Admittedly, the FJ Cruiser is a unique vehicle and it always has been. From the outside it’s a bit of a cross between a rugged military jeep and a stylish crossover. While the aesthetics of the FJ draw mixed reviews, the dependability and performance has Toyota written all over it. While the FJ Cruiser has been around for some time, but 2013 sees one significant improvement – a Trail Teams special package ensuring the FJ is always ready for an off-road experience.
On the road, the FJ Cruiser is an interesting vehicle which has quite a bit going for it. The engine, a powerful 4.0 liter V6 which produces 260 horsepower and 271 foot-pound of torque, is formidable both on the highway and off-road. Even though the FJ is designed to be efficient in the wild, the ride is surprisingly smooth and comfortable on both dirt and pavement, and not quite as rugged as you would expect from a vehicle built on a truck-like platform.
Off-road, the FJ really excels. High off the ground, the FJ manages to navigate difficult terrain without the bothersome idea of dragging debris around underneath it. The four-wheel drive hardware is impressive and heavy duty low-range gears and the locking rear differential allow the FJ to handle even the harshest terrain with relative ease.
That’s not to say the FJ is without fault. Straddling the line between jeep and crossover, the FJ finds itself with several deficiencies. Clamoring into the backseat is a bit difficult and the legroom for rear passengers is tight. The sight-lines and visibilities in the blind-spots are noticeable. Driving the FJ Cruiser though snug city streets is also something of an adventure, especially if you need to sneak it into a tight parking space.
What makes the FJ Cruiser interesting is the competition, or lack thereof. The Jeep Wrangler and Nissan Xterra offer something in the way of similarities, but both excel in either the city or off-road, but not both – just like the rest of the field. The FJ bridges this gap between the ruggedly proficient Wrangler and the more modern city bred SUVs.
Overall, the FJ Cruiser is a somewhat unique vehicle with its own image and versatile capabilities to handle both the pavement and the rugged wildness environment. It handles exceptionally, has enough raw muscle to power through difficult terrain, and is surprisingly comfortable.