I love seeing a classic Toyota Land Cruiser 40 Series driving down the road. No modern SUV wears rugged, rough, and charming good looks as well as the FJ40. The 2011 FJ Cruiser is no exception. Toyota’s current nostalgia car is more of a chunky, puffy, distant relative of the 40 Series than actual kin. To my eyes, it doesn’t evoke any images of cars from half a century ago.
That said, this 4×4 doesn’t drive like a car built fifty years ago, either. The suspension is soft enough to help the FJ float over bumps and is hard enough to keep it from getting bogged down when climbing. It makes you feel like you could go anywhere and do anything, and it begs you to run over every patch of rough earth and charge through every deep puddle you can find.
Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor
The FJ Cruiser was conceived and executed during the middle of the previous decade, an era when the economy was roaring and Toyota was riding high and could afford to spend money on what is essentially a corporate vanity project. When Toyota decided to make a production version of what had originally been a concept vehicle, we celebrated the fact that this traditionally conservative automaker was willing to do something different, to build what was and is obviously a niche vehicle. When developing the FJ Cruiser, Toyota turned a blind eye to many of its own internal benchmarks for vehicles in terms of visibility, ingress and egress, and other workaday concerns that are important to mass-market, everyman cars like the Camry.
The result is this purpose-built, off-roading lifestyle machine. Of course it isn’t quite as cool as the original Land Cruisers, but it still has a unique sense of style, and I for one love the two-tone exterior and the utilitarian interior. My biggest beef is with the low-to-the-floor seats, a function of the high floor and the low ceiling, but I suspect I’d learn to live with them.
Toyota will not build a second-generation FJ Cruiser, so I bet these will remain popular as used vehicles with a certain subset of the off-roading community for many years.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
The FJ Cruiser is the truck for people who want the capability of a Jeep Wrangler, but the civility of a modern SUV. It was quite brazen of Toyota to make the FJ in the first place – it’s far out of line with its generally conservative lineup – and has paid off in enthusiast cache. The FJ looks nothing like anything else on the road, save a few antique FJ40s still rambling around, and it’s distinct in both recalling its heritage while still being modern. Riding on as shortened 4Runner platform, the FJ also still has the chops to conquer serious off-road trails with ease. However, for being a body-on-frame SUV it rides remarkably well around town and is relatively maneuverable thanks to the tight turning radius, which is needed by those who are regularly scrambling around boulders. The FJ Cruiser is one the last remaining enthusiast’s cars made by Toyota.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
The FJ Cruiser has something that can’t be found in most Toyota products: fun. Everything about the truck is a little bit silly, a little bit fun, and wholly unique. The wide, flat windshield necessitates three stubby windshield wipers. The interior controls are all jumbo sized so you can operate them while wearing gloves. A dashboard pod has an analog compass and inclinometer, absolutely pointless in suburban driving but cool nonetheless. And the seats and floor are water resistant, so you can hose out the FJ’s interior should you get it muddy.
Ultimately, the FJ Cruiser is a niche vehicle meant for people who want to tackle tough trails. While I don’t fit that demographic, I still found myself strangely attached to our green Toyota. I absolutely love the chunky, cutesy styling. The FJ Cruiser looks like the toy army trucks I played with as a child, especially given that our tester wore army green paint and the signature white roof. I really wish I could have taken the FJ Cruiser off-roading, as the commanding driving position and stilt-like ground clearance made me feel like I could conquer any terrain.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
Unlike Automobile Magazine columnist Ezra Dyer, I’ve never driven a tank. I imagine that this army green Toyota FJ Cruiser, however, drives a lot like a mobile armored large-caliber firearm — it has very poor outward visibility, sluggish acceleration, surprisingly little cargo space, and requires a climb to get in, and yet it providing a primal sense of power and coolness. As was the case with our Four Seasons example from several years ago, it’s hard to not appreciate the FJ Cruiser.
I just wish you could drive with the windows open on a nice summer day. If you do, unfortunately, you just get bombarded with hard winds instead of soft breezes whenever you go faster than 35 mph or so. I’d much rather own a Jeep Wrangler, if only for its vastly superior open-air options.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
As Joe DeMatio noted, the FJ Cruiser debuted at a time when Toyota could afford to indulge in flights of fancy. And yet, I’d say if Toyota wants to reverse its losses, it can’t afford not to build vehicles like this. Unlike Toyota’s mainstream vehicles, the FJ required its engineers and designers to exercise personal judgment and taste. Guess what? They did great. Sure, the FJ does a few things wrong -visibility is terrible, the interior packaging stinks, and it’s a bit of a chore to drive on the highway. But it has an undeniable sense of adventure and charm that hasn’t grown old or tacky in four years on the market. The challenge for Toyota is to inject some of this personality, this good taste, into the Camry, Corolla, and Highlanders of the world without sacrificing the practical qualities that still draw so many buyers.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
What’s to be said about this great little truck that has not already been stated. Driving this great little number took me back to my 1979 FJ Cruiser. Such a fun car to drive around, and unlike my 79, this one had far less rattles and had air conditioning. I only wish that Toyota had made the doors and top removable. Beyond that, I was digging the army green color, though there are any number of aftermarket wheels I’d have chosen over these. Given the price though, I think I’d opt to spend the same amount on a fully restored original that would retain or increase in value.
Kelly Ryan Murphy, Creative Director
2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser
Base price (with destination): $27,690
Price as tested: $32,147
5-speed automatic transmission
Part-time four-wheel drive w/two-speed transfer case
Cyclone air pre-cleaner assembly
Full-size, rear-mounted spare tire
Antilock brakes w/brake assist
Engine, transfer case, and fuel tank skid pads
Two front, one rear tow hooks
USB port w/iPod connectivity
Water resistant seats
Options on this vehicle:
Convenience package – $2150
Power outside mirrors w/illuminated markers
Rear privacy glass
Rear window wiper
Spare tire cover
Integrated backup camera monitor
17-inch alloy wheels – $650
265/70R17 tires w/full-size alloy spare
Off-road package – $740
Bilstein shock absorbers
Locking rear differential
Active traction control (A-TRAC)
Floating ball inclinometer
Outside temperature gauge
Running boards – $345
Daytime running lights – $40
Cargo cover – $90
Preferred accessory package – $442
Carpet floor mats & cargo amt
Rear door storage
First aid kit
Key options not on vehicle:
Horsepower: 260 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 271 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Part-time four-wheel w/two-speed transfer case
5-speed automatic transmission
Curb weight: 4343 lb
17-in. alloy wheels