When Toyota brought its FJ40 stateside in 1958, the two-door sport utility vehicle offered open-air motoring, four-wheel drive and not much else. Like the Jeep CJ, the FJ40 became an offroad icon, enjoying two decades of success before spawning Toyota's four-door Land Cruiser.
For 2007, Toyota's retro-styled FJ Cruiser SUV re-creates some of the FJ40's original charm — a memory lost in today's $56,000, anything-but-minimalist Land Cruiser.
The FJ Cruiser sports boxy styling and a dirt-friendly interior. Flashy colors and a base price in the low-$20,000s should attract the same vein of outdoor SUV enthusiasts who buy Nissan Xterras or Jeep Wranglers. Hardcore off-roaders might prefer a Wrangler Rubicon or Hummer H3, as the FJ Cruiser has comparatively modest four-wheeling credentials.
Features such as power mirrors, remote keyless entry and cruise control are offered as optional add-ons. That might seem a bit stingy in this price range, but bear in mind that the base FJ Cruiser includes an electronic stability system and Toyota's stout 4.0-liter V-6 — both arguably meatier than any of the optional frills.
Fitted between circular headlamps, a framed grille reads "TOYOTA" in all caps. The fascia is a throwback to the original FJ40, as are the FJ Cruiser's white roof and wraparound rear-quarter windows. Other elements are not so faithful: A high beltline and short windows bear more resemblance to Hummer's current lineup than to the FJ40's tall, lanky cab.
The wide windshield includes three wipers, a feature few vehicles in automotive history can claim. Rear-hinged access doors facilitate backseat entry. In the rear, the swing gate holds a spare tire and opens to the left to allow loading on the curb side. Standard 17-inch steel wheels can be upgraded to 17-inch alloy wheels.
Rear-wheel drive is standard. Optional four-wheel drive features a locking rear differential and two-speed transfer case with a 2.57:1 low-range ratio. That's close to the Xterra's 2.63:1 ratio but short of the Wrangler's 2.72:1 or available 4:1 ratios. Ground clearance is rated at 9.6 inches on a four-wheel-drive FJ Cruiser. An Xterra falls in the same range, but the Wrangler can be equipped to clear 10.3-inch obstacles.
A rectangular, trucklike dashboard incorporates a prominent square panel with stereo and climate controls. A compass, outside temperature display and vehicle pitch readouts are available with an optional gauge cluster that sits above the middle air vents. Door inserts and dashboard panels can be matched to the FJ Cruiser's exterior color.
Standard items include power windows and door locks, as well as a six-speaker CD stereo. Remote keyless entry, cruise control, power mirrors and a six-CD changer are optional.
The five-seat interior features water-resistant fabric. The backseat folds forward in a 60/40 split to create a flat load floor that's coated in a rubber-like material. With the seats down, maximum cargo volume is 66.8 cubic feet, which beats the Xterra (65.7) and Wrangler (61.2) with their rear seats down. The Xterra's cargo volume expands further with an optional fold-flat front passenger seat, a feature the FJ Cruiser lacks.
Under the Hood
A 4.0-liter V-6 makes 239 horsepower and 278 pounds-feet of torque. Two-wheel-drive FJ Cruisers use a standard five-speed-automatic transmission, while four-wheel-drive models have either the automatic or a six-speed manual.
When properly equipped, the FJ Cruiser can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
Four-wheel-disc antilock brakes and an electronic stability system are standard. Side-impact and side curtain-type airbags are optional.