Toyota’s Tonka for grown-ups
Overview“He said ‘You don’t need no strength – you need to grow up, son.’
I said ‘Growing up leads to growing old and then to dying,
and dying to me don’t sound like all that much fun.’”
So says John Mellencamp in his classic “Authority Song.” Just take a look around – plastic surgery, exercise, age-defying creams and pills – it’s all meant to fend off the Grim Reaper by keeping us young and pounding soil from an upright position as long as possible. Maintaining a youthful vitality throughout a healthy lifespan is all well and good, but is there a downside? Some would argue yes, when that hottie at the bar turns out to be your grandma’s nipped-and-tucked bridge partner, when late-night C movies on TV are completely replaced by infomercials for Bosley hair transplants and reruns of Dr. 90210, when parents battle their kids for the newest pair of designer jeans or mega hair gel, or when Toyota sells a truck that looks like it has literally been lifted directly from a child’s cartoon.
Back in the early days of the original FJ, there was nothing cartoonish about it. The FJ was simple and straightforward, a serious machine for serious traveling, a Japanese version of the venerable Jeep CJ. Engines were of the four- and six-cylinder varieties, eventually providing lots of off-road-friendly torque. Today’s FJ Cruiser is a far more refined vehicle, a styling exercise enhanced with real off-roading capability and a thoroughly revamped powertrain cranking out 278 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,700 rpm to protects the SUV’s boulder-chewing reputation. The new FJ’s 4.0-liter, dual overhead cam, 24-valve V6 is fueled by premium petrol and mated to a six-speed manual with a 3.91 axle ratio or a five-speed automatic transmission sporting 3.73 gearing. Horsepower measures 239 at 5,200 rpm. Base rear-wheel-drive models get an electronic limited-slip differential and the automatic tranny; FJs destined for off-road use are fitted with automatic locking hubs, a two-speed transfer case, and either a part-time four-wheel-drive system with the five-speed automatic or a full-time system with the six-speed manual. A Torsen limited-slip center differential comes with the six-speed transmission. All examples feature standard 17-inch steel wheels shod in 265/70 off-road tires; antilock vented disc brakes backed up by electronic brake-force distribution and electronic brake assistance; traction and stability control systems; and skid plates protecting the gas tank, engine, and transfer case. A double wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear setup keep the FJ and its 4,050 – 4,295-pound mass afloat, with a rack-and-pinion steering system utilized to navigate over gnarly boulders.
A base 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser starts at $22,315 including a $605 destination charge. That buys a rear-wheel-drive model with the five-speed automatic transmission as well as a basic sound system with CD player, air conditioning, a tilt steering wheel, a whole host of power features, and a rear wiper. Options are numerous, including power mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, a locking rear differential, front-side and side-curtain airbags, running boards, 17-inch alloy wheels, an upgraded sound system, and special gauges. The mid-level FJ is a four-wheel-driver with the six-speed manual that’s priced at $23,495. Besides the drivetrain, transmission, Torsen center limited-slip differential, and upsized stabilizer bars, the four-by is equipped exactly like the base rear-driver. Situated at the top of the lineup is an FJ Cruiser with four-wheel traction, the automatic transmission, and an asking price of $23,905.
For this evaluation, we borrowed a bright yellow four-wheel-drive 2007 FJ Cruiser from Toyota and proceeded to rack up hundreds of miles traipsing all over southern California, a fair chunk of it spent exploring off-road, with the result being lots of great memories and a disappointing 15.6-mpg average fuel economy. Our tester rang up at $29,883 including the $605 destination charge. Options included a $1,840 Convenience Package with power mirrors, rear parking aid, keyless entry, and cruise control; side-curtain and front-side airbags for $650; running boards that tacked on $345; $199 carpeted floor mats to cover the rubber flooring; a $349 tow hitch and wiring harness; and a $2,620 upgrade package that added Toyota’s A-TRAC traction control system, a locking rear differential, an outside temperature gauge, a compass, an inclinometer, alloy wheels, a six-disc CD changer and a rear subwoofer, a 400-watt inverter, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with radio controls. That’s all good stuff that buyers are looking for, but none of it hides the fact that the FJ looks like the most extravagant toy ever built by Fisher-Price.
The 2007 FJ Cruiser is a capable vehicle off road, but the funky styling comes at the cost of rear seat access, visibility, and overall utility. Buyers needing a versatile, comfortable, four-wheel-drive vehicle would be better served by a pickup or “normal” SUV, many of which can comfortably handle several passengers and equally aggressive terrain without prioritizing form over function. Those wanting an off-roader that should really be sold at Toys ‘R Us, one with compromised comfort and utility for the sake of style, one available in Tonka-truck yellow like our test sample, should consider the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser. If only you could pay for it with Monopoly money…
Christian Wardlaw’s 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser Driving Impressions:
After a round-trip commute involving freeways, coastal highways, city streets, and residential boulevards, the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser strikes me as a plush, sluggish compromise wearing a garish yellow Halloween costume. Maybe I’d feel differently after taking it in the dirt, but since many buyers are going to travel the same types of routes I did day after day, I suspect people won over by the FJ’s flamboyant retro styling and Japanese Hummer interior might regret the purchase after a few weeks of daily driving.
The six-cylinder is adequate to the task, torquey enough, and connected to an automatic transmission that is willing to kick down for added power when necessary. Rev the FJ, and it’ll move, though the truck’s mass and road isolation mask speed. Get above 80 mph on the highway and you’ve gotta keep a heavy foot on the throttle to maintain forward momentum – this ain’t the most aerodynamic brick on the market.
The FJ’s steering is a bit heavy and plenty slow, and the truck pitches its weight around on its 4Runner-based underpinnings. Roll, dive, and squat are the prices paid for what is a pretty good ride quality on rather quiet tires. Well, they’re quiet until you get into a turn too fast, and then they complain.
What I recall most about driving the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser, aside from how the outward view is a combination of Hummer H2 to the front and Isuzu VehiCross to the rear, and how the side mirrors offer an extremely limited view of what’s happening at the sides of the FJ, is its heft. You’re constantly aware of how heavy the truck is. I would have preferred a stiffer suspension and serious tires – the FJ deserves an authentic SUV ride and handling mix to complement its authentic SUV design. Out of the box, it feels more like a creampuff.
Thom Blackett’s 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser Driving Impressions:
The hardest thing about driving the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser is being seen in this monstrosity, and the school-bus yellow paint on our tester certainly didn’t help. Since the FJ is still new to the streets, it draws plenty of stares, few of which seem to coincide with positive thoughts. However, get behind the wheel and there’s more about the FJ worthy of praise.
Among the pros are a strong V6 engine that does an admirable job of scooting 4,295 pounds from a dead stop, a five-speed automatic transmission characterized by smooth shifts, and rack-and-pinion steering that’s dialed in nicely, especially for a four-wheel-drive truck that competes with the wandering 2006 Jeep Wrangler. Throttle response is immediate, allowing the engine to run clear to redline quickly and easily, albeit loudly as the exhaust drone has a tendency to become overbearing. There’s also lots of wind noise around the front glass and doors. Braking is effective, though there’s a dead spot in the pedal upon initial application. Out on the open road, the ride is subdued and controlled, so bumps are well absorbed and there’s none of the bucking found with some SUVs and pickup trucks. The flipside is that the FJ is soft in the corners. Yet any deficiencies unveiled on the road are quickly forgotten when this Toyota hits the dirt.
We found a new off-road trail near the office that offered some aggressive uphill sections, a shallow creek with boulders to cross, a few mudholes, and plenty of narrow, rutted areas good for testing clearance and suspension articulation. While this wasn’t exactly rock-crawling territory, there was more terrain here than a traditional crossover suv could handle. The FJ Cruiser took it all – the ruts, the steep uphill that had been torn all to hell, the small boulders – with the result being only one light scrape to the skid plates. Drop the transfer case into 4-Low, pop the tranny into low gear, and the FJ will have you thinking it’s unstoppable, assuming you’re OK with the grinding and buzzing of the traction control system scrabbling for grip. There’s also the wide body to keep in mind on those tight trails – only by the grace of goodness did we motor away minus major scratches.
Brian Chee’s 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser Driving Impressions:
This is the un-Toyota Toyota. The 2007 FJ Cruiser lumbers about like a Hummer, complete with poor visibility and an ungainly width that makes it a hassle to drive in tight spaces. It’s as if some executive at Toyota got himself a picture of the H3, went down to the engineering department, and said: Hey – build a Toyota version.
Which is what they did, the bad with the good. As mentioned, sightlines are limited to the point of a joke, just like the Hummer H3 – but there are huge rearview mirrors that assist drivers with changing lanes. The FJ has gunsight windows, just like the H3 – but they aren’t quite so squat. The FJ Cruiser gets poor gas mileage, just like the H3 – but not as bad as the Hummer. The FJ Cruiser feel like a clumsy, lumbering ox on the road, just like the H3 – but at least this ox has some power behind its horns. Here we go again, damning the H3 for its five-cylinder engine. So sorry, but it’s true: the H3 squeals like a school girl when you drive it up a grade, while the FJ Cruiser acts much more mature, with almost 20 more horsepower and more than 50 lb.-ft of added torque.
Power is plentiful, and delivered on command by a five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual, as opposed to the four-speed transmission that manages output for the H3. It makes a huge difference to the driving experience, being able to access the available power in a smooth and timely manner, a definite plus with the FJ Cruiser. Make no mistake, though. It is a lumbering ox – if you’ve ever had a ride on a lumbering ox, you know what I mean – the thing plods, careens and is about as subtle as a mother-in-law with a bad attitude. Sitting behind the wheel for my typical commute was a tiresome experience, partially because I never felt comfortable but also because the road just felt so darn far away, the steering was numb and slow, and the SUV handled clumsily.
Russ Bartlett’s 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser Driving Impressions:
Driving the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser was the most fun I’ve had in a truck-based SUV. While it drove nicely on the highway I felt like I was walking a Labrador on a leash -- the FJ Cruiser was meant to get out in the open and have fun. Its 239-horsepower V6 engine was more than adequate and the five-speed automatic transmission was surprisingly smooth. The suspension was expectedly stiff but I never felt like I was going to be thrown into the passenger seat when I hit a pothole, and the steering and turning radius were impressive for a vehicle that seemed so big. The leather-trimmed steering wheel stayed firmly planted in my hands over the occasional bumps and dips of city and highway driving.
With its tall but narrow side-view mirrors, small rear window and blind spot-laden interior design, the FJ makes for an exciting lane-change experience. I might have actually kinked my neck double-checking my view out of the rear windows to make sure there was no one next to me before switching lanes. The interior road noise level was exceptionally quiet given the primary use of rubber-type materials inside, but the constant exhaust noise takes some getting used to. Low rpm exhaust noise reminded me of a 1970’s converted Baja bug. Given the growing likelihood of $4.00-per-gallon gas, the FJ Cruiser’s EPA-estimated 17 mpg city and 21 mpg highway ratings make this an expensive ride.
Christian Wardlaw’s Opinion of the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser’s Comfort:
Face it, you’re not thinking about comfort if the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser is on your shopping list. Fortunately, the FJ delivers more than expected for front-seat occupants, thanks to firm and supportive front seats, a softly padded inboard armrest for the driver, and a meaty tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel to grip. The door panels, both the sills and the integrated armrests, are hard plastic, so don’t look for these to help improve comfort levels. And it’s not easy to get into or out of the front seats, thanks to the ride height and the wide sills.
Neither are you thinking about rear seat accommodations if the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser is on your shopping list. First, getting in and out is a hassle because of the clamshell door design. In a tight parking space, these doors are unwieldy. Once you get ‘em open, loading human cargo between the thick B-pillar and the front seatbacks isn’t easy, and the larger your passengers the harder it is to squeeze everyone inside. Once they’re inside, prepare for complaints about leg room and how hard it is to see out.
Cargo loading is also compromised, in this case by a heavy swing-out tailgate with the full-size spare tire mounted to it. At least it swings to the left instead of the right to make it safer and easier to use when parallel parked. Given the FJ Cruiser’s size and weight, there’s not much cargo room inside. To fold the rear seats, the bottom cushions must flip up first or the load floor won’t be flat. Note that the front passenger’s seat doesn’t fold in half to accommodate longer items, an oversight in my opinion.
Thom Blackett’s Opinion of the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser’s Comfort:
It may be a competent off-roader, but the FJ is far from perfect in terms of comfort. Your first hint comes when trying to get in, as you step up to the running board and floor while lowering your head to clear the flat, low roofline. There’s an A-pillar grab handle that’s a bit too far forward to be useful, so use the steering wheel as a hoisting point. Rear-seat passengers have it even tougher with a small clamshell door, a tight gap for squeezing in, and an absence of grab handles that necessitate using the front headrest and C-pillar for leverage. Put your mother-in-law back here and kiss away any chance of ever being more than a worthless scumbag in her eyes. Once seated, average-sized riders out back enjoy decent room, a comfortable bench, and three adjustable headrests.
The FJ’s front bucket seats are fairly flat except for the nice back bolsters. A tilt steering wheel allows for a proper fit, as does a ratcheting driver’s side padded armrest. There’s plenty of space for the driver and front passenger, both of whom will enjoy the wide window sills for resting elbows. However, those sills and the door armrests are covered in hard plastic. The glovebox is positioned low, and its hard plastic door opens onto the front passenger’s shins.
Brian Chee’s Opinion of the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser’s Comfort:
Sitting in the back of the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser is like sitting in a black hole. That much hasn’t changed after two tours with this vehicle. It’s hard to get back there, and once there you wish you were somewhere else. My five-year-old daughter loves all cars, but especially loves big and brightly colored vehicles – and our FJ was yellow. When she saw it, she just had to have a ride. So she begged. She pleaded. She even pouted, all for a ride in what she thought was the sweetest ride EVER. Sadly for the future sales prospects of the FJ Cruiser, that was before she climbed in the back and sat down. It was strange, watching the odd look come over her face, when, after looking around, she said – and with a fair amount of attitude: Daddy, I can’t see outside. What’s WRONG with this car? But hey – what does the kid know? Her favorite car is a princess push car. And the FJ Cruiser is a lot more comfortable than that thing, at least up front, where the seats are firm, sturdy and comfortable, there’s a telescoping steering wheel as well as ample room for legs, hips, shoulders and heads. Comfort is a bit compromised by the amount of plastic inside the cabin, however, especially in areas where most drivers touch on a consistent basis, and a driving position that takes some getting used to. The daily commute felt more tiresome then it should, however, especially when driving a new vehicle, a sensation probably the result of its straight-up vehicle layout and driving position.
Russ Bartlett’s Opinion of the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser’s Comfort:
The 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser's eight-way power driver’s seat provided plenty of adjustment to ensure a perfect driving position, with seat cushions that were firm, comfortable and seemed pretty durable. The front seats offer a tremendous amount of head room which should accommodate the tallest of drivers; the rear seat is adequate for two adults, but I wouldn’t want to spend more than an hour back there. The driver’s side armrest is very convenient, though I wished the passenger side came standard with one as well. Large climate control dials might look a bit chunky, but you’ll appreciate being able to crank up the heat on a sub-freezing day without having to take your gloves off to operate the correct knob or button.
I really liked the 115-volt/400-watt power outlet (a typical home appliance plug type), which allows you to take a variety of power tools along with you and utilize the FJ Cruiser as your power source. What I didn’t like was the distance between myself and the interior rearview mirror, which when coupled with the small rear window, made for poor rear visibility.
Christian Wardlaw’s Opinion of the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser’s Quality:
Generally, the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser strikes me a quality piece of work, though I did not perform my usually detailed inspection of the truck. It felt stout, it didn’t rattle or squeak over the paved roads on which I drove it, and I didn’t see any glaring build quality issues inside or out – though with such a brightly-colored, busy-looking thing to behold, it’s easy to get distracted from misaligned panel joints and bad fitting trim. Hope you like hard plastic, because the FJ Cruiser is decked out with lots of it. Fortunately, it’s decent in most respects, and the switchgear exhibits the fluid, refined feel and action that characterizes nearly anything coming out of the Toyota parts bin.
Thom Blackett’s Opinion of the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser’s Quality:
Recently, Toyotas passing through our hands have exhibited questionable quality, surprising to say the least. The FJ Cruiser seems to be an exception. Granted, the interior is awash in hard plastics, many with differing grain patterns, but the materials feel durable, substantial, and firmly affixed. Most of the panels have a matte finish, and the rubber flooring should have some longevity. The seats are covered in a fabric that feels ready for years of beach sand and snow suit abuse, with much of the detritus likely caught by the optional carpeted floor mats. Even after several hours pounding the FJ off road, the interior was tight and rattle-free except for an aural annoyance emanating from the driver’s side clamshell door seam. The only off-kilter gap was around the glovebox. A detailed look over the FJ Cruiser’s exterior demonstrated Toyota’s traditional focus on the details. Gaps around the tailgate were wide but consistent while a rubber gasket filled the gaps around the hood.
Brian Chee’s Opinion of the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser’s Quality:
Everything that wears the Toyota badge carries with it an expectation of quality, and while some aspects of the 2007 FJ Cruiser fall short of that mandate, the vehicle as a whole felt tightly-built with quality materials. However, the amount of plastics, inside and out, was disappointing – especially on the inside. That may be a part of the form and function of this vehicle, but few people will enjoy having hard plastics to touch and look at virtually across the entire interior.
In addition to some quality seats – with arm rests! – the painted plate that houses the radio and climate controls was, actually, one of the highlights of the interior, as were and big, easy-to-use climate control knobs. That center layout proved to be a strong center piece against the darker plastics and forms surrounding it, and as such refreshed the eye. On the road, the FJ was mostly quiet, though an irritating vibration worked itself loose halfway through my drive.
Russ Bartlett’s Opinion of the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser’s Quality:
Looks aren’t deceiving on this ride – the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser is solid. Fit-and-finish is impressive, and the interior is a great example of sacrificing lots of gadgets for simple features made from quality materials. The seat material feels durable, as does the rubber flooring and interior's plastic panels. The carpeted floor mats move easily when getting in and out of the FJ, so my solution is to just take them out for more solid footing.
Christian Wardlaw’s Opinion of the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser’s Design:
Original Toyota FJ-40s are still as appealing today as they were 30 years ago. Designers of the new 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser have successfully translated that appeal to this modern iteration, but some of the proportions aren’t right. There’s too much front overhang, for instance, and the new FJ is noticeably wider and squatter than its forebear. This is true of the Jeep Wrangler, too, but Jeep better masks the requirements of modern car building. Either that, or the Wrangler’s dedicated platform makes it easier to retain its classic Willys and CJ character – the FJ Cruiser is riding on 4Runner underpinnings.
Those issues aside, I like looking at the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser, and so do most passers-by. Our bright yellow test truck attracted attention like free beer at a frat party, making me feel quite conspicuous indeed, which is hard for any car to do in Orange County, California. Toyota deserves credit for bringing this design to market, whether you love it or hate it. There’s no better brand builder than a rolling billboard that everyone notices.
Inside, the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser exhibits the same faked industrial, bare-bones cabin treatment that you find in vehicles like the Hummer H2 and Jeep Commander. The feel from behind the wheel, peering out through small windows, is just like a Hummer, but without the cool full-size sunroof. Like a Chrysler PT Cruiser or VW New Beetle, there’s color-matched plastic interior trim designed to evoke the look of painted metal surfaces in the original FJ. Visibility is terrible – front, sides, and rear. Pull up too close at an intersection, and you can’t see the traffic light overhead. The side mirrors are tall and thin, revealing too small a slice of what’s happening to the sides of the FJ. Rear visibility is compromised by a wide range of form-over-function design elements. No wonder a parking assist system is offered.
Finally, it appears that Toyota found the giant Sanyo boombox that was stolen from my dorm room in 1986. It’s housing the optional subwoofer in the cargo area. Yikes.
Thom Blackett’s Opinion of the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser’s Design:
This must be a response to our burgeoning population. With so many people on this planet, we’re all looking for new, bolder ways to be noticed. Hence, it’s the perfect time for the foolish styling of the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser, made all the better when dunked in smurf-like Voodoo Blue or school-bus yellow Sun Fusion – flashing red lights and fold-out stop signs not included. Seriously, how hard-up for attention do you need to be to ride around in this thing? I felt like a pupil magnet while piloting the FJ, and was constantly at the ready to tell anybody that this oddity was not on my payroll.
So, it looks like a cartoon character’s vehicle that’s come to life. Get past that and you’ll recognize the details, like a vertical windshield that is awkwardly too far forward, visors that are almost out of reach, massive blind spots created by all of the pillars, an exterior-mounted spare tire that diminishes the view out of the rear window, a matching instrument panel reminding you of the hideous body color, and a dash that is as unusual in its verticality as it is in its depth. But, hey, those dash top gauges are cool.
Brian Chee’s Opinion of the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser’s Design:
“The FJ Cruiser is the coolest, most unapologetic vehicle ever built by Toyota, a bold SUV not for everyone – but it could be, given its off-road prowess, capable engine, interesting interior, and exciting design. About that design: that’s another thing that’s refreshing – when an automaker keeps to the original concept of a car and creates a really cool vehicle.”
My initial reaction to the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser was, indeed, quite positive. And I stand by the above passage, written after a brief first-drive experience, because it is arguably the coolest and most unapologetic vehicle built by Toyota. Kudos to them for staying so true to the concept, kudos to Toyota for building a vehicle some will hate and others love. Yeah, it looks like a cartoon. But it’s a darn cool cartoon, and let me pose a question: What would the world be like if there were no Simpsons, or, Lord save us, Bugs Bunny?
There are enough blandy-bland blah cars on the road today – a little spice is nice. The FJ’s white roof, old-style headlights, vertical windshield, and big rearview mirrors add up to a fun and unique experience behind the wheel. It’s just there – behind the wheel – where the FJ gets into a bit of trouble while attempting to keep its coolness vibe going. The interior is cool, sure, but at the expense of usability. Case in point: the utility doors that swing out. A cool touch, but try opening ‘em up in a supermarket parking lot. Not real functional on a day-to-day basis. Up front, the conundrum continues. The seats are comfortable, there’s loads of room, and the controls are well designed, especially the larger-than-life shifter. But they all seem so far away, and sitting in the cabin is like spending a day shopping at the local Dollar Store. Sure, there’s a cool compass, and a latitude/longitude ball mounted on the front center of the dash. That’s cool. But in the day-to-day, few have a need to know their longitude/latitude. Overall, a cool and daring new truck built on an old truck’s platform. And maybe a little too daring?
Russ Bartlett’s Opinion of the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser’s Design:
This SUV turns heads. Toyota’s 2007 FJ Cruiser won’t be confused for another SUV – its styling is bold, retro, and tough. The hood and grille are reminiscent of the Toyota Land Cruiser from the 1960s and early 1970s – they’ve even got the classic “TOYOTA” badge emblazoned on the grille. I liked the two-tone color scheme with the white roof and the solid body color, but I’m not a fan of the body-color choices. I felt like I should have been in a Baywatch episode riding around in the lifeguard yellow version (Toyota calls it Sun Fusion). The purple, uh, I mean Black Cherry, and Voodoo Blue colors are pretty outrageous as well. Black and silver are your other choices. Ridiculously narrow side mirrors and protruding tail lights are disruptions to an otherwise smooth exterior style.
The interior is simple and comfortable, with all controls easily reached by the driver. In fact, I found it much easier to change the radio stations and volume from the radio itself rather than using those mounted on the steering wheel. The radio display is hard to read during the daylight hours, but looks great at night. An auxiliary port for MP3 players or satellite radio makes it easy to take your tunes with you, and the nine-speaker audio system with subwoofer is plenty loud enough to drown out the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser’s ever-present exhaust noise. The backlit instrument cluster was easy on the eyes, improving the nighttime ride. If you like to camp, fish, mountain bike, or take part in any other outdoor activities that require getting dirty, you’ll like how easy the rubber floor and rear deck are to clean. The flat dash with its curved top looked cool, but produced a lot of wasted space on the passenger side – a map pocket or net to hold something here might be a better idea.
My biggest beef with the FJ Cruiser is this: none of the seats fold completely flat, which means it's easier to get a surfboard, fishing pole, or an eight-foot two-by-four in a Honda Fit than the FJ Cruiser.
Christian Wardlaw’s Advice about the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser:
Compared to the 2006 Jeep Wrangler, the Toyota FJ Cruiser is a paragon of refinement for a commensurately higher price. Compared to the Honda Element, the Toyota FJ Cruiser is a bloated, inefficient commuter. Compared to the Hummer H3, the Toyota FJ Cruiser lacks utility and comfort. This retro truck from Japan’s dominant automaker possesses a character that successfully mixes elements of all three of these competing vehicles, yet somehow manages to be less pleasing to drive or use than any of them. As a styling and image statement, however, Toyota nailed it, and Americans commonly value looks over substance. The FJ Cruiser will sell well, for a little while.
Thom Blackett’s Advice about the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser:
Buy this truck only if you want to be noticed, and not necessarily in a good way. There are plenty of SUVs that match or better the FJ’s utility and off-road capability, as well as many pickups, and many can do so for the same or less money. There will certainly be shoppers who buy because of what some see as this vehicle’s cute factor, but I’m betting that even those folks will tire of the FJ Cruiser’s loud ride, less than stellar fuel economy, and hard-to-reach rear seat. Plus, they’ll be jealous of the Wrangler driver enjoying open access to the sun.
Brian Chee’s Advice about the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser:
Shopping for a cartoon SUV? Don’t be ashamed. Lots of people like the colorful, bold and dramatic styling of vehicles like the Hummer H3. If that’s you – or if you’re a hardcore off-road driver who wants everyone to know it – put the FJ Cruiser on your list of must drives. It’s got a cool, bold and gregarious style; a powertrain that beats the H3; a comfortable interior; and a price tag in the high $20,000s to low $30,000s. That just might be enough to overcome its utter lack of visibility, a back seat that cries for a redesign, poor fuel economy, and a lumbering ride. Add in the off-road credentials that come with being a new truck on an old and proven platform (think 4Runner) and you’ve got yourself one heck of a tough Bugs Bunny special.
Russ Bartlett’s Advice about the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser:
If you plan on putting your vehicle in the dirt, don’t commute more than 30 miles per day, and savvy yourself an explorer, get the new 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser. This is a rock-solid vehicle made for the adventurer and it’s a welcome addition to a not-so-exciting SUV lineup from Toyota. If rising gas prices don’t squash consumer interest in this SUV, I predict you’ll find this well-priced vehicle (it starts at $22,315) in high demand at your local Toyota dealership.
Test Vehicle: 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser 4WD
Price of Test Vehicle: $29,833 (including a $580 destination charge)
Engine Size and Type: 4.0-liter V6
Engine Horsepower: 239 at 5,200 rpm
Engine Torque: 278 lb.-ft. at 3,700 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Curb weight, lbs.: 4,295
EPA Fuel Economy (city/highway): 17/21 mpg
Observed Fuel Economy: 15.6 mpg
Length: 183.9 inches
Width: 74.6 inches
Wheelbase: 105.9 inches
Height: 71.6 inches
Leg room (front/rear): 41.9/31.3 inches
Head room (front/rear): 41.3/40.3 inches
Max. Seating Capacity: Five
Max. Cargo Volume: 66.8 cubic feet
Max. Payload (lbs.): 1,325
Max. Towing Capacity (lbs.): 5,000
Ground Clearance: 9.6 inches
Competitors: Hummer H3, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Liberty, Jeep Wrangler, Nissan Xterra, Suzuki Grand Vitara
Photos by Ron Perry, Christian Wardlaw, Thom Blackett