2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser Review


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS

2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Think ``Toyota,'' and what comes to mind? Probably not style. For the most part, the styling of Toyota's cars and trucks has been either conservative to the point of blandness or just plain strange.

But Toyota's new FJ Cruiser will sell on style, as well as its on- and off-road prowess and value. As other manufacturers have done, Toyota mined its past for an auto-show circuit concept vehicle, which debuted at the 2003 Detroit auto show. And, as is often the case today, that concept vehicle turned heads, and became a production reality with little change.

Inspiration for the FJ Cruiser is the FJ40 Land Cruiser, sold here from 1960 through 1983 and now a very collectible vehicle. And the new FJ is a real Land Cruiser at heart, as it is built on the same Land Cruiser Prado chassis as the current Toyota 4Runner and Lexus GX470. The FJ Cruiser is shorter than those vehicles, and fills a hole in the Toyota SUV lineup that was created when the 4Runner went upscale. For, despite its eye-catching style, the FJ Cruiser is Toyota's entry-level seriously off-road capable body-on-frame SUV. After all, there isn't much point in making a vehicle designed to appeal to young and young-at-heart people if it's not affordable to its target market, and with base prices starting at $21,710 for the 4x2 model, the FJ is affordable for its intended buyers.

Being a real Land Cruiser, the FJ is a body-on-frame vehicle, built to be at the front of the pack in the rough stuff and also to provide first-rate comfort on pavement. Power for both 4x2 and 4x4 versions is from a 4.0-liter, 239-horsepower V6 similar to that found in the 4Runner. I've just finished a week of city and highway driving in a well-equipped 4x4 automatic model, and am very impressed with its solidity and civility. But my introduction to the FJ was at media off-road event, where a very technical course was set up on loose gravel and dirt, with steep grades, extreme breakovers, and plenty of tricky maneuvering. The FJ worked as well as anything else out that day, and better than some well-regarded machinery. It's more than merely a styling exercise; Toyota's new FJ Cruiser is a fine addition to the Land Cruiser legacy.

APPEARANCE: The FJ Cruiser is a larger vehicle than it appears to be in photos, where it seems RAV4-sized. Its face is familiar. The FJ40 was distinguished by the oval surround piece around its grille and round headlights, a small scoop in its hood, and white roof. All of those styling cues are prominently displayed on the FJ Cruiser, giving instant recognition, although the overall shapes of the two vehicles are completely different and the FJ Cruiser's hood ``scoop'' is merely cosmetic. The old FJ had body panels that were either flat or made with simple curves, separate front fenders, and a flat windshield. The new FJ has somewhat more complex panels and a low, near-vertical, but curved windshield. It's also much longer, and has four, rather than two, doors. But the rear doors are of the extended-cab pickup-type rear-opening variety, to try to preserve the impression of the original's two door style. The FJ Cruiser's high beltline, low roof, wide window pillars, and slightly sloping rear roofline give it the look of a contemporary military vehicle. The angular shape of its flexible plastic wheel arch and lower-body trim echoes the old FJ's front fenders and running boards. At the rear, the externally-mounted spare tire gives it the classic utility vehicle look.

COMFORT: Inside, the FJ Cruiser is as stylish as outside, but it's also very functional. Its simple geometric forms and multiple materials and textures give it a retro-modern look, which is enhanced by the body-colored center stack and (optional) door panels. The flat instrument panel appears to be suspended between two tubes, and both its shape and the silvery trim at its ends and the sides of the center stack give it a rack-mount impression. The black-on-white instruments are easy to see, and the oversize climate controls and auxiliary buttons in the center stack are easily gripped. Don't be afraid to get dirty - the seats are covered with a synthetic material that is water-repellent, breathable, and easy to clean, and the floor is a simple, easily-cleaned textured and rubberized plastic. Seat comfort is very good, both front and rear, although rear head and leg room are limited. As in an extended-cab pickup, the front doors must be opened first to open the rear doors. With the spare tire mounted on the side-hinged tailgate, cargo space is very good, and even better when the 60/40 split rear seat is folded flat. The optional subwoofer is mounted on the right side of the cargo area, where it is out of the way. The upgraded audio system in my test vehicle as part of the upgrade package provided high-quality sound, and the system plays both regular and MP3 CDs and has a jack for an external audio player - with a power outlet to connect the player to close by. Speaking of power, another part of that option package is an inverter that allows the Cruiser to be used as a generator, with a 400-watt, 115-volt grounded outlet at the rear of the cargo area.

SAFETY: Dual-stage front airbags can be supplemented with optional front side and full-length side curtain airbags. Like all Toyota SUVs, the FJ Cruiser is equipped with the Star Safety System, comprised of the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system, traction control, antilock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, and brake assist. Brakes are large, strong four-wheel ventilated discs.

RIDE AND HANDLING: On the road, the FJ Cruiser is a completely modern SUV, with all of the civilized manners and refinement expected from a Toyota. It has little in common with the FJ40 besides body-on-frame construction and four wheels. Front suspension is independent, by means of double wishbones and coil springs. The rear solid axle has four-link location with coil springs. Compliance is very good, and despite 8.7 inches of front travel and 9.1 inches at the rear, the springs and shocks are firm enough for a high degree of ride comfort, with good stability. With 9.6 inches of ground clearance to go with that long suspension travel, and skid plates under important components, it's well-protected from road debris. Or from rocks, roots, and ruts off-road.

PERFORMANCE: There's no power shortage from the FJ Cruiser's 4.0-liter V6. Aluminum alloy construction keeps its weight down, and being a Toyota powerplant, it has dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder, and the VVT-i variable cam phasing system. It's quiet and refined in operation, and produces 239 horsepower (at 5200 rpm) and 278 lb-ft of torque (at 3700 rpm). While 4x2 models come only with a five-speed automatic transmission with computerized shift control, 4x4s can be had with a six-speed manual or the automatic. Manual 4x4s have the same full-time dual-range transfer case as is found in the 4Runner, while automatics have a part-time dual-range system that is still very capable off road. Both my test vehicle and the example I drove off-road were automatics, and the automatic worked very well in both everyday and technical off-road driving. The optional A-TRAC traction control system and locking rear differential contribute to the FJ Cruiser's off-road ability. The FJ Cruiser can tow up to 5,000 lbs.

CONCLUSIONS: With its retro-modern looks, great capabilities, and good pricing, the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser is bound to be popular.

SPECIFICATIONS
2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser 4x4 Automatic

Base Price			$ 23,300
Price As Tested			$ 29,837
Engine Type			aluminum alloy dual overhead cam
				  24-valve V6
				  with VVT-i variable valve timing
Engine Size			4.0 liters / 241 cu. in.
Horsepower			239 @ 5200 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 			278 @ 3700 rpm
Transmission			5-speed automatic
Wheelbase / Length		105.9 in. / 183.9 in.
Curb Weight			4295 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower		18.0
Fuel Capacity			19 gal.
Fuel Requirement		91-octane unleaded gasoline
Tires				P265/70 SR17 Bridgestone Dueler
Brakes, front/rear		vented disc / vented disc, 
                                        ABS standard
Suspension, front/rear		independent double wishbone /
				 live axle with coil springs
				 and 4-link location
Ground clearance		9.6 inches
Drivetrain			front engine, on-demand dual-range 
                                four-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon
    city / highway / observed		17 / 21 / 17
0 to 60 mph				7.3  sec
Towing capacity				5,000 lbs.

OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Convenience Package - includes:
  remote keyless entry, cruise control, power outside mirrors
  with image lights, rear sonar, privacy glass, rear wiper,
  daytime running lights			$ 1,840
Curtain shield airbags with front seat side
  bolster airbags				$   650
Upgrade Package #2 - includes:
  A-TRAC, rear differential lock, multi-info display,
  alloy wheels, upgraded audio, 400-watt AC inverter,
  leather steering wheel with audio and cruise controls,
  interior trim upgrade, rear subwoofer	$ 2,620
Carpet floormats & cargo mat			$   199
RS3200 security system				$   479
Spare tire cover				$   169
Destination charge				$   580

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