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FJ Cruiser Review - Worth the cost?

Updated on December 14, 2013
FJ Cruiser
FJ Cruiser | Source

A look at the beast


It was nearly one year ago that I purchased my black 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser—used, and with a upward rounding of 40 thousand miles already on her. Now, after another 15 thousand or so miles, she’s running just like the day I rolled out of the lot. Needless to say, I’m impressed not only with the utility and aesthetic appeal of this newly engineered retro SUV, but also with Toyota’s continued production of high quality machinery. The body’s sleek hummer-jeep fusion represents, to me, something that will help steer the future of terrain-handing SUV’s for years to come, and no matter what it’s used for; off-roading, highway travel, home to work, or even the occasion shopping venture, there is always a well deserved place for this vehicle.

I was happy with it when I bought it, happy with it a month later, and happy with it to this day! So, without adieu, here are some of my favorite things about the FJ Cruiser.

Body – 10/10

As stated above, the build of this relatively new vehicle is certainly something worth remarking about. It’s a well-crafted mix of attractive compaction and well warranted utility. Even it’s roof rack serves not just as an effective way to move god knows what, but also as a way in which to add a little rugged flair to the entirety of the look. Combine that with the rearward opening suicide doors in the back, and you’re bound to impress someone! The rest is outfitted with the ever-familiar Toyota masculinity commonly associated with most of their newer SUV models. (See the 4runner for example). Overall, it’s one of the most attractive vehicles on the market. I bought one for God’s sake!


Interior - 9/10

Just like the exterior, the inner workings of this machine are designed with taste. It would be a lie to say I’m anything but obsessed with the overall ingenuity of the layout. Every time people hop in for a ride, they go through a series of what are now predictable observations of surprise. Comments are reliably made on things like the tank-like feel to the drive, the three-dial spy-like device including an inclinator, and the three awkward yet entertaining front windshield wipers that clear the visor-like shield which, in itself, perfectly impacts with various airborne insects to make the most magnificent display of spatterings only a few feet from one’s face. It’s riveting, actually.

In all seriousness; however, I find the interior very appealing and unique. There is only one evident draw back I have identified. This is the blind spots. The back windshield is even thinner than the front and is already partially obstructed by the spare tire mounted to the rear, and there are only two small porthole windows (similar to those you’d find on a commercial airplane) present in the entire back half of the FJ. You might as well forget about turning your head to look at the back. I have overcome this by learning to use the side mirrors, which are adequately large and suited for the job, but it took some getting used to. Advice: If you’re going to allow someone who hasn’t yet driven an FJ to get behind the wheel, have them learn the ropes in an area without a lot of traffic. Trust me on that.

Tech – 9/10

There are a good variety of technological tools at your disposal here, especially for media. For your phone or iPod, you can connect through Bluetooth, through auxiliary, or even USB! The latter is particularly nice for long trips (your phone will charge as you travel). Then; the sound system, although not perfect, is surprisingly competent, the steering wheel is equipped with hand’s free calling and media control options, and your overhead mirror functions as a display screen when you shift into reverse--this itself is a godsend for parallel parking. And to add even more to the mix, there is more than enough room in the very back to store most anything. The back seats conveniently fold down to facilitate a large bed capable of carrying things most other vehicles cannot manage.


The Manly Stuff – 10/10

This is where the FJ really shines. And that’s saying something considering all the high praise I’ve already granted this vehicle. I’ll tell a little story for this one!

Over the last few summer months, I had a strong interest in getting outdoors and experimenting with new toy. On one certain occasion, I found myself cruising a Montana back road nearby one of the area’s wider rivers, and I unexpectedly got myself lost and without a clear direction in which to head. I travelled upriver along the waters edge until I reached a patch of thick mud/sand and for whatever reason decided it was a reasonable move to charge right through it. Admittedly, that was a mistake, and my vehicle got stuck right in the middle of the muck, surrounded in all directions by the stuff in a radius of probably 50 yards. We sat there for a good 20 minutes not having a goddamn clue what to do (my own incompetence), while three more vehicles, previously behind us, pursued the same path I had just attempted. Their results were similar, and pretty soon all 4 cars; a newer Silverado pickup, the FJ, another smaller pickup, and believe it or not, an old 80’s Camaro, were stuck.

I Pulled out my owners manual, figured out the workings of the rear-wheel differential, which transfers power to other wheels if one isn’t getting any traction (another godsend), got her into 4WD, and drove right out of there while the other’s spun hopelessly. One by one, with the use of a large chain, I, and eventually the Silverado, pulled the other vehicles all the way back to pre-mud path. And if that isn’t an automobile love story, then I don’t know what is! This car was built to perform, and perform it did. Get the right tires, and the damned thing will drive through mud, sand, snow, ice, and probably even through the dignity of those supped-up pickup owners that still can’t follow you through those rough spots. (Disclaimer: snow driving can still be a little difficult considering this monster even heavier than the newer 4runners I already mentioned). Point is, if you want to go places, this could very well be the car for you.

Practicality – 7/10

Yeah, what can I say. It’s not a perfect world. Despite all these wonderful attributes, it comes with a price. The vehicle itself is a bit pricey, sometimes approaching the range of a hefty 40k, and the gas mileage isn’t anything spectacular either. It will get around 16 mpg on the highway, and perhaps only 11-12 off-road. Couple that with the vehicle’s unfortunately small gas tank and you’re set to have more painful trips to the gas station that you may be comfortable with. I am extremely happy with the vehicle as a whole, but the FJ in the car world is like the Mac in the world of computers. It’s impressive and powerful but you’d better have some deep pockets if you want to thoroughly enjoy what you buy. Remember, there are other nearly as capable vehicles out there that you could get for a lesser price (I’d point to jeeps, etc.)

Nonetheless, I have had no mechanical problems and feel proud of this soldier whenever I turn the key. I highly recommend this vehicle for the outdoors explorer who has a taste for the occasional bit of badassery.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ve found this review in some way useful.

Don’t forget to live with a little fun! After all, if something you do increases your heart rate, it’s probably worth doing… But I digress.



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