The review below was originally posted in February 2006. After spending a week in a FJ Cruiser here at Gaywheels.com world HQ, I was compelled to add a few comments.
As journalists we shouldn’t let our own opinions cloud our judgement and our goal is to keep the target consumer in mind when reviewing a vehicle. Being human, that is easier said than done; especially when a vehicle evokes strong emotions from us. It is easy to write about a vehicle that you can relate to and it can be very difficult to speak highly of a car or truck that rubs you the wrong way. I’d have to put the Toyota FJ Cruiser in the latter camp.
To be perfectly honest, before driving the FJ Cruiser I thought it was less than attractive (putting it mildly). I am a big fan of heritage design when done properly and in my personal opinion, the FJ Cruiser misses the mark. Even after spending a week with our bright yellow beast, I have not warmed up to the design. It certainly gets attention though and in the land of lookalike SUVs, it is always very easy to find in the parking lot. We saw quite a few on the road here in Atlanta and always got a wave from the other drivers. Cruiser Club anyone?
What surprised me the most about the truck is how well it drives. It simply has the most personality of any Toyota I’ve driven in the recent past. The drivetrain is wonderful with the 239 HP 4.0L V6 engine delivering an athletic driving experience. It felt light and nimble; two adjectives I would have never used just looking at the vehicle. The ride is incredibly compliant and would be great road-trip car for two.
The interior was roomy for the front two passengers but it was clear that the retro design dictated space allocation. The vertical windshield looks great but it places the window quite a distance from the driver. My partner and I had a hard time reaching the visors! We aren’t tall people but at 5’10” I don’t think we classify as short either. That design feature also made it difficult to see a stoplight if you happened to be first in line.
Read the review below for more impressions. I’ll leave with this – if you don’t need a lot of passenger room and want an SUV that stands out in a crowd, definitely take a FJ Cruiser for a test drive. It isn’t my cup of tea, but it may be yours – Editor
Toyota Goes Muy Macho
By Kate McLeod
This is it! You want rugged? You want that macho military look? You want different? Check out Toyota’s new FJ Cruiser. There’s a retro look, but not like the Mustang or the VW New Beetle. It’s a retro look that goes so far back than few of us have ever seen it. So it’s fresh, too.
Combine the FJ’s boldness with construction yellow or Toyota’s own heritage blue and it makes quite a statement careening down a highway. You’re going to love the look. And as an offroader, it is Rubicon worthy. Toyota has a winner. But I can nitpick with the best of them. Anyone looking to turn their vehicle into an offroading beast can find more information from offroadpowerproducts.com in order to discover the various products and suspension kits to help you tackle any terrain you encounter.
The design goes back to military ehicles Toyota built for our Army around the Korean War. You can easily see the old FJ heritage in the bug eye headlamps framed together with the mesh grille, the pushed out front fender, wrap around rear glass and the white roof. A flat windshield (with three wipers) and slab sides add a utilitarian feel. Massive wheel wells house 17″ wheels. The spare tire cover is stamped with a wide tire track and a big “FJ”. A ground clearance of 9.6 inches on 4X4 models adds utility to the style statement. Designer rock crawl, anyone?
Open the clamshell doors and you see right away that this baby means business. No wimpy dials, no delicate fabrics-rubber, plastic, chunky, utilitarian and textured, that’s the statement. The flat instrument panels are framed top and bottom with a tubular edge. Body paint accents (optional) on the door and instrument panels really jazz up the interior. Everything, including speaker covers, floor mats, seat covers and plastic panels, has texture. It’s kind of obvious where Toyota saved money as well as spent money and that’s too bad. The interior plastic could have been softer––honestly it felt a little cheap. Also there’s no light behind some of the push buttons on the dash so you’re never sure if they are engaged or not.
Sitting on top of the dash, you can option a GPS system or three gauges (compass, temperature and inclinometer). Dials to operate the audio and HVAC are the size of mini muffins and, thank you Toyota, easy to use. Audio is appropriately subwoofed and the optional six-CD changer system comes with two of those on the floor––dude, feel those vibes.
The center console has a small bin for change, two big gulp-holders and a large open bin at the back. There’s storage in the door panels as well. I loved the big grab handle at elbow height on the door panel.
The driver’s seat is 8-way adjustable and passenger seat is 4-way adjustable. Rear seats have a 60/40 split with folding (removable) seat and back cushions. The floor isn’t completely flat but nearly flat. With seats folded you have 66.8 cubic feet of cargo room; 27 cubic feet with the seats up.
The seats need better bolstering. We really noticed it on the off-road course with side hills and an articulation course that keeps one wheel always in the air. Serious off-roaders should keep this in mind. My driving partner’s bad back was very unhappy during our off-roading course. And there’s a solid rear axle adding to the authenticity-real hard ride.
The FJ is powered by Toyota’s 4.0 liter V-6 with a double-overhead-cam design with VVT-I the same engine used in the Tacoma, Tundra and Highlander. It produces 239 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 278 fl-lbs of torque at 3,700 rpm. One downer: It takes premium 91 octane fuel. Fuel economy varies with the model but average preliminary EPA numbers are 17 city/21 highway.
The FJ Cruiser is available as either a rear-wheel 2WD or part-time 4WD for automatic transmission models or full-time 4WD for manual transmission models coupled with hydraulic rack and pinion steering. The transition from two-wheel to four-low or four-high is quite easy, even for a novice. Just engage the A-trac system (offroad traction control) and throw the shifter into gear and you’re off. (I preferred the manual for offroad driving as it provided more control, but the automatic was fine for highway driving.
Safety features include dual stage and front driver and passenger airbags with side airbags optional. Toyota’s Star Safety System includes anti-lock brakes with brake assist, electronic brake force distribution and traction control and vehicle skid control. Towing capacity is 5,000 lbs.
The FJ Cruiser will be on sale the last ten days of March 2006 as a 2007 model. The FJ Cruiser 4×2 with a five-speed automatic transmission will carry a base MSRP of $21,710. Pricing for the FJ Cruiser 4×4 with a six-speed manual will be priced at $22,890 while the 4×4 with a five-speed automatic will start at $23,300.
Toyota has come up with a honest design in the FJ, something you don’t have to explain or interpret.
Toyota thinks their buyers will be mostly male, 70% single and one third will be under 30. They’ve made overtures to many aftermarket companies so there’ll be opportunity for customization.
They say this vehicle is one for the beer drinkers. Perhaps this explains their marketing photo of single shirtless sociopaths (my interpretation). But I don’t drink at all and almost always wear a shirt and I’d buy the FJ Cruiser in a heartbeat.
Toyota is a gay-friendly company.
Read other Toyota reviews by GayWheels.com’s writers