A person looking for a go-anywhere, do-anything vehicle that does not sacrifice comfort for off-road prowess
Comparable models in this class:
Chevrolet Blazer, Jeep Liberty, Jeep Wrangler, Nissan Xterra
GREENVILLE, S.C. Toyotas FJ Cruiser has morphed from a 2003 concept car to a 2007 production car with very little change.
This 07 FJ Cruiser is the modern reincarnation of the FJ40 Land Cruiser that dates back to the mid-1950s. Toyota expects to sell about 46,000 in 2006 when they go on sale in late march. Prices were announced at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The base model with 2 wheel drive and automatic transmission will start at $21,710. The 4WD with 6 speed manual comes in at $22,890 or with automatic transmission, $23,300.
The original FJ40 was built in Japan for use by the military and domestic law enforcement, but it won hearts and souls of trail enthusiasts on the back roads and rock trails of that country. As so often happens, the FJ 40 got bigger and bigger, and todays Land Cruiser is a full-size luxury SUV.
A 4.0-liter, 239-horsepower V-6 powers the FJ, and it is coupled to a six-speed manual or automatic transmission. I drove the six-speed.
The chassis is derived from the fully boxed frame of the Land Cruiser Prado that is sold in overseas markets. The wheelbase is a fairly long 105.9 inches, and overall length is 183.9 inches. Thats more than two feet longer than a Jeep Wrangler, but short overhangs and substantial ground clearance make it surprisingly adept at conquering rugged obstacles.
The FJ is available in two-wheel and four-wheel drive, with two locking differentials. Toyota predicts more than 90 percent of FJ Cruisers will be four-wheel drive.
The new FJ is a purpose-built off-roader but youd never know it when youre cruising on the highway. Most dedicated off-road vehicles have highway manners that are akin to riding in a blender, but the FJ is uncommonly smooth and quiet. Toyotas penchant for quenching road noise is evident even in the FJ. The only fly in the ointment is some wind noise from the vertical outside mirrors. Vertical mirrors may ease overall width, but their reduced area of view is a negative for me.
Toyota invited journalists to drive some pre-production FJs from Greenville, S.C., to the Michelin proving grounds near Laurens, S.C., where an off-road trail meandered through the woods and a four-wheel-drive demonstration course had been gouged into the earth.
The Cruiser can climb a 30-degree hill, ford 27.4 inches of water and traverse a 41-degree side hill.
The off-road trail was quite tame, but it demonstrated the FJs ability to traverse moderately rugged terrain without stress or strain. The off-road course demonstrated the vehicles ability to traverse steep side hills, climb steep grades and crawl through potholes that alternately left one wheel or the other pawing the air. No sweat for any challenge. Granted, this course was pretty tame, but Toyota says the FJ has completed Californias famed Rubicon Trail.
The four-wheel-drive system has three modes, including a low-gear, low-range setting for rock climbing. A clutch-start cancel switch allows the vehicle to be started without depressing the clutch pedal, a feature that off-roaders treasure because a vehicle can be started on a hill without rolling backward.
The optional Active Traction Control does wonders for pulling through muddy, slick conditions.
Stylewise, the FJ wears hints of the old FJ40 upright windshield, flat grille, white top yet it has a futuristic flavor, too. One fellow writer said it looked like a Mini on steroids, and it does.
The FJs cabin is mostly plastic and rubber, which is good for quick cleanup. The preproduction models we drove did not have final textures on the dash and door panels. The cloth upholstery is breathable and water-resistant.
The rear seat has precious little legroom, but it can be folded forward to increase cargo space. Seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags are optional.
The side-opening rear door is heavy because the spare tire is mounted there. The glass can be opened separately. Wheels are 17 inches, in steel or optional alloy.