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by Derek Mau


2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser
click on any of the pictures to enlarge

Sometimes a person just needs more space. Cargo space, not spiritual space. Leading an active outdoor lifestyle requires equipment and it takes a “manly” vehicle to get me and my gear wherever I’m going. We could be talking about heading out for an epic day of snowboarding right after a major snow storm or or loading up the mountain bikes for an awesome day of singletrack riding near Lake Tahoe. Those of you who spend any time exploring the outdoors beyond the city park know it is best to be self-sufficient and bring along the best equipment possible. Enter the new FJ Cruiser by Toyota. This stylish pack mule will get you almost anywhere you want to be and look good getting there.

Although, the FJ Cruiser is built for some serious off-road adventures on OHV or jeep trails, I won’t be assessing the new FJ’s off-road capabilities today. Since my off-road experience is practically zero, I’ll have to sign up for the 4 x 4 class in Hollister another day.

Pros and Cons

  • Easy to pass money to the toll booth operator
  • Thick grip handles on doors for the passengers
  • Excellent job of blending “old skool” FJ40 style with contemporary design
  • Exercise extra caution when parking and moving in reverse
  • Externally mounted spare tire affects rear visibility
  • High profile is affected by cross-winds when driving at 65+ MPH
side mirrorFJ Cruiser

Driving Impressions

Looks like an SUV. Drives like an SUV. Feels like an SUV. Okay, that would be an unfair assessment of the new FJ Cruiser. Design concept of the new FJ series came from Toyota’s R & D division, Calty Research. Targeting the young buyers and off-road enthusiasts, the design team blended the classic features of the FJ40 into a contemporary and modern package. Not being very young and definitely not an off-road enthusiast, nevertheless, I feel that the new FJ Cruiser is visually attractive and dauntless underneath that pretty exterior.

On-road driving experience was very good while adjusting for the ultra-dimensions of the FJ. At a stop light I pulled along side a Mercedes-Benz SUV and noticed the beltline of the GL-class was a little lower than the FJ Cruiser. Sorry folks. I didn’t have time to jump out and measure the exact difference in height between the two vehicles because the light was about to turn green. I can tell you that the ride was comfortable on the many types of surface roads I encountered and the suspension did not feel too stiff or bumpy.

My test drive with the FJ was limited that day, but the experience was good after an hour of driving this black and white wonder. I did notice the truck being swayed by crosswinds when traveling at 65 or above. The tall profile accounts for the FJ acting like a huge windsail in breezy weather. The solution is to slow down and allow the heftiness of the truck to stabilize the ride.

FJ CruiserFJ Cruiser windscreen wipers x 3FJ Cruiser cockpit

Conclusion

Not everyone can appreciate the overstated capabilities of the FJ Cruiser. But for those whose lifestyles include exploring, whether it be sandy beaches, mountain trails, secluded lakes, or even the urban jungle, the FJ Cruiser provides Toyota quality at a competitive price and wrapped in a unique design, inside and out.

 

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