2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser

I've seen wild designs move from concept to production unchanged time and again, but few are actually usable in the real world. Ever try to erect the top on a Pontiac Solstice in a rainstorm, or put groceries in the "trunk" of a Plymouth Prowler?

The FJ Cruiser (largely unchanged from the 2003 concept) is the exception. Yes, the price is expensive, the looks divisive, and the B-pillars blinding, but there's seating for four, acres of headroom, and a decent amount of cargo space, even with the rear seats locked in their upright position. The smooth ride was most surprising--compared with the original FJ40, this thing floats like an old Rolls-Royce (and, as shown by the inclinometer, pitches like one, too).

Since the FJ obviously places some emphasis on form over function, it does carry a few inherent flaws. My colleagues have already noted the visibility issues, and the rear view camera helps little, especially when changing lanes. The half-doors are nice for accessing cargo placed in the rear seat, but passengers need to watch out for that upper door latch when entering or exiting the vehicle--it's quite painful if you smack the side of your cranium against it.

Would I buy one? I'm more likely to now, having seen how complaisant the FJ is in my everyday (and decidedly on-road) life, but I think I'm more prone to spend the money building up and restoring an original FJ40.

Evan McCausland, Web Producer

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