One of the few proper off-roaders left | The FJ Cruiser is so properly basic that it signifies the simplicity of the past, and that's something that we can't really put a price on.
“One of a kind.” It’s a phrase a bystander used to describe the 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser as I carefully parked it into a spot at the local Home Depot. Despite it being a current model-year vehicle, it pays homage to the legendary Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser of decades gone by. It feels just as rugged as it looks, and simplicity is the name of the game. Now that Toyota has announced that they will no longer produce the FJ Cruiser after this year, I decided to spend a few days sampling the end of what I consider to be an era. Considering that most of my off-roader friends drive Jeep Wranglers, this may very well my last opportunity to drive an FJ Cruiser.
Under the hood of the FJ lies Toyota’s tried, tested, and proven 4.0L V6. Here, it puts out 260 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque. There is a 6-speed manual available, but my tester was equipped with the consumer-preferred 5-speed automatic. This powertrain is shared with Toyota’s 4Runner, and is pretty good for an off-road-oriented vehicle. The short gearing does make for dismal fuel economy, but really, is there anyone out there who buys an FJ Cruiser to save on fuel? The FJ does need a bit of throttle to get going, but at highway speeds, it’s surprisingly composed and comfortable. The high seating position makes you feel like the king of the road, and makes for particularly good visibility.
Styling on the FJ seemed to be hit and miss with those I encountered during my week. Real car and truck guys look at it and have respect for its roots, while non-enthusiasts think it looks far too boisterous. My tester came with the $8,625 “Trail Teams” package that adds some appearance goodies to freshen up the FJ Cruiser’s styling. This a limited production run that adds things like off-road roof lights, unique badging, 265/75/R16 tires with unique TRD wheels, matte bumpers, a polished black shifter, and Bilstein shocks. It’s still simple, but hardcore enough to be worthy of its $43,165 price tag.
There are a few reasons I would actually prefer the Toyota FJ Cruiser to its counterpart, the Jeep Wrangler. For one, I largely prefer the Toyota’s roof setup. Rather than a complicated soft top (which I understand some people would prefer), the FJ comes with a fixed roof. This will be far more insulated in the winter, and helps the cabin retain heat as well. I noticed during my week with the Wrangler that even with the hardtop, insulation is not very good. Also, the FJ Cruiser is far more refined and has better on-road manners than the Wrangler. It’s still a proper off-roader, but it’s a bit sharper and more nimble than the Jeep.
SUVs over the past few years have become far too “cute”. They’ve gone soft and cater to the everyday commuter, the mainstream Canadian family, and the quintessential soccer mom. There are very few left that are actually capable of going off-road while being reasonably affordable, and the FJ Cruiser is one of them. The half rear-doors (very akin to the Mazda RX-8) make rear loading pretty easy, and real people can fit in the back seats. It really is a shame that it’s going out of production, but I guess at the end of the day, all good things have to come to an end. At least we still have the 4Runner and the Wrangler for the time being.
The FJ’s interior isn’t plush, cushy, or cozy. Getting behind the wheel truly does feel like you’ve stepped into the past. For the mainstream consumer, this would be a complaint. However, the FJ Cruiser isn’t targeted towards the mainstream consumer. The tall, polished shift knob, the rugged cloth seats and the simple stereo makes for a proper Land Cruiser experience. Climate control is modulated using three large knobs that can easily be operated even with gloves on. There’s a large button beneath the center stack that toggles the huge off-road lights located on the roof. These should not be used during normal driving as they are very bright and will definitely present an issue to oncoming drivers.
By far, the most common question I had to answer during my week with this SUV was how much fuel it drinks. Well, I didn’t get a chance to venture off-road, and I did a good amount of highway driving. Over the course of my test, I averaged 13.8L/100km. Not too bad considering the FJ Cruiser can get away with regular fuel. The 70L tank means you can go a reasonable distance without having to stop for gas, but by no means can this thing be called efficient. Then again, if efficiency is what you are after, Toyota does sell the brilliant new Highlander with a hybrid powerplant.
Few vehicles on the road look as awesome as the Toyota FJ Cruiser. Its retro styling makes it turn heads no matter where it goes, even if it’s the heart of downtown Toronto where scooters and taxis dominate. The 4WD system and locking transfer cases allow it to tackle any sort of weekend adventure you’re after, and it’s polite enough on-road to carry your aging parents around in reasonable comfort. The FJ Cruiser is so properly basic that it signifies the simplicity of the past, and that’s something that we can’t really put a price on. I truly am disappointed to see it go.
2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Gallery