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TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Toyota FJ Cruiser in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com's SUV enthusiasts researched available road tests relevant to the 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other reviews might differ.
Retro-coolness, off-roading, and practicality don’t come together as well in any other SUV as they do in the Toyota FJ Cruiser.
As retro-cool as the exterior is, the 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser’s interior also mixes modernity, practicality, and a dash of the past. 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.
Powering the 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser is a 4.0-liter aluminum-block V-6 with variable valve timing and that produces 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 FJ Cruiser is built on Toyota’s own 4Runner architecture, but with a shortened floorpan, so it's an off-roader through and through. The four-wheel-drive system on the 2009 FJ Cruiser 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. 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. All this makes the 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser a serious off-roader. Approach and departure angles are among the best of any vehicle, and the FJ can ford water up to 27.5 inches deep.
Considering the FJ Cruiser’s off-road ability, the SUV is impressive when navigating highways and byways. 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.
Front seats are comfortable, and the driving position is nice and upright. Backseat space is quite limited in the 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser and especially difficult to get to, as a step up is required before wedging behind the front seat.
The Toyota FJ Cruiser performs 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. Standard safety equipment includes side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control. For 2009, the FJ Cruiser comes standard with roll-sensing side curtain airbags that can detect a potential rollover and signal the Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) system to help reduce a lateral skid. The rollover sense also signals the standard seat-mounted side airbags and side curtain airbags to deploy. Front seats get active headrests where the headrests move upward and forward to help limit the movement of the occupant's head during a rear collision.
A Toyota Racing Development (TRD) package is added to the FJ Cruiser in 2007, upping the off-road credentials of the SUV. The package in the 2009 FJ Cruiser 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. Last year a handful of new standard gear was added, including an anti-theft system, an illuminated entry system, curtain airbags for both rows of seats, and sun visors with vanity mirrors.
FJ Cruisers endowed with the optional Special Edition package are a step up in off-road luxury. The package include niceties such as: seat-mounted side airbags; front and rear side curtain airbags; and a multi-informational display that includes compass, inclinometer, and temperature gauge. The 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser 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. Also new for 2009 is the addition of a rear backup camera and auto-dimming rearview mirror added to the Convenience Package.