The 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser performs to its full potential on the trail, but as you might guess from its appearance it's not always completely in its element on the tarmac.
With 260 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque, its 4.0-liter V-6 engine is a gem, and the six-speed manual or five-speed automatic do quite well with what it can churn out. Off-the-line performance is quick (relative to other sturdy off-roaders), while highway passing isn't quite as blistering, but it's adequate.
The rear-wheel-drive model can only be equipped with the automatic, while the all-wheel-drive model allows buyers to choose between the manual or the auto. 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.
Thanks to its set of sturdy underpinnings that are borrowed from the previous-generation Toyota 4Runner, the FJ Cruiser performs exceptionally well off-road. There's enough wheel articulation to negotiate some challengine situations without making too many on-road sacrifices, and this SUV has no problem traversing through water as high as 27.5 inches. Of all stock vehicles, the FJ has some of the best approach and departure angles.
On the road, we can't gush nearly as much. The FJ Cruiser's tall tires, tall body, and 4,000-pound-plus curb weight add up to a lot of body roll in the corners. Maneuverability is disappointing, and the FJ is safe in quick lane-change maneuvers but definitely not confidence-inspiring. This is simply a vehicle that drives larger than it looks.