With the 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser, on-road performance takes a backseat to off-road performance, but it’s a closer race than you’d think.
Road & Track asserts the “free-revving V-6 is up to the task of moving the FJ down the road (or trail) with ease,” Edmunds raves it is “able to get the FJ up to speed in quick fashion,” but ConsumerGuide counters that it can feel “overmatched by vehicle weight in passing maneuvers and on long upgrades.” Using the same dual-VVTi, aluminum-block 4.0-liter V-6 found in the Tacoma and 4Runner, the FJ Cruiser enjoys immediate, torquey response from a standstill but leaves some wanting more passing power. The V-6 produces 239 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque.
Interestingly, the six-speed manual that comes only with full-time 4WD achieves lower EPA mileage figures, perhaps due to powering all four wheels at all times—15/18 mpg versus the five-speed automatic (in 2WD or 4WD guise) at 16/20 mpg. Road & Track notes that “all 4wd models come equipped with a 2-speed transfer case that proves invaluable” in serious off-roading. Edmunds states “the automatic transmission shifts smoothly and accurately,” and ConsumerGuide reports “the manual has long throws but light clutch action.”
Motor Trend is critical of the FJ Cruiser’s on-road performance, stating that while the vehicle “isn't averse to being hustled…it doesn't exactly accept the invitation with a smile. Drive at 6/10ths,” they continue, “and the FJ is a peach, its communicative steering and beefy brakes feeling perfectly suited for the job. Take it to 7/10ths, however, and the stability-control nanny incessantly blinks and beeps her disapproval.” Car and Driver considers it “slightly noisy and rough-riding.”
Despite the concerns, handling is generally praised for the 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser. “The FJ's faults are pretty easy to overlook given how enjoyable it is to drive and own,” commends Edmunds. And let’s not forget how comfortable and livable the FJ Cruiser is apart from its dual mission of on-road grocery getter and off-road dominator—especially considering the truck’s live rear axle and remarkable ability off-road. Road & Track notes it feels “slightly better than a similarly outfitted 4Runner, where the FJ Cruiser enjoys a marginally more planted and stable cornering attitude.” Edmunds praises it as “one of the best off-roading rigs you can drive off the showroom floor,” claiming it is also “surprisingly maneuverable around town.”
A “firm but compliant suspension combines with tall-sidewall mud and snow tires to flatten most road bumps with little jolt or body quiver,” says ConsumerGuide. Motor Trend lauds the FJ’s suspension compliance when compared to rivals: “Rough roads will gently bounce passengers around, never aggressively toss them like in an Xterra or H3, which feel decidedly firmer.”