Toyota FJ Cruiser (2011)

For many off-roading enthusiasts the lack of a diesel engine option will be the killer blow, which is a shame really, because the FJ Cruiser is an honest four-wheel drive with plenty of character.


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CNET Editor

Derek loves nothing more than punching a remote location into a GPS, queuing up some music and heading out on a long drive, so it's a good thing he's in charge of CNET Australia's Car Tech channel.


Exterior

For a company that's prided itself, in the most part, for sober design and rock-solid reliability, the FJ Cruiser is a shock to the system. As far as we're concerned, it's a well executed tribute to the FJ40 Land Cruiser that made its name in Australia thanks to its work on the Snowy Mountain Scheme, which was not only an engineering marvel, but came to define a new era of (European) multiculturalism after World War II.

Unlike its inspiration, the FJ Cruiser actually has four passenger doors, although the rear two are small and cleverly disguised. In a layout that's not too dissimilar to that used on the rather sportier Mazda RX-8, the FJ Cruiser does without a pillar connecting floor to ceiling behind the front doors. This means that the rear doors are hinged backwards and that they lock in place by latching to the front doors. As long as you're fine with the rather steep ascent into the FJ, entry to the rear pews is quite easy.

Toyota FJ CruiserToyota FJ CruiserToyota FJ CruiserToyota FJ CruiserToyota FJ CruiserToyota FJ CruiserToyota FJ CruiserToyota FJ CruiserToyota FJ CruiserToyota FJ Cruiser

Click through for a complete look at the FJ Cruiser.
(Credit: Toyota)

The short, wide, upright windscreen is an essential element in the car's styling and necessitates the use of three (yes, you read right) windscreen wipers. This, along with the tall wing mirrors, generates quite a bit of wind noise at freeway speeds and can't be great for the car's aerodynamics. The rear windscreen pops up independently, allowing you to throw grocery bags and the like into the 990-litre boot without having to wrestle with the heavy side-opening tail gate.

Interior

Unlike some of today's four-wheel drives, like the Land Cruiser, Grand Cherokee and next-gen Patrol, the FJ's interior has been designed specifically with the rigours of criss-crossing the continent in mind, rather than the needs of Mosman mums and Toorak dads. There isn't even a scintilla of carpet on the floor, just a hardy mixture of rubber and plastic that can easily be vacuumed or washed out. With the latter in mind, the seats are clad in a breathable, quick-dry fabric.

The concept car that previewed the FJ Cruiser featured a dashboard beautifully crafted from metal. The process of changing the show car into a production-ready vehicle thankfully didn't do much to harm the exterior, but the dash didn't fare quite so well. In place of metal, there's swathes of silver-painted plastic, as well as body colour highlights on the dash and doors. It all feels wonderfully hardy and all of the controls (except the audio head unit) are chunky, oversized and generally easy to find.

Finding the perfect driving position is a little tricky as you can only adjust the angle of the steering wheel. Passengers up front should have no complaints about space and it's surprisingly good in the rear as well, with a decent amount of leg, head and shoulder room, so long as you're only seating two back there.

Features

In Australia, there's just one specification available. It comes standard with air conditioning, 17-inch alloy wheels, central locking, electro-chromatic rear vision mirror, front electric windows (the rear windows don't open at all) and rear fog lights. Safety features include six airbags, stability control and anti-lock brakes. An inclinometer, temperature gauge and compass sit atop the dashboard.

Rear parking sensors are augmented by a reversing camera that's hidden in the spare wheel carrier. Images from that camera are displayed in a corner of the rear vision mirror and, while it's a must have on this type of vehicle, it feels a little undersized. There's also a wand-operated cruise control system that unfortunately doesn't inform the driver of when it's in charge of the car's speed, merely if the system is on.

Entertainment

The stereo head unit is a mid-spec unit that should be instantly familiar to anyone who's driven a recent Toyota. It has a 4.3-inch colour screen that's not in the slightest bit touch sensitive, instead it's operated by the three buttons on either side of the display that correspond to various on-screen functions.

It's able to swallow up to six audio CDs, has an auxiliary jack and iPod-friendly USB port, and also comes with Bluetooth for both hands-free and wireless music streaming. Buttons on the steering wheel spokes allow the driver to quickly change stations/tracks and volume, switch audio source, and access some basic phone functionality.

The eight-speaker sound system includes regular door-mounted speakers, as well as a set of Exciter speakers in the roof that use the ceiling lining as their diaphragm. This, according to chief engineer Akio Nishimura, helps spread the sound evenly around the cabin. That may be true, but unfortunately for the driver the system produces a bass heavy sound that's hollow throughout the rest of the audible range. As with many wagons, audio quality improves considerably if you're seated in the rear.

On the road

The FJ Cruiser shares much of its frame and underpinnings with the rather more sedate Prado. That car, while highly capable off-road, feels like an old-school four-wheel drive on it — think body roll equal to Bibendum's and a suspension that's stuffed full of marshmallows. Thankfully, these wrongs have been corrected on the FJ.

Sure, if you chuck it into a corner at speed, the body will roll, but it's in a controlled and predictable manner. The ride is unsurprisingly comfortable, as there's not only generous helpings of suspension travel and also plenty of air in those tyres. On bitumen the steering is light and doesn't talk much, but in its preferred habitat it's plenty talkative without wanting to yank your thumbs off at every pebble you pass over.

Despite lacking some of the electronic aids, such as electronic KDSS (Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System), multi-terrain and crawl control systems, found in its larger Prado and Land Cruiser siblings, the FJ Cruiser is supremely capable off-road. Indeed, thanks to its short front and rear overhangs, it bests its stablemates with a 31-degree departure angle and 29-degree break-over angle; the 36-degree approach angle is nothing to be sniffed at either.

The standard five-speed automatic transmission is mated to a part-time four-wheel drive system. The driver can change between high-range rear- and four-wheel drive on the go, and when stopped can also choose to go into low-range four-wheel drive for rougher, steeper tracks.

A 4-litre V6 with 200kW of power and 380Nm of torque married to a five-speed automatic transmission is the only drivetrain offered and does an admirable job of hauling the 2-tonne wagon around. Developed with North America in mind and with no plans to put it on sale in Europe, the car was never engineered to utilise one of Toyota's diesel engines.

During our time with the FJ Cruiser, it drank at an average of 13.6L/100km. Split out, it sipped at a rate of 11.9L/100km on the highway, while in the city and suburbs consumption rose to 16.9L/100km. A 72-litre tank is fitted.

Conclusion

For many off-roading enthusiasts the lack of a diesel engine option will be the killer blow, which is a shame really, because the FJ Cruiser is an honest four-wheel drive with plenty of character.

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JayO posted a comment   

It's not the performance (even though a diesel has won every 24hr Le Mans race since 2006) or fuel efficiency (generally about 20% better than petrol, all things considered) that make a diesel so attractive. It's their endurance and convenience. You see, soccer mum or weekend warrior dad might do 20 or 30 thousand Km's a year... and have a servo on every corner, but a farmer like me, I do 100 to 150 thousand p.a., that's 2 to 3 thousand each and every week. So my 4WD will see half a million k's in less than 4 years, and generally be relegated to paddock bashing after that, doing the hard work till it hits a million or more k's. A petrol engine will certainly have died a number of deaths by then. My tractors are diesel, so are my generators, fire pumps, water pumps, even my quad bike. Generally speaking, my fellow farmers and I all have diesels because storage is safer (far less explosive), it lasts longer in storage, it's easier to reverse quality issues (such as water in the fuel or water in your tank), add any oils into the mix instead of dumping it. Diesel is just more practical and economical. Especially when you spend the best part of $40 - $50 thousand dollars a year on fuel. That 20% saving typical of diesel v. petrol is about $8 to $10K...that's not to be sniffed at. That's an extra 150 to 200 head of beef to us. So it's a safe bet that every farmer wants a diesel 4B as a matter of convenience. Servicing is another issue... and the Asian manufacturers have made it an issue. Presently, my Mitsubishi Triton GLXR 32D 4 speed auto (high 9 litres of fuel per 100k) does everything I ask of it, but servicing is a pain in the arse. Every 15,000k is a dealer service at $1,000 each time. There are 2 types of service that alternate at 30,000Km rituals, one being a major service of all filters, lubes, oils etc, the other doing tappet adjustments. WTF? 2008 model and still doing tappet adjustments! Oh, and every 7500 K, there's an engine oil change... that's an oil change every 2 to 3 weeks almost. That's over $16,000 per annum servicing to do 150,000k... needless to say, the service book went sailing out the window soon after purchase. On the other hand, my 2010 BMW X6 35d 8 speed auto is a world apart from the Mitsubishi motor, but it's not really built for serious off road use. For a diesel, its performance is astounding! Under 7 seconds from 0 to 100 in a car weighing over 2 ton and it will literally pull a road train out of a hole... that's one mud bogged semi with 3 laden cattle trailers during the big wet last year. Better still, 25,000k's between services at about $500 per service and no oil changes except check the level every 5000k's.... no tappet adjustments needed. Again, about 9 litres per 100k which is excellent for an engine with nearly twice the power of the Mitsubishi. It's the car we use for going to town, it can handle dirt roads at 160 K/HR with ease. It's about 2.5 times the price of the Triton but add the service costs together and by the time they've done 500,000k, they'd almost cost the same. I digress. All I'm thinking is that the FJ cruiser could have done both jobs had it been a diesel. Instead, Toyota have forgotten why they created the FJ40 in the first place... because it once had a true purpose? It was a work horse pure and simple, capable of exploring the unexplored, no matter how rugged the terrain. It's celebrated history clearly shows Toyota were on a mission when they built it. They made a very capable off roader that was bullet-proof to a point where it could be serviced and repaired almost anywhere with a shifter, socket set, hammer and screw driver by anyone who had an inkling of automotive nous. It was the vehicle of choice for explorers, farmers, mine workers, even the armed services. And now, well now it's made for soccer mom and warrior dad who can't ride a bike, surf ski, climb a mountain or have fun in the sun without the aid of a silken coated tampon. That's what it's become. You see, we had over 3 and a half million k's on my dad's old diesel FJ40. It took some work, some engine rebuilds, but they were easily done in our shed. Not In 2012. Now we talk about saving the world and our carbon footprint and all the rest, whilst car manufacturers vomit fuel efficiency and CO2 emission figures. It would take 10 of today's cars to do the work of that one FJ40 diesel. And what is the carbon footprint value on a newly built car, from digging the ore and oil out of the ground and shipping it, processing it, manufacturing it, workers travelling to build it, delivering it all over the world...it goes on. All this to build a car that is not fit for purpose. The FJ40 was born from need, where the FJ cruiser has been shat out by wanting. And it's a damn shame that the powers that be at Toyota have a few wheel nuts loose at the front end, to create such a capable off-roader, and have it unwanted by those that need it, yet pranced about by those who don't... especially when considering the business partnership between Toyota and BMW. It could have been something special, instead they created a compromised fashion accessory that could climb the **** out of a mountain day in and day out, but never will.

 

DannyB posted a reply   
Australia

Awfully articulate for a farmer, I am impressed, really interesting points of view maybe you could moonlight as a journalist for 4x4 magazine?

I am a farmers son, we had 10,000 acre cattle property and know 4x4's well. My dad probably had 20 hilux's over his time and all performed well, but these were paddock bashers built for work and we had allot of Range Rovers as well perhaps 10, for city and highway driving, having a farm and kids at school means allot of driving - 2 different cars built for differing purposes and thats the whole point.

I have an FJ cruiser 2012 model and love it, very capable 4x4 and very smooth in the city - I have no complaints with this vehicle and I think its important to actually drive one or seek comments from someone who owns one. Toyota didn't design this car to be a work horse, why would they that's what the hilux and land cruiser are for, why build another work type vehicle when they have these two mentioned models for farm, trade type work.

This car was designed for the younger demographic, after all why would a 18-35 year old buy a Prado? I resent some of you points of view "And now, well now it's made for soccer mom and warrior dad who can't ride a bike, surf ski, climb a mountain or have fun in the sun without the aid of a silken coated tampon" I ride 100Kms over the weekend, surf skiing is for losers and I have climbed the Matterhorn, Kokoda and Kilimanjaro so that generalisation is just stupid. I have met allot of FJ owners who are very capable, entrepreneurial people. Probably the only people in this age group that can afford one would be self starters.

So in summary why would a farmer buy this car? absolutely no reason. Is it good Toyota is experimenting? Yes. Is this car a hit? Just have a look how many have been sold in the US and Australia to find out - heaps? Do the owners you buy this car like it? Have a look at the forums on the internet, one forum in the US alone cracked a million about 3 years ago.

For someone as seemingly smart as you, you have missed the whole point. Nobody needs another workhorse from Toyota, the need is already filled by Toyota's other models. Just have a look at Mount Isa airport and usually you can count about 2000 Landruisers at any one time.

 

Gulfstream posted a comment   
Australia

I find it funny that people are complaining that it does not have a Diesel. The fuel economy of the V6 in real life use is only 2Lts per 100Klms worse than the 3.0Lt Turbo Diesel found in the Prado and Hilux. Please feel free to check all the complaints about bad fuel economy on the 3.0Lt Turbo Diesel and the Death rattle and what happens when it gets bad fuel plus general servicing costs. Oh and before all the Brain washed Diesel lovers say well what about low down torque? Well the V6 is already producing more Torque just off idle than the maximum torque of the Diesel. The 1GR V6 is an awesome engine. Until Diesel engine manufactures incorporate controlled combustion of its Diesel you are driving an out dated polluting pile of nuts and bolts.

 

Tech_Trainer posted a comment   
Australia

I've had my FJ 2 weeks now and I still have a smile on my face every time I drive it. Having 'upgraded' from a VE SSv ute I thin the FJ is more fun to drive. Can't wait to get out and do some serious off-roading over the Christmas period.

Everyone has their opinion, granted. But for those wanting a 4WD that is a little unique and not as offensive (or impractical) like a H2 then I recommend a drive. You must just like the.... oh, what a feeling....

DragonKing
9
Rating
 

DragonKing posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Excellent Design! Great off road vehicle!!

The Bad:Fuel tank capacity, Small dashboard storage

Easy to drive and comfortable.
Not for everyones like.

danfrogan
8
Rating
 

"an excellent 4WD"

danfrogan posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Has character like the original FJ 40

The Bad:no diesel - small tank

had a drive - excellent off road
windscreen a bit narrow but will get used to it
needs a set of BF Goodrich all terrain
needs a prado turbo diesel motor

 

"no diesel - no toyota"

graypz posted a comment   
Australia

The Good:Looks like a 4 wheel drive not a Wurlitzer

The Bad:no diesel

No diesel is the killer blow to the deal. Looks like we'll be buying a Nissan Patrol again!

 

Toyboy3B posted a reply   
Australia

You'll be in the same boat then because new patrol has no diesel option either.

Toyboy3B
10
Rating
 

"Welldone Toyota"

Toyboy3B posted a review   
Australia

The Good:A genuine offroader that require $40K of ARB rubish to go offroad

The Bad:Boring old farts that spent $40K at ARB whinging about no diesel or manual

It's funy how having a petrol engine and only 2 doors doesn't stop these sad old sods from swearing the original FJ40 was the greatest thing Toyota ever breathed life into.

What we have here (by modern standards anyway) is a genuine attempt at a real offroader, I understand how these boring individuals who read their copy of 4WD monthly, go drop $40k at ARB buy 2 tonnes of bolt on accessories and 5 different radios they don't require to drive down a corrugate track and claim they have built an "ultimate tourer (what ever the hell that sad term is meant to mean)" wouldn't like it, it is a real offroader for real offroading (not driving down a beach or through 8 inches of water).

And as for the pensioners complaining about no manual, get with the times it ain't 1962 hey. A modern auto is a dream to drive. smooth, quite and better economy than the manuals(don't belive me? get your grandkids to check Toyota website for you and then go have a little lie down and mutter to yourself), and guess what? no ongoing clutch failures that have plagued the t/d hilux. And before the geriatrics jump up and down about autos offroad, have a look at the top comp rigs, autos and why? because and auto gives you the ability to produce torque without moving your tires, it give you torque multiplication and they are much easier on your drive train.

Basically if you don't like this thing it's because it's not aimed at you, you are a dull old reader of roothy who thinks offroading is trundling your prado (which now weighs 8 tons thanks to ARB and requires a diesel and a 260 litre tank to get anywhere because of the extra weigh from your 14 radios) down a dirt road that local framers drive commodores down, you wild and crazy off roaders you.

In conclusion, it may not be perfect but well done and a massive pat on the back Toyota for giving it a go, it's so refreshing to see somebody at least try something different these days.

Also they have already sold out the first shipment, so I guess Toyota might know a bit more about designing, building and producing cars than yourself (I know it's hard to believe, I was shocked to discover it too).

 

Toyboy3B posted a reply   
Australia

Oops, My good line should of read.

A genuine offroader that DOESN"T require $40K of ARB rubish to go offroad.

Damn it

MaxIT
2
Rating
 

"Toy-o-ta, what have you done?"

MaxIT posted a review   
Australia

The Good:No applicable subject

The Bad:Looks, mileage, engine options, low power **** roof, price.

: ' [ Why !? Why did Toyota have to make this ugly baby?! (Gasps) I always tell everyone to use the right protection. But this time its not the oil's fault, its the designer's! (Blowing nose) Its like they tried to reincarnate the legend and ended up with a retarded, bucky -nosed donkey. Whhhyyyy?!!!???!?!?

I lost my hope in Coyota. Thats it I am going to hibernate. Yell out when the world recovers after crisis.

redcentre
2
Rating
 

"looks like jank crap"

redcentre posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Nothing

The Bad:No diesel small fuel tank

Toyota this is the worst vehicle you have put on sale
crap crap crap

DanielW6 Facebook
7
Rating
 

"Overall does whats its meant to do, handles well on tar, and crushes most other 4x4z of it"

DanielW6 posted a review   

The Good:wide, short wheel base, looks, great engine and box

The Bad:stock tyres, aerodynamics.

It is I presume you mean Jap, by Jank, not crap but yere unlike most of the others lacking quality, the Fj is made in the Hino truck Factory Japan.
Not like my Thailand made Hilux with the D4D diesel that crapped its self at 90k needing a $5000 injector transplant.

Shes kitted with tjm susp bar snorkle underbody protection and its a very capable rig, wash that red dust out with a hose, and yes, been around plenty of red dust myself, jerry cans on roof, along with several spares.
Ive owned both, this is my 14th 4x4 and its awesome.

 

Motorcity posted a comment   

The Good:Wife liked it

The Bad:No diesel, stock tires, locker only works in low range

High end US is $32-35000, but we have a lot more options. My wife gets 21.6 miles per us gallon at 70 mph, but goes down pretty quickly above those speeds. With a good set of tires it works very well off road.


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User Reviews / Comments  Toyota FJ Cruiser (2011)

  • JayO

    JayO

    "It's not the performance (even though a diesel has won every 24hr Le Mans race since 2006) or fuel efficiency (generally about 20% better than petrol, all things considered) that make a diesel so a..."

  • Gulfstream

    Gulfstream

    "I find it funny that people are complaining that it does not have a Diesel. The fuel economy of the V6 in real life use is only 2Lts per 100Klms worse than the 3.0Lt Turbo Diesel found in the Prad..."

  • Tech_Trainer

    Tech_Trainer

    "I've had my FJ 2 weeks now and I still have a smile on my face every time I drive it. Having 'upgraded' from a VE SSv ute I thin the FJ is more fun to drive. Can't wait to get out and do some ser..."

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