5,000-mile service: $82.48
Problem areas: None
What's Hot, What's Not
Hot: Awesome drivetrain, good on-road manners, value, TRD goodies worth the money
Not: Endless beeping, brick-wall visibility, unsupportive seats, short cruising range
* "These seats killed me on a recent 500-mile trip."
* "Every input elicits a beep."
* "Enough power for Tejon Pass without downshifting from Sixth."
* "The FJ is a blast to drive-very balanced chassis for an SUV."
* "The FJ can't even go 300 miles on a tank-disappointing."