If Toyota hasn't had much of a reputation for style in recent years, the Japanese giant makes up for that with the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Styled by Toyota's Southern California-based Calty Design Research and introduced as a concept vehicle at the 2003 Detroit Auto Show, the FJ Cruiser pays homage to the FJ40 4x4 that was sold in the United States from 1960 through 1983 and is a sought-after collectible today. The retro style of the new FJ will appeal to many people and almost guarantees its success.
But the new FJ is about far more than style. As Toyota's Land Cruiser and even 4Runner grew up and became more expensive, a hole opened in the affordable and off-road-capable niche in the Toyota truck line. The FJ fills that hole well through careful use of preexisting components.
The 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser Is based on the same chassis as the current 4Runner and the Lexus GX470, although the FJ is shorter. Both 4x2 and 4x4 models are offered, all with the 239-horsepower, 4.0-liter V-6 also found in the 4Runner.
The interior is as stylish as the exterior and made of rugged moisture-resistant materials. It's definitely not retro in the safety department, with antilock disc brakes, Toyota's stability-control program, and traction control standard. Its audio systems acknowledge contemporary formats and devices, including MP3 CDs and MP3 players. Toyota has taken an interesting approach to navigation--instead of building an LCD into the dash, a portable Garmin GPS device will be offered as an option, complete with an integrated-mounting solution.
The 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser is a vehicle designed for young outdoor enthusiasts, and Toyota has priced it for young budgets. The base price for our 4x4 automatic-transmission model was $23,300. Options add significantly to this, however. Our test FJ had a Convenience Package with remote keyless entry, cruise control, power outside mirrors, a rear parking sonar, privacy glass, a rear wiper, and daytime running lights for $1,840; front side and full-length side curtain air bags for $650; the Upgrade #2 package of the A-TRAC off-road traction-control system, a rear-differential lock, extra instrumentation, alloy wheels, an upgraded audio system, a leather-covered steering wheel (with auxiliary audio and cruise controls), interior trim, and a rear-mounted subwoofer for $2,620; carpet floor and cargo mats for $199; a security system for $479; a spare-tire cover for $169; and a destination charge of $580. That makes for a $29,837 FJ Cruiser.
The 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser borrows heavily from the venerable FJ40 Land Cruiser for its style, especially in the grille, the inset round headlights, the hood and fender shape, and the two-tone color scheme with white roof. Parts of the frame and suspension are visible underneath the body, adding to its rugged, vintage look. Those classic cues are added to a Hummer-esque body shape--relatively low, wide, and short, with minimal overhangs and large, angular wheel arches. Our test example drew curious looks and positive comments wherever we went.
As in some other ex-concept cars that reached production, cutting-edge style demands the sacrifice of a certain amount of practicality. In the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser, that sacrifice is visibility in nearly all directions. The low gunport windows that give it the look reduce visibility, particularly forward and up, directly to the rear, where the externally mounted spare further intrudes into the center of the field of vision and to the rear quarters. The long B-, C-, and D-pillars mean that rear-quarter vision is strictly by way of the outside mirrors. Fortunately, they are large, tall truck mirrors and provide decent rearward visibility. Unfortunately, their size and the thick A-pillars they're mounted to makes for some large forward blind spots.
Interior design and materials are fashionably industrial, with body-color panels on the doors (part of the upgrade packages) and instrument panel, as well as simple geometric shapes. A variety of high-quality synthetic materials of differing texture and color keeps it interesting. Fit and finish inside and out are as expected from Toyota: first rate.
One awkward point is the rear-door arrangement: half-length, rear-hinged suicide doors that can be opened only after the corresponding front door is opened. The latches for these doors are on the inside, and finding them from the outside of the car takes a little hunting around. Despite the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser's prodigious ground clearance, seat-cushion height is not too high, and grab handles make front access easier. Rear access is basic, helped only by folding the front seat backs.
Seat comfort, front and rear, is very good for the price, and on the road, the cabin is quiet, especially for a truck. Front seats are manually adjustable in keeping with cost and simplicity. The rear seat is split 60/40, with flip-up cushions for a large, flat load area when needed. The rear-seat windows don't open, but the standard air-conditioning system works quickly and efficiently.
Three different audio systems are available, with the baseline being a six-speaker AM/FM/CD unit that also plays MP3 and WMA discs. Our test vehicle had an upgraded system with an MP3 and WMA-compatible, in-dash six-CD changer, as well as an AM/FM radio. It's prewired for XM or Sirius Satellite Radio, but neither was installed. It displays track information for MP3s or WMAs, although the small monochrome LCD panel limits the characters. An auxiliary jack at the bottom of the stack allows use of an MP3 player or an iPod.
The upgraded audio system is available with or without a subwoofer mounted in the side of the cargo area. Regardless, a pair of NXT SurfaceSound transducers convert the FJ's ceiling into a speaker diaphragm for better sound dispersal and a more three-dimensional effect. It works quite well, with clean, well-separated sound.No built-in navigation system was offered at the time of our test, which is not surprising, given the 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser's price and market. An add-in Garmin Quest 2 portable unit is slated for availability in the summer of 2006.