The 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser’s 4.0-liter V-6 engine is a gem, offering up 260 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque and coming matched to either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic depending on which spec you choose. The torquey engine enables strong off the line performance and confident highway passing. However, with more than 4,000 pounds to carry, even in the FJ Cruiser’s lightest rear-wheel-drive configuration, don’t be expecting sports car like acceleration numbers.
Just note that the rear-wheel-drive model can only be equipped with a five-speed auto, while the all-wheel-drive model allows buyers to choose between the manual or the auto. The manual is easily more fun and allows you to make the most of the V-6 engine, though the auto is not a complete dud as it does allow pseudo manual control of the gear changes.
Another boon of the all-wheel-drive model is its 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 as well as off it.
The FJ Cruiser performs exceptionally well off-road, thanks in part to its shared underpinnings with the previous generation Toyota 4Runner. Suspension tuning aims to get good wheel articulation without making too many on-road sacrifices, and the SUV has no problem traversing through water as high as 27.5 inches; its approach and departure angles are among the best of any stock vehicle.
Back on the road, the FJ Cruiser’s tall tires and height combined with its heft means you’re going to encounter a lot of roll through corners. Maneuverability remains disappointing, and the vehicle feels wide in anything but full-width parking spots.