2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser Review

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The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
February 8, 2010

Though the 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser is a bit of a one-trick pony—clearly emphasizing off-road ability to the detriment of on-road comfort—its unmistakable style and agreeable on-road performance make it worth considering even for weekend recreation types.

To help get you the best set of information possible when shopping for your next vehicle, TheCarConnection.com has surveyed a range of respected sources and their opinions on the 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser, then incorporated the editors’ own impressions driving this sport-utility vehicle both on- and off-road.

Serious off-roaders who also want to be stylish and fashion-conscious don’t have many choices. But the 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser offers unique, rugged, retro-chic style and excellent off-roading ability—all in a more cohesive, practical package than most other affordable SUVs.

There are few if any vehicles that combine retro and contemporary styling as well as the 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Looking a bit like a vintage 1960s-era FJ40, crossed with modern cues from the 4Runner and Land Cruiser, with a MINI Cooper-like edge, the FJ Cruiser has a lot going on, design-wise. Yet it all works, with an overall appearance that isn’t at all derivative and doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard to be retro. Small rear half doors aid access to the back. Inside, Toyota keeps it simple, with a basic, almost drab instrument panel, featuring traditional round gauges and a chunky layout.

Carried over from previous years is a 4.0-liter aluminum-block V-6 with variable valve timing. The engine makes 239 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque, and is offered with either a five-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual transmission. The four-wheel-drive system on the 2010 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. But off-road is where the 2010 FJ Cruiser really shines; it’s built with some of the same components as Toyota’s proven 4Runner, though with a shortened wheelbase and more ground clearance. Additionally, skid plates protect the underbody, and components are tucked into frame rails. Suspension tuning aims to get good wheel articulation without making too many on-road sacrifices, and the FJ can ford up to 27.5 inches of water; approach and departure angles for the FJ are among the best of any stock vehicle.

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On-road performance isn’t a complete afterthought in the 2010 FJ Cruiser. Its on-road ride is reasonably impressive on highways and relatively straight paths, but its hefty 4,300-pound curb weight, along with the high-profile tires and suspension tuning, get in the way of any quick changes in direction. Also, while the V-6 is extremely torquey from a standing start and strong at low speeds for confident off-road crawling, it doesn’t respond as well in highway passing.

Think of the 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser as a vehicle for two plus gear and you’ll be all right—the backseat is a little too cramped for adults, and access is a challenge despite the small rear-hinged access doors. Most will find the driving position and front seating comfort to their liking, Those looking for a lot of storage compartments for smaller items and electronics might be a little disappointed. Also, at highway speeds, a combination of tire noise and a slightly boomy engine note conspire to wear you down.

Respectable but not excellent is how we’d rate the FJ Cruiser for safety. It achieves four-star ratings in the federal (NHTSA) frontal test and five stars in its side test, while the insurance-affiliated IIHS find the FJ “good” in frontal offset and side tests—though its rating in the seat-based IIHS rear-impact test is “poor.” Side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, active headrests, and electronic stability control are all included, along 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—and even deploy the side bags for a rollover.

All 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser models are equipped quite well and come with all the basics for off-roading, but packages and options help boost the off-road credentials. The Toyota Racing Development (TRD) package features Bilstein off-road shocks designed to reduce brake dive and squat, as well as enhance straight-line stability, also including TRD-specific 16-inch rims with BF Goodrich all-terrain tires; an all-black exterior paint scheme; and TRD performance exhaust and rock rails. The pricey $6,695 Trail Teams Special Edition package brings loads of convenience equipment and some off-road aids, such as a multi-informational display, compass, inclinometer, and temperature gauge. Other major options are grouped into an all-terrain package and several upgrade packages—with intuitive parking assist and a backup camera now on the list.

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2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Styling

Even many years since its introduction, the 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser is still a styling standout. 

There are few if any vehicles that combine retro and contemporary styling as well as the 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Looking a bit like a vintage 1960s-era FJ40, crossed with modern cues from the 4Runner and Land Cruiser, with a MINI Cooper-like edge, the FJ Cruiser has a lot going on, design-wise. Yet it all works, with an overall appearance that isn’t at all derivative and doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard to be retro.

“Those familiar with the older FJs will immediately see the family resemblance,” claims Road & Track, referring to the original 1960s FJ40 that was, at least in part, a design inspiration for the FJ Cruiser. Narrow-set round headlamps match up well with the upright windshield, wraparound rear glass, and white-painted roof to achieve a design that’s retro-modern and rather timeless. Motor Trend decrees the styling “successfully conveys uniqueness and heritage—two traits currently missing in the Toyota lineup,” and Automobile Magazine proclaims the FJ “distinguishes itself from its brethren with evocative styling.”

Small rear-hinged half doors aid access to the back. Road & Track comments that these “Honda Element-esque suicide doors lends the FJ a two-door's personality,” but others criticize their marginal usefulness, seeing them as more style than function.

Inside, Toyota keeps it simple, with a basic, almost drab instrument panel, featuring traditional round gauges and a chunky layout. The interior is “more functional than rich. It includes washable rubberlike flooring, water-resistant fabric trim, faux metal, body-color painted accents, and some low-budget plastic panels,” says ConsumerGuide. Road & Track declares that “the cabin exudes simplicity, echoing the feel of the earlier FJs” when describing the mood set by “cloth seats, a body-colored radio surround and large, easy-to-operate controls,” and Motor Trend asserts “the basic cabin harmonizes nicely with the busier exterior.”

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2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Performance

The 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser clearly emphasizes off-road performance, but that doesn’t mean it's especially clumsy or slow on the road. 

Carried over from previous years is a 4.0-liter aluminum-block V-6 with variable valve timing. The engine makes 239 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque, and is offered with either a five-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual transmission. The four-wheel-drive system on the 2010 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.

The “free-revving V-6 is up to the task of moving the FJ down the road (or trail) with ease,” beams Road & Track, and Edmunds says that it is “able to get the FJ up to speed in quick fashion.” While the V-6 is extremely torquey from a standing start and strong at low speeds for confident off-road crawling, TheCarConnection.com finds that it doesn’t respond as well in highway passing. ConsumerGuide echoes this, warning that it can feel “overmatched by vehicle weight in passing maneuvers and on long upgrades.”

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. ConsumerGuide reports “the manual has long throws but light clutch action,” and Edmunds states “the automatic transmission shifts smoothly and accurately.” Road & Track notes that “all 4wd models come equipped with a 2-speed transfer case that proves invaluable” in serious off-roading.

But off-road is where the 2010 FJ Cruiser really shines; it’s built with some of the same components as Toyota’s proven 4Runner, though with a shortened wheelbase and more ground clearance. Additionally, skid plates protect the underbody, and components are tucked into frame rails. Suspension tuning aims to get good wheel articulation without making too many on-road sacrifices, and the FJ can ford up to 27.5 inches of water; approach and departure angles for the FJ are among the best of any stock vehicle. Edmunds declares it “one of the best off-roading rigs you can drive off the showroom floor.”

A-TRAC, a step above the standard stability control, automatically applies the brakes to a spinning wheel, forcing “torque to the opposing wheel” and boosting the “FJ Cruiser’s off-road capability,” according to Kelley Blue Book.

Other aspects of on-road performance aren’t a complete afterthought in the 2010 FJ Cruiser. Its on-road ride is reasonably impressive on highways and relatively straight roads, but its hefty 4,300-pound curb weight, along with the high-profile tires and suspension tuning, get in the way of any quick changes in direction. Motor Trend says that while the FJ might be capable of being hustled, “it doesn't exactly accept the invitation with a smile.” They continue: “Drive at 6/10ths, 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.”

If you take the FJ for what it’s worth, it’s actually quite good on the road, several reviewers concede. “The FJ's faults are pretty easy to overlook given how enjoyable it is to drive and own,” commends Edmunds. 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.”

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2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser involves some serious compromises in ride, refinement, and interior space, though its interior is tough and versatile. 

Think of the 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser as a vehicle for two plus gear and you’ll be all right—the backseat is a little too cramped for adults, and access is a challenge despite the small rear-hinged access doors.

Most will find the driving position and front seating comfort to their liking, “The seats are all-day comfortable,” ConsumerGuide says of the front, with “good headroom and legroom for six-footers.”

“Seating in front is very comfortable,” reports Edmunds, “but getting into the rather cramped rear compartment requires a high step up and a contortionist dance, even with the rear doors open.” Edmunds chimes in, commenting that “rearward-opening doors aren't as convenient as one might think.” Car and Driver warns that “back-seat room is good but not as spacious as one might expect,” Edmunds concludes, “an FJ isn't the best choice” as “a children-schlepping vehicle.”

The FJ Cruisers tested by TheCarConnection.com are very tightly built inside. Car and Driver agrees, pointing to its “obvious build quality, and amazing versatility.” Edmunds likes how the “retro-looking dash is color-keyed to the exterior," adding that “most of the controls are straightforward and functional.” Those looking for a lot of storage compartments for smaller items and electronics might be a little disappointed, though.

At highway speeds, the 2010 FJ Cruiser is just tolerable, but a combination of tire noise and a slightly boomy engine note conspire to wear you down. Car and Driver considers it “slightly noisy and rough-riding.” And while the ride will never be mistaken for that of a crossover ute, it's comfortable enough. ConsumerGuide describes it as “firm but compliant suspension combines with tall-sidewall mud and snow tires to flatten most road bumps with little jolt or body quiver,” and Motor Trend assesses, “Rough roads will gently bounce passengers around, never aggressively toss them like in an Xterra or H3, which feel decidedly firmer.”

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2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Safety

Visibility sure isn't great in the 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser, but its occupant protection is quite good and there's a full set of safety features to help keep you secure and out of trouble. 

Respectable but not excellent is how we assess the 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser for safety. It achieves four-star ratings in the federal (NHTSA) frontal test and five stars in its side test, while the insurance-affiliated IIHS finds the FJ “good” in frontal offset and side tests—though its rating in the seat-based IIHS rear-impact test is “poor.”

Side curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, active headrests, and electronic stability control are all included, along 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—and even deploy the side bags for a rollover.

Outward visibility can be challenging, given the FJ Cruiser's tall, rather narrow-windowed design. Automobile Magazine points out that “the spare tire taking up much of the tailgate, it's advisable to order the optional rear parking sensor.” Practicality has to take a backseat with a style as radical as the FJ Cruiser’s; nowhere is this more obvious than from the view out, which Motor Trend likens “to wearing a football helmet, with a wide, truncated slot straight ahead and two big blind spots in the periphery.”

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2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Features

There's plenty of opportunity to personalize the 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser, but you'll probably want to start with one of several large option packages. 

All 2010 Toyota FJ Cruiser models are equipped quite well and include the basics for off-roading, but packages and options help boost the off-road credentials.

The Toyota Racing Development (TRD) package comes with Bilstein off-road shocks designed to reduce brake dive and squat, as well as enhance straight-line stability, also including TRD-specific 16-inch rims with BF Goodrich all-terrain tires; an all-black exterior paint scheme; and TRD performance exhaust and rock rails. The pricey $6,695 Trail Teams Special Edition package brings loads of convenience equipment and some off-road aids, such as a multi-informational display, compass, inclinometer, and temperature gauge. Other major options are grouped into an all-terrain package and several upgrade packages—with intuitive parking assist and a backup camera now on the list.

For dedicated off-roaders, there is a rear differential lock, A-TRAC active traction control, and a multi-information display (inclinometer, compass, temperature) available. The All Terrain package includes all of the above plus BF Goodrich Rugged Trail tires, 16-inch aluminum wheels (steel wheels are standard on the FJ), Bilstein shock absorbers, a Cyclone air precleaner, and a trip computer.

A Convenience Package (remote keyless entry, cruise control, power mirrors, and other luxuries), rear sonar parking assist, an eight-speaker audio system with six-disc CD changer, an attractively built-in subwoofer, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, and a 115V/400W power outlet.

A number of its simple utility features are the most appreciated by some, however. Calling the Toyota “decidedly purpose built,” Kelley Blue Book also points out that every FJ is equipped with water-resistant seat fabric and rubber flooring. In the cargo area, “convenient hooks and tie-downs add functionality,” they remark.

The Subwoofer Switch is appreciated by Kelley Blue Book, with the reviewer pointing out that it “makes it easy to optimize the listening experience when switching from talk to rock, for instance.”

Of the drive systems in this off-road-capable beast, Car and Driver deems it an “odd arrangement” that “FJ Cruisers with a manual transmission get full-time four-wheel drive, and automatic-equipped models get a simpler part-time four-wheel-drive system or rear-wheel drive.”

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