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2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser: Rugged And Retro

Topics:  Toyota FJ Cruiser, autoMedia.com

2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser: Rugged And Retro

James Flammang
15 September 2009

Not intended for the timid or those who prefer not to be noticed, Toyota's FJ Cruiser flaunts its potential capabilities like a gladiator brandishing his sword. Not unlike Hummers and Land Rovers, the FJ boasts of its prowess by the way it looks, even when standing still.

Power comes from a 4.0-liter, 60-degree V-6, similar to the one used in Tacoma and Tundra pickups, as well as Toyota's 4Runner SUV. Running on premium-grade (91-octane) gasoline, the V-6 develops 239 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. An FJ can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Toyota's five-speed automatic transmission incorporates "artificial intelligence," along with "uphill/downhill shift logic." A six-speed manual gearbox, shared with the Tacoma pickup, is available only with four-wheel drive. With manual shift, a Clutch Start cancel switch for off-roading lets you take off without pushing the clutch in.

Two distinct 4WD systems are available. Both incorporate low-range gearing for off-road duties, but only the full-time system offered with manual-shift models can be left engaged on dry pavement. A locking rear differential is available.

Compared against most competitors, this particular SUV is the real deal, according to Toyota. An FJ is "not for poseurs," said truck planning manager Mark Amstock at an early media presentation for the vehicle. Rather, it's "for serious off-roading enthusiasts."

Even so, anyone expecting a harsh, lumpy ride and ponderous handling under civilized conditions is in for a pleasant surprise. Defying appearances, the FJ Cruiser steers, handles and rides on the highway far better than one might expect from such an off-road capable SUV. Steering feel is quite refined, and the FJ doesn't come across as especially stiff at all.

Easy to control when off-road, the FJ Cruiser copes capably with a variety of obstacles, approaching or even matching the talents of Jeep models in challenging terrain. Steering feel is quite refined, and the FJ doesn't feel especially stiff.

A loose-action manual shift lever allows snappy gear changes, and the richness of the exhaust note complements this vehicle's talents. Automatic-transmission models are capable and well behaved, on- or off-road, but lack of a manual gearbox detracts a bit from the sensation of unfettered toughness.

Climbing inside is the first challenge. Once there, the front seats are sufficiently cushioned with molded contours, not uncomfortable for off-/on-road tasks. Squeezing into the backseat is more of a chore.

Though the upright dashboard is somewhat stark and plain, exhibiting what might be called an "industrial look," it's not really like the basic one used in those early FJ40s. Extra gauges are available, including a compass that sits atop the dashboard. Front seats are sufficiently cushioned, though occupants may feel somewhat cozy inside the cockpit, especially if all five spots are filled.

A rear-drive FJ Cruiser lists for $24,120 (including destination). With 4WD, sticker prices are $25,300 with manual shift or $26,710 with an automatic transmission. Running boards are optional. An inclinometer, to indicate how far the vehicle is leaning during off-road excursions, is part of an upgrade option package.

Standard safety features include anti-lock brakes, front seat-mounted airbags, curtain side airbags, and an antiskid system. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 4WD fuel economy at 14 mpg city/19 mpg highway with manual shift, or 16/20 mpg with automatic. With two-wheel drive, the EPA estimate rises to 17/21 mpg.

FJs are aimed at customers whose "preferred activity" is off-roading. At least two-thirds of them are likely to be male, and many look forward to personalizing the vehicle. Practical features include easy-to-clean rubberized flooring.

autoMedia.com, with their team of automotive experts, has been providing auto shoppers, car enthusiasts and do-it-yourselfers automotive advice they can trust for over 10 years. Enjoy reading more of their popular car reviews and road tests plus learn more about the 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser, including the latest pricing, rebates and incentives, safety features, photo galleries and more, along with details on all Toyota Models.

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