The first time I saw the FJ Cruiser I thought it was an odd-looking manly retro truck – definitely not a “chick-truck”. I wasn’t really enamored with it – I certainly didn’t get too excited about it. The first time my wife saw it she loved it and told me I just HAD to get one for a Road Test. She never stopped asking when I was going to get one, so I booked it for the middle of winter when it might actually come in handy. Now the question begs to be asked: is it a manly truck that “Chicks get” or is my wife getting too manly? Oddly enough, both sexes take double-stares at the FJ Cruiser, so it looks like Toyota have designed and built a truck that appeals to everyone. Now we’ll have to see if it’s as tough as it looks…Square and odd seem to be the overall theme in trucks. Hummer was the first to go square and it was popular enough to spawn four variations – H1 (the original), H2, SUT (the pick-up version) and the H3 (a Chevy Trailblazer tarted up to look tough). Like the Dodge Nitro, the FJ Cruiser is as square as a brick, with a front end and windshield that is aerodynamically-challenged. Throw in the big bulging wheel wells, oversized beefy tires and huge roof rack and this truck has a real presence – it’s definitely not going to disappear in the mall parking lots – even if it is painted boring silver!
The 2007 FJ Cruiser is designed after the legendary Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 that was launched back in 1960 and had the lasting power of 24 years. During those years it was seen around the world as the safari and expedition vehicle of choice – you’ve probably seen them in movies and on TV, but you just didn’t know what they were – until now.
Walking up to the FJ Cruiser, you can’t help but notice how narrow the windows are and how high the side panels are. The door handles are huge beefy things in keeping with the premise of the Cruiser. You actually have to step up onto the running boards to get into this truck – you can stretch over the boards, but it’s much easier to use them (however taller people will probably not have an issue with this at all). As helpful as the running boards are, I found I by-passed them when exiting, and that made it a bit of a stretch. Anyone with large feet may find the running boards more of a hindrance than help.
Swinging myself up into the truck, the first thing I noticed is how huge this truck really is! It’s much wider than most trucks, but inside it isn’t overly roomy. The headroom is higher than I expected, so there’s no claustrophobic feeling that you might expect when looking at it from the outside. The seats are quite flat and there’s no lumbar adjustment, however, overall they were very comfortable for the entire week we had the Cruiser. The seat is manually height adjustable, which was very handy. The floor is covered in a “Thermo Plastic Olefin” moulded rubber-type material – obviously for hosing out the muddy interior should the FJ Cruiser actually be used for what it was designed. The flooring is damage resistant, waterproof and also covers the rear seatbacks for when it’s being used to carry cargo. The seats are covered in a water-repellant and waterproof fabric that can be wiped down should they get dirty or wet.
Unlike the Dodge Nitro – where the windshield is immediately in front of you – the FJ Cruiser has a long reach to the windshield. As an added bonus, the driver gets his very own glove box – located in the dash right above the steering wheel. It’s a good idea because the regular glove box is surprisingly useless because it’s so small. My wife pointed out that if this was a Dodge, there likely would have been a beverage cooler in the dashboard like the Caliber. On top of the dashboard in the centre is a large multi-information display that incorporates a large compass, vehicle attitude and clock/outside temperature gauge. The only non-manly thing in the truck is the steering wheel. The steering wheel is the perfect size, but I expected it to be really thick, but instead it’s quite thin and looks like it’s been borrowed from the Toyota Matrix. It does however incorporate controls for the audio system which seems to be coming standard on most vehicles these days. While the steering tilts, it does not telescope, however, I never felt that I needed the option. The cruise control is on a lever on the steering column at the 4 o’clock position. I found the placement of the gas pedal, clutch and brake to be perfect, and they were far enough apart that you could operate the Cruiser with big bulky boots without interference. As is the norm for Toyota – the manual transmission and clutch combination are as perfect as they come – nice light clutch with a very smooth shifting action. One beef however, is that the reverse gear is to the left and forward by 1st instead of to the right and back. I kept getting reverse when I was trying to get into 1st. Fortunately, there’s a beeping that indicates that you’ve engaged reverse, but in my mind changing the gate would have been a better option.
Directly in front of the driver is a three-dial cluster that houses the large speedometer in the center, tachometer on the left and fuel, volt and temperature gauges to the right. The faces of the dials are white with black numbers. When lit they have a very uniform white glow that is very pleasant to the eye, especially at night – since they don’t cause any type of glare.
In the center of the dashboard below the multi-information display, are two large air vents and below them is the very large stereo unit. There’s a huge volume button that has obviously been designed – like everything else in the FJ Cruiser – to be used while wearing gloves. However every time I reached to adjust the volume while wearing my gloves, I’d switch the stereo off! The button is also the on/off button and it doesn’t take much in the way of pressure to turn it off. A better option would have been to place a completely separate on/off button somewhere else on the unit, or at least to make the button a little less sensitive. That aside, the audio system was superb. Toyota has created the World’s first audio system that incorporates the entire headliner of the vehicle as part of the speakers, creating a “sound shower.” The FJammer audio system includes an in-dash 6-disc CD changer and two extra speakers in the D-pillars as well as the two Exciter speakers in the headliner. At first it sounds slightly tinny and lame, but once you get used to the sound, it is fantastic! There is an optional sub-woofer available but I’m not sure it would have improved much on the already excellent sound quality. Below the audio system is the climate control system with huge easy to use dials and buttons. The plastic that surrounds the audio/climate system is painted to match the exterior of the FJ Cruiser, unifying the entire vehicle. Unfortunately the test vehicle was silver, so the interior was like-wise boring silver. All FJ Cruisers – regardless of color have white roofs.
Below the climate control is a power outlet, controls for the two-stage seat warmers, 12-volt outlet, on/off buttons for the rear 400 watt/115 volt cargo power outlet, rear differential lock, A-TRAC (Traction Control) and parking and back-up sonar. The wide centre console that separates the driver and front passenger has the gear shifter and a traditional parking brake, a series of open storage bins, as well as the obligatory cup holders. The glove box is very small – ridiculously so, rendering it all but useless. Considering there’s no covered storage bins anywhere else in the FJ Cruiser, I’d like to know where the designers propose people are to store their CD’s etc.
Firing up the engine, the Cruiser rumbles to life with a throaty growl. I’m not sure if Toyota deliberately engineered the exhaust to sound that way, but it’s reminiscent of a V-8. The 4.0-litre V-6 engine is a similar unit to the one in the Tacoma pickup truck and has dual overhead cams, 24 valves and Variable Valve Timing-intelligent (VVT-i), producing 239 hp @ 5,200 rpm and 278 lb-ft of torque @ 3,800 rpm. There is a choice of two transmissions: a 6-speed manual with full-time 4WD, or a 5-speed automatic delivering part-time 4WD. The FJ Cruiser has specially modified drivetrain, chassis, power steering and suspension systems, also based on the Toyota Tacoma, to deliver superb off-road performance without sacrificing on-road ride and handling. In addition, special plates protect the engine, transfer case, fuel tank and other underbody components, making the FJ Cruiser a serious off-roader.
If you like the solid feel of a truck-based SUV with a no-holds-barred attitude, then the FJ Cruiser is for you. It’s very solid and manly – it actually feels as though it is made from one solid piece of metal. While you’d expected it to feel claustrophobic with the low windows that look like gun-slits, it never felt that way at all. The very large side view mirror on the driver’s side felt a little too close, and because of their size and positioning they create a bit of a blind spot when around pedestrians. The steering is perfectly weighted and the throttle response is very good and almost instantaneous. The suspension is very tight and with the relatively short wheelbase, the FJ Cruiser can feel unbalanced while trundling over rail road tracks at full-blast. While there was never a feeling of being out of control, blasting over the tracks provided an interesting sensation.
Entering the freeway was surprisingly effortless and quick, with no thought of acceleration to freeway speeds being an issue in this beefy truck. Once up to speed though, the wind noise was very noticeable, especially coming from the rear where the bulk of the roof rack is situated. On the subject of the roof rack – although it fits perfectly with the look of the FJ Cruiser, I can’t see the logic of including it in the standard equipment – A roof rack can kill your gas mileage anywhere from 5% to 30% so why punish the fuel bill unnecessarily? Probably 99.99% of the people purchasing this truck will never use the roof rack, so why wouldn’t Toyota make it a stand-alone option for that minuscule amount of people that would actually use it? If it’s so important to the looks of the Cruiser then why not go whole-hog and put a bank of 6 Hella roof lights up there too?
I picked the perfect week to have the FJ Cruiser for a road test, because winter arrived with a vengeance that very week and there wasn’t a better or more capable vehicle to have in that situation. Thanks to the 9.4 inches of ground clearance and big P265/70R17 tires, snowdrifts were dispensed of without any fuss. Snow piles that I would have re-considered while driving your average Soft-Ute Vehicle, were a mere snowball for the FJ Cruiser. Because it is full-time 4WD there was never anything to consider while driving over the mini dunes. In the unlikely event that I would have gotten stuck, I always had the option of locking the center and rear differentials and going into 4WD low. On the few occasions where the tires lost grip and slid, the electronics kicked in immediately and straightened out the low-speed mini-slide with ease – quite a sensation to have this safety feature kick in and eliminate any trouble (or fun) you may have encountered. While some may dislike the intrusion of the electronics, in most cases it will keep you safe – as opposed to harnessing your fun.
One thing of note is the very large blind spot when backing up – thanks to the huge C pillar. It’s not a problem when driving, but in parking lots and while backing out of driveways, people and vehicles are lost completely. With a small rear window and the full-size spare taking up much of the rear door, that’s another completely different issue. It’s not the type of problem that would stop me from purchasing the FJ Cruiser, but it’s something to be aware of and it might not be so apparent with a quick test drive around the block. The turning radius is also something to note as it takes a bit of getting used to when parking – often I had to take a second stab at maneuvering into a spot.
The rear passenger doors are about ½ the size of traditional rear doors and open backwards like suicide doors. Getting into the rear is very easy, and in most cases you don’t even have to move the driver’s seat, however when exiting the complete opposite is true. The front seat has to be tilted forward and care has to be taken that you actually plant your foot on the running boards – miss it and you’ve got a huge step to the ground. When entering and exiting the rear seat, use of the running boards is pretty much mandatory. Once inside, the rear passengers have an abundance of head, foot, leg, hip and shoulder room. The seats themselves are very comfortable and the seat-back angle is perfect. There’s plenty of foot space for three passengers in the back thanks to a completely flat floor, and certainly there’s plenty of seat room for 3.
The rear seatback splits 60/40 and locks perfectly flat after pulling a strap, tumbling the cushion and seatback forward. The rear cargo area is very large with 66.8 cu/ft. with the seats folded flat and 27.9 cu/ft. with the rear seats in the upright position. Additionally, the rear window in the back gate opens independently of the rear hatch offering even more versatility. There’s a rear 400-watt/115 volt power outlet on the side of the rear cargo wall for powering various appliances that may be required.
Regardless of transmission choice, the 2007 FJ Cruiser is available in three trim levels. In the U.S. there’s an additional FJ Cruiser – a rear-wheel 2WD in addition to the Part-time 4WD automatic and Full-time 4WD versions. The well-equipped base model is loaded with features including: AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system with mini-jack and six speakers, including two Exciter speakers in the headliner; air conditioning and rear-seat heater ducts; power windows with driver’s side auto-down, power door and tailgate locks; body-coloured centre audio surround; 17â€ aluminum alloy wheels with wheel locks and 4-pin trailer sub-wire harness. A mid-level grade adds a rear differential lock (on FJ Cruisers with automatic transmission), Active Traction Control System (A-TRAC) and clearance and back-up sonar. It also adds: privacy glass, cruise control, roof rack, power remote mirrors, rear window wiper/washer and keyless entry system. The top-level grade FJ Cruiser includes all of the above, plus an FJammer high-grade audio system with an in-dash 6-disc CD changer and two extra speakers in the D-pillars; leather-wrapped steering wheel with built-in audio controls; front seat-mounted side airbags and front and rear head/side curtain airbags; a multi-information display (outside temperature gauge and altimeter); a 400 watt/115 volt cargo bed power outlet; metallic shift knob; and colour-keyed interior door trim.
Standard safety items include: Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution; Brake Assist; Vehicle stability control and Traction Control. Safety options include Active Traction Control System, clearance and back-up sonar, and front-seat side/curtain airbags
The warranty is: 3-years/36,000-miles [3-years/60,000 kms in Canada] with a 5-years/60,000 miles [5-years/100,000 kms in Canada] powertrain warranty. Road side assistance is included for 3 years.
Towing capacity is a maximum of 5,000 lbs.
What’s not to love about the FJ Cruiser? From its huge flat hood and windshield to it’s masculine looks – it’s truly unique. It’s tough, dependable and built to last. For boonie-bashing, there’s nothing to beat it! As everyday transport it may be a little impractical, but since when has that ever stopped anyone?
Pricing for the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser:
Base price: U.S. $22,110 (2WD automatic) / $29,990 Cdn (4WD manual)
As tested: $27,280 [$37,555 Cdn]
Destination & Delivery: $605 [$1,390 Cdn]
Fuel Consumption: [Premium Fuel – 91 Octane]
The 4WD manual transmission is listed at 16 mpg City [14.5L/100 km] and 19 mpg Highway [11.2 L/100 km]
I averaged 14.5 mpg [16.2 L/100km] in mostly highway driving.
Masculine and unique look and feel
Solid build, with Toyota’s renowned build quality
The FJammer audio system is worth the price of admission.
The roof rack while looking cool isn’t really of much use.
Deplorable fuel economy
With a turning circle of 41.8 feet it needs plenty of room for maneuvering.
Would I Spend My Money On It?
Yes and No – I love this truck, but the fuel bills would kill me.
Back Seat Driver Test: 10 out of 10
It’s easy to get in and out. The seats are very comfortable with plenty of head, knee and legroom.
Dodge Nitro, Land Rover LR3
By The Numbers:
Powertrain: 4.0 Litre V-6 engine; 6-Speed manual transmission; full-time 4WD
Horsepower: 239 @ 5,2000 rpm
Torque: 278 @ 3,800 rpm
0 – 60 mph: N/A
10 – Quality
9 – Noise, Vibration & Harshness (NVH)
10 – Cargo Area/Trunk Space
8 – Special Features (Climate Control/Moonroof/SatNav, etc)
9 – Ease of Entry/Exit
10 – Front Roominess
10 – Rear Roominess
10 – Driving Position/Controls
10 – Drool Factor
10 – Fit & Finish
10 – Engine
10 – Transmission
9 – Ride & Handling
9 – Bang for the $$
5 – Fuel Economy
139 Total / 150
Copyright © 2007 by Iain Shankland. All rights reserved.
Text / Images: Iain Shankland
Also Published on PaddockTalk.com