What is the FJ Cruiser?
4WD is for enjoying the outdoors
The Toyota FJ Cruiser is a new genre off-road 4WD developed mainly for active young people with an original target on the North American market. Unlike the pickup “Tacoma” and the middle-class SUV “4Runner” (both not yet released in Japan), which play a supporting role in off-road play such as 4-wheel buggies and trail bike transporters, the FJ Cruiser is an off-road car.
The FJ Cruiser was developed as a 4WD vehicle made for driving and it is playing the leading role in the 4WD market. The development concept was “Rugged & Freedom ~Everything is for enjoying ~”.
CALTY Design Research of the Toyota Design Center located in California, USA is in charge of the design from the exterior to the interior. As a design motif, the style of the Land Cruiser 40 (Yonmaru), which still has many off-road fans mainly on the West Coast, was adopted. As a result, the image of the Land Cruiser 40 is projected by the two round headlamps, oval grill mask, “TOYOTA” logo, bulging bonnet, steep horizontal front window, white paint on the roof, and instrument panel.
The chassis and powertrain that support the slightly nostalgic and lively body of the FJ Cruiser were derived from the Land Cruiser 120 Prado. At the time, this combination had something in common with the North American Tacoma and 4Runner, which made their North American debut in the spring of 2006. Later in 2008, the FJ Cruiser was released in China and Mexico. In Japan, sales began in December 2010 in a style that took the place of the Hilux Surf, which was discontinued in 2009.
Features of the FJ Cruiser – 1 body, 1 engine, 1 transmission
The first feature of the FJ Cruiser is its uniquely styled body; it is not just a resemblance to the Land Cruiser 40. One of its most unique features is the large double-opening door. As a middle-sized 4WD, it has a short body and looks like it has the same 2-door specification as the Land Cruiser 40.
There are no pillars between the front and rear doors, and the front door must be opened before the rear door can be opened. Another major feature is that the body is made for off-road driving. The short wheelbase and the high ground clearance of 230mm/9-inches are also characteristic.
The front and rear bumpers are designed to make it difficult to drop into holes on a rough road surface. In addition, the body panel underneath is made of unpainted plastic, so if it gets damaged, it can be easily repaired or replaced at a low cost.
Inside the cabin, the waterproof and water-repellent fabric sheets and rubber-like floor and deck carpets are convenient for outdoor use. Even if it gets wet or dirty, it is easy to clean.
The chassis uses the Land Cruiser Prado unit, but the engine is only a 4.0-liter V6 gasoline. The transmission is only a 5-speed AT, and the 4WD system is a part-time system that differs from the Prado.
In addition to this basic equipment, advanced functions that support off-road rugged driving such as rear differential lock, active TRC (traction control), and crawl control are included. The FJ Cruiser is a simple and bold combination of performance for off-road adventures.
FJ Cruiser exterior and interior comparison with the current Land Cruiser
|Model||FJ Cruiser||Land Cruiser 150 Prado||Land Cruiser 200|
|Sale time||From November 2010||From September 2009||From September 2007|
|Length||182 inches||187.40 inches||195 inches|
|Width||75 inches||74.21 inches||77 inches|
|Height||72 inches||72.24 inches||74 inches|
|Minimum turning radius||20.34 feet||19.02 feet||19.36 feet|
|Weight||4,276 pounds||4,497 – 5,070 pounds||5,357 – 5,930 pounds|
|Boarding capacity||5 people||5~7people||5~8people|
|Engine type||Gasoline: 4.0L (V6: 1GR-FE) diesel:-||Gasoline: 2.7L (straight 4: 2TR-FE) Diesel: 2.8L (straight 4 turbo: 1GD-FTV)||Gasoline: 4.6L (V8: 1UR-FE) diesel:-|
|Transmission||5-speed AT||6-speed AT||6-speed AT|
|New car price||$22,936 – $24,563||$24,776 – $36,300||$33,500 – $48,300|
*Body size is TZ-G for 150 Prado and ZX for 200
*Vehicle weight does not include optional equipment
*New vehicle price is the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (tax included)
The FJ cruiser is light and short, but not good at turning in tight circles
Comparing the body and chassis size of the FJ Cruiser with the current Land Cruiser 150 Prado and 200, you can see that it is not much different from the 150 Prado it shares its chassis with.
The FJ Cruiser was built on the previous Land Cruiser 120 Prado’s foundation, but even if the 120 Prado had evolved into the 150 Prado, the chassis construction would almost be the same and the wheelbase would be the same.
The 120 Prado has a two-door short model with a wheelbase of 2455mm/96.65 inches, which is smaller than the FJ Cruiser. The FJ Cruiser’s wheelbase is only 100mm/3.93 inches shorter than the 120/150 Prado’s 4-door, but 235mm/9.25 inches longer than the 2-door.
As for the body size, the difference in the wheelbase seems to be the difference in overall length. However, keep in mind that the FJ Cruiser has a minimum turning radius of 6.2m/246 inches, which is larger than the Land Cruiser 150 Prado and the 200.
This is mainly because the FJ Cruiser was made primarily for North America, which has wide roads, so you need to be careful when handling it in narrow alleys or off-road. Also, compared to the 120/150 Prado, the FJ Cruiser’s cabin space is not as large as the difference in the wheelbase.
In the rear seats of the FJ Cruiser, the thick B-pillars may make you feel cramped, but the difference is in overall size rather than the difference in cargo space. It may be a tight fit for five people on a long road trip, but it is still fun to drive.
Changes in FJ Cruiser specifications and equipment
Four years after its debut in North America, the FJ Cruiser is now available in Japan. There is only one model, but there are three option packages in addition to the basic FJ Cruiser like “color package” and “off-road package”.
Toyota added the “Black color package” and “Red color package”.
There were some improvements this year. The two-tone white roof is available in six body colors, including new colors orange and grayish blue. The “Off-Road Package” comes standard with a crawl control that automatically controls the engine and brakes according to road conditions such as sandy roads or rocky surfaces, and enables extremely low-speed driving only using the steering wheel.
Toyota made some improvements this year. The two-tone body color combined with the white roof is available in seven colors, including the new smoky blue and dark green colors.
In addition, Toyota offered optional newly designed 17-inch aluminum wheels and front and rear performance dampers that delivered both a comfortable ride and sharp handling.
Some additional improvements were added this year. “Two-tone yellow”, which combines a white roof with a yellow body, was revived to create a total of six body colors. In addition, the interior adopts a newly designed analog meter. For the exterior, front fog lamps are available as an option to improve visibility during nighttime driving.
Simple combination of engine and transmission
The FJ Cruiser engine only has 4.0-liter V6 gasoline, and the same engine was also installed in the Land Cruiser 150 Prado until June 2015 (the current model 150 Prado replaces this V6 with a newly developed 2.8-liter direct engine).
Overseas, there are models equipped with this V6 in SUVs such as pickups and Land Cruisers, and in Japan, it was also installed in the Land Cruiser 70, which was sold for a limited period of about one year from August 2014.
This V6 gasoline engine, the 1GR-FE, was developed mainly for SUVs and light trucks, with an emphasis on improving the torque in the low and medium speed range and ensuring high durability. The maximum output is 276PS/272 HP/5600rpm, and the maximum torque is 38.8kgm/280 lb.-ft./4400rpm. Unlike a diesel engine, the maximum torque is generated at a higher number of revolutions, but because it is compatible with a 5-speed AT, it is very easy to use even when driving at extremely low speeds off-road.
The maximum rotation is high, so you can comfortably run with plenty of power even on highways. The only transmission that can be combined with it is a 5-speed AT, but there was a 6-speed MT for the North American market that ended production in February 2014.
What is interesting is that the 4WD system of the 5-speed A, including the Japanese version, is a part-time type, while the 6-speed MT was a full-time type. The 1GR-FE engine is needed to generate torque comparable to that of a large-displacement diesel engine. It is said that the 6-speed MT, which transmits large torque directly to the 4WD system, is designed to distribute the torque to the four wheels to ensure the powertrain’s durability.
The Land Cruiser 70 limited model was a part-time 5-speed MT, but it was not an issue since each unit of the powertrain had a higher rigidity specification. In any case, this V6, the 1GR-FE, is an engine that makes driving the FJ Cruiser pleasurable.
FJ Cruiser Test Drive Impressions & Report
It is simply a good powerful ride
With a body that is more than 100kg/220 pounds lighter than the Land Cruiser 150 Prado with an engine of the same class and a shorter wheelbase, the FJ Cruiser is agile in general.
Even if you take into consideration the relatively expensive automobile tax in Japan for a 4.0-liter car and the fact that it consumes a lot of fuel – 6kg per liter/14 MPG -, there is enough power to make the FJ Cruiser an attractive choice.
The power of acceleration that you feel from the moment you step on the pedal, the responsive acceleration for passing, and above all, the reliability when driving off-road in the low range of 4WD is something that other 4WD can’t compete with.
The suspension has plenty of stroke and good damping, so it follows the road surface well and offers comfort even when bouncing over holes and ruts when on and off-road.
Due to the short wheelbase, pitching is a concern compared to the Land Cruiser 150 Prado, but this is not an issue on the FJ Cruiser. The only thing that bothers me is the narrow field of view. The front window is narrow in the vertical direction, and the A pillars are steep, so the visibility to the left and right is not so bad. Nearby is almost a blind spot, though.
For the North American market, where front-facing parking is the norm and pedestrians are often hit when backing up, we were the first to add a rear-view monitor, but this does not eliminate all of the blind spots because there is a limit to the range that can be covered. Even in Japan, you need to be very careful when backing up.
FJ Cruiser Tips for choosing a used car
Choose from reimported cars for a 6-speed MT
The FJ Cruiser has been on the market for seven years and is prevalent in the used car market. Additionally, since the North American version went on sale in 2006, many of these vehicles have been imported into Japan. There are only a few differences between the versions like the handle position is reversed, but other than that, there are no big differences.
However, in terms of equipment, it has a door mirror with a position lamp that does not meet the Japanese specifications, the speaker system with a subwoofer is on the right side of the luggage compartment, and direction and tilt are displayed on the instrument panel, a side visor and a rearview mirror. Some models come with a backup monitor. Also, in the North American version, special specifications like “Trail Team” and “TRD Package” were available every year.
The standard model has the same body color, aluminum wheels, suspension, and more, and it appears that even the used vehicles were higher priced due to their scarcity. In addition, the North American version has a 6-speed MT (full-time 4WD), so if you like a manual transmission, you may want to search for this one. Originally made for the North American car market, there is an appeal in reimported cars since there are so many variations in the models.
FJ Cruiser with simple equipment keeps you from becoming bored
The FJ Cruiser does not have different models, but it does have a lineup with minor differences in specifications and equipment. The 4WD is aimed at a niche market, so it is appealing to many for its versatility. Apart from the design, the equipment is very simple since it was manufactured at a low price for a specific target market. This simplicity means that the FJ Cruiser is capable of taking you on many adventures, so there is no risk of boredom.
For example, it has a basic interior made from plastic panels that clean up nicely, so you don’t have to worry about getting the interior dirty. It is a durable Land Cruiser, which means that you can take on the roughest roads and drive it hard, which gives you more flexibility to choose your adventure than you can with the regular Land Cruiser. You can even arrange the interior to suit your needs, so you can camp in it if you like. There is no other 4WD that is so user-friendly.
It’s been over 10 years since the FJ Cruiser was developed for North America, so it would not be surprising if the FJ Cruiser was discontinued in Japan at any time. I would like to enjoy this vehicle before it becomes scarce and people rekindle the popularity of a new car.