2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser

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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Senior Editor
December 30, 2013

Buying tip

It's the final year of production for the FJ Cruiser, so as Janis Joplin sang, eerily, accurately--get it while you can.

features & specs

4WD 4-Door Automatic
4WD 4-Door Manual
RWD 4-Door Automatic
17 city / 20 hwy
15 city / 18 hwy
16 city / 20 hwy

The 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser pairs tough trail-ready hardware with modern features and fab styling--but it's not for families or commuters.

The 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser has limited appeal for commuters and families, but for off-roaders it's an all-star. The quirky looks hark back to the FJ Toyotas of the Sixties, but it's even more ready to rumble than that: the FJ Cruiser makes no nod to street performance, to comfort, or practicality that supersedes trail-blazing.

Toyota has announced that 2014 will be the FJ Cruiser's last year on sale.

The FJ Cruiser channels the 1960s-era FJ40, but updates it into a more whimsical, cartoonish look that's still really cool years after the new FJ's introduction. HUMMER models came close to matching the FJ's presence, but they're history. And if MINI ever decided to make a macho true-truck off-roader, this might also be what it would look like. Inside, the appointments are intentionally stark, with body-colored panels and simple gauges and sturdy switchgear.

Built from the sturdy underpinnings of the last-generation Toyota 4Runner, the FJ Cruiser impresses off-road, with some sacrifice on the road. Skid plates protect the underbody, and components are tucked into frame rails, while the high ground clearance and short wheelbase are assets, along with good wheel articulation--and the FJ's approach and departure angles and water-fording depth (27.5 inches) are better than most other stock off-roaders.

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Considering the very utilitarian, back-to-basics look and feel of the FJ Cruiser, it comes with a surprisingly good set of interior comfort and convenience items, with many of them standard. For those who really want to maximize the FJ's off-road potential, there are several pointed packages to do just that--and look good doing so. Serious off-road equipment includes an A-TRAC active-traction system, a special multi-information display (inclinometer, compass, temperature), big BF Goodrich Rugged Trail tires, Bilstein shock absorbers, a Cyclone air precleaner, and 115V/400V power outlets. Step up to the Convenience Package and you get cruise control, daytime running lights, a rear window wiper, and a spare tire cover, plus a rear backup camera--really a necessity if you plan to drive the FJ around town, or parallel-park.

With the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) sport package, you'll get unique alloys and BFG All-Terrain tires, among other upgrades; but those who want the trail ability with fresh styling may want to opt for the Trail Teams Special Edition Package. It includes most of the extras mentioned above but also scores you some off-road lights, an aluminum shift knob and aluminum scuff plates, plus body color-matched interior highlights.

As you might expect, on-road performance is indeed compromised, but the FJ does handle streets, boulevards, and highways well enough to get from off-road point A to point B. Its 260-horspower, 4.0-liter V-6 provides strong performance from a standing start, whether with the five-speed automatic or six-speed manual, though it's not as quick on the highway. Maneuverability and handling suffer from the combination of the tall body, the off-road hardware, and the chubby tires, as well as the 4,300-pound curb weight.

You won't find the settled, sophisticated ride quality or quiet, refined interior here, either. For carrying backseat passengers, or for ride comfort on long trips, there are far better choices. In short, the back seat is just too cramped, and getting in and out is a challenge for some due to the high step up and narrow opening from the rear-hinged back doors. All FJ Cruiser models include a good set of interior comforts, but there's some scruffiness and a hint of military-grade here, and it's intentional.


2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser


The FJ Cruiser strikes a timelessly cool pose, and has an interior with lots of big, expressive shapes.

The Toyota FJ Cruiser's design sits perfectly balanced between the realms of modern and ageless, so it's a good thing that it hasn't seen any style changes since it debuted nearly a decade ago.

You'll find pieces of the 1960's FJ40 in the design, but it's been updated with cartoonish, sometimes silly design elements that simply come together as something cool. The HUMMER lineup had the same kind of presence on the road, but the FJ outlasted them–we almost feel like this is what a MINI would look like if the brand ever decided to attempt something truly rugged and off-road worthy.

It's that old-style front end, steep windshield and retro cues that make the FJ so special. That design also lends itself to some added practicality, too. For instance, its side doors open at 90-degree angles for easy entry and exit. And, the glass hatch can be opened quickly and easily for trips to the grocery store.

The chunky, almost technical look continues into the cabin which is dominated by a somewhat drab instrument panel featuring matte-metallic highlights. Traditional round gauges are separated into clusters in the dash, and meshy seating with contrasting body-color inserts establish a serious basic-truck attitude; on the bright side—and in keeping with the retro-goodness—significant portions of the dash are done in the same color as the exterior.

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2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser


The FJ Cruiser performs like the two-door 4Runner it is: it's cumbersome on the road, fearsome off-road.

The 2014 FJ Cruiser isn't the strongest performer on the highway, but it's totally at home on the trails and crawling over rocks.

Its 4.0-liter V-6 is a real gem, producing 260 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque, and both the five-speed automatic and six-speed manual transmissions make the most of what the engine offers. Relative to other off-road machines, it's quick off the line, and it's adequate at passing at the highway, even if it isn't a rocket.

On the road, it's hard to gush about the FJ's driving dynamics. Its 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.

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 challenging 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.

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.

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2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Comfort & Quality

What it lacks in space and comfort, the FJ Cruiser also lacks in flexibility.

Ride and comfort aren't necessarily the 2014 FJ Cruiser's strong suits, as it makes a few compromises to remain an off-roading purist–gaining its rock-crawling abilities through mechanics rather than electronics.

It's a noisy vehicle inside, and perhaps a little too 'retro' in this respect. Noise and vibration from the engine bay and tires also seem to make it into the cabin much more so in the FJ Cruiser than most other vehicles in the same class. Highway trips may wear on passengers.

Depending on your tastes, the expanse of plastic on the dash, center console and door innards could look or feel cheap. It's a cool retro touch for those see it that way—and easy to keep clean. Otherwise the switchgear is plain but sturdy. 

Front seats in the FJ are ample for size and space but not all that supportive. The rear seats are cramped, though the rear-hinged back doors provide decent access. And entry and exit can be a little more challenging than for other SUVs, because of the tall ride height.

For storage and cargo, the FJ Cruiser is surprisingly lacking. Those expecting a reasonably large space to stash gear or weekend project pieces will find a high cargo floor and rather narrow space within the side-opening rear hatch. There are also few smaller places to stow electronics and other smaller items—let alone stow them away from sight.

Altogether, the refinement and ride can be a hangup; vehicles such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee are just as capable as the FJ Cruiser but are much more comfortable and easy to live with, especially if long-distance driving is a regular thing.

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2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser


There are some important omissions on the FJ Cruiser's safety roster.

The 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser is significantly safer than the old-school off-roaders it emulates, but that doesn't necessarily make it the safest vehicle on the road by today's standards. However, it has earned a rating of 'good' from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), for its rear, side and frontal impacts. Its roof strength has lagged behind, though, receiving only an 'acceptable' rating. The FJ hasn't been tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in recent years.

Rearward visibility, as you might guess in just seeing the FJ from the outside, leaves much to be desired. The thick side pillar limits the view when changing lanes, and the rather narrow-windowed design can make parking a chore; even though you'd think that the corners would be quite easy to spot, they're not always, because of the seating position. Rear parking sensors are available, and recommended.

You can thank the FJ Cruiser’s long list of standard safety gear for the positive results. Items include side curtain airbags, a roll-over sensor, anti-lock brakes, active headrests and electronic stability control. Additionally, the vehicle is equipped with active headrests for the front seats: In certain rear collisions, a cable-actuated mechanism in the active headrest moves the headrest upward and forward to help limit the movement of the occupant's head.


2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser


The FJ Cruiser's a tough off-roader, but it hasn't missed out on Toyota's latest connectivity features.

The 2014 FJ Cruiser might look and feel a little back-to-basics, but those looking for interior comfort and convenience won't find themselves aching for options. At the same time, those looking for a potent off-roading machine will find a wide array of extras that can aide their FJ is traversing the untamed road–and look good in the process.

Every FJ comes standard with water-resistant seats, air conditioning, a full-size spare mounted on the rear door, front and rear tow-hooks, a tilt steering wheel, and mudguards. The Convenience Package adds a rear window wiper, daytime running lights, cruise control, a cover for the spare, and a reverse camera, which we'd consider a necessity for anyone who plans to drive the FJ around town.

With the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) sport package, you'll get unique alloys and BFG All-Terrain tires, among other upgrades; but those who want the trail ability with fresh styling may want to opt for the Trail Teams Special Edition Package. It includes most of the extras mentioned above but also scores you some off-road lights, an aluminum shift knob and aluminum scuff plates, plus body color-matched interior highlights.

Dedicated off-roaders have plenty of upgrade possibilities. A mechanical rear diff lock, A-TRAC active traction control, and a multi-information display (inclinometer, compass, temperature) are all available, but if you opt for the All Terrain package you get all of the above plus BF Goodrich Rugged Trail tires, 16-inch aluminum wheels, Bilstein shock absorbers, a Cyclone air precleaner, and a trip computer. With the Class Four receiver hitch, you’ll be able to tow up to 4,700 pounds.

Audio and connectivity features are really just as strong as those in Toyota's other crossovers and trucks. The standard audio system includes Bluetooth hands-free connectivity plus six speakers and ports for an iPod, auxiliary cable, or USB device, and steering-wheel controls apply to audio and Bluetooth functions. A JBL 10-speaker premium system is also on offer.

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2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Fuel Economy

Anyone with a bent for off-roading is already prepared for the FJ Cruiser's low gas mileage.

Mileage can vary depending on whether you choose a manual or automatic transmission, or rear- or four-wheel drive, but the FJ's 4.0-liter V-6 is pretty thirsty no matter how you slice it.

The rear-wheel-drive model with the automatic transmission is the most efficient version of the FJ, rated at 17 mpg city, 22-highway. We think choosing it without four-wheel drive is near blasphemy, though, and that system only lowers the fuel economy by 1 mpg.

The automatic transmission is really the more fuel-efficient option here. Go with the manual, and mileage drops to 15/20 mpg city/highway and a combined figure of 17 mpg.

Compared to other mainstream SUVs, those are some very low numbers. But they are closer to what other sturdy off-road models like the Nissan Xterra or Jeep Wrangler return.

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