- Retro-stylish inside and out
- Appealingly simple interior design
- Very impressive off-road ability
- Smooth on-road ride (for an off-roader)
- Road and wind noise on the highway
- Passing power is just adequate
- Tight backseat with difficult access
- Obscured rearward visibility
- Thirsty for premium fuel
Retro-coolness, off-roading, and practicality don’t come together as well in any other vehicle as they do in the 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser.
Toyota unveiled the FJ Cruiser for the 2007 model year, cashing in on the retro theme played out on other crossovers and SUVs—in this case, with design cues reaching back to Toyota’s 1960s-era FJ40—but underpinning it with real truck toughness.
Built on the 4Runner architecture, with a shortened floorpan, the 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser comes with the same 4.0-liter aluminum-block V-6 with variable valve timing offered in the 4Runner, Tundra, and Tacoma. Here it makes 239 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. The engine is mated to either a five-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual transmission exclusive to the FJ.
The 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser has the goods for serious off-roading. Approach and departure angles are among the best of any vehicle, and the FJ can ford water up to 27.5 inches deep. Skid plates help protect the underside, and components are tucked within the frame rails. Wheel articulation is also impressive, to help soak up jarring holes and boulders without being thrown from side to side. The four-wheel-drive system uses a mix of traditional mechanical and more modern electronic means of gaining and maintaining traction; a system called A-TRAC helps reduce wheel spin and redistribute torque, and it's helpful on the road.
On the road, the 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser drives quite well, considering its off-road ability. It shows its truck roots in not offering especially responsive steering, but the ride is quite compliant. Only around tight corners does the 4,300-pound curb weight reveal itself. The V-6 doesn’t provide acceleration that’s particularly quick for passing, but it’s adequate and very torquey from a standing start. At highway speeds, there’s noticeable wind noise and some road noise.
As the exterior styling of the 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser nods to the past, so does the interior. The instrument panel follows a very basic style, with hard surfaces that are the same color as the exterior and traditional-looking round gauges; it’s very businesslike and not as gimmicky as the gauges in other retro-styled cars.
Front seats are comfortable, and the driving position is nice and upright. Backseat space is quite limited in the 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser and especially difficult to get to, as a step up is required before wedging behind the front seat.
For 2007, Toyota bumped up the off-road credentials of the FJ with a Toyota Racing Development (TRD) package. The package includes Bilstein off-road shocks designed to reduce brake dive and squat, as well as enhance straight-line stability; TRD-specific 16-inch rims with BF Goodrich all-terrain tires; an all-black exterior paint scheme; and TRD performance exhaust and rock rails.
Alternately, the more luxurious 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser models with the optional Special Edition package are equipped with seat-mounted side airbags; front and rear side curtain airbags; and a multi-informational display that includes compass, inclinometer, and temperature gauge. The Special Edition package also includes a two-in-one AM/FM audio and six-disc CD changer, quick shifter (manual transmission models only), and all-weather front and rear cargo floor mats with a TRD logo.
For 2008, the FJ Cruiser adds a handful of new standard gear, including an anti-theft system, an illuminated entry system, curtain airbags for both rows of seats, and sun visors with vanity mirrors.
Side and curtain airbags are newly available on the 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser; other standard safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control. The Toyota FJ Cruiser does quite well in crash tests, with four stars in the federal frontal test and a commendable five stars for side impact. The typically tougher insurance-affiliated IIHS tests find top "good" results in both frontal and side impact, though the FJ Cruiser gets "poor" results in the IIHS rear-impact test.