With the end of the Toyota FJ Land Cruiser upon us it's a good time to reflect on a brand from Toyota with Global reach but waning distribution in North American for years. The Land Cruiser made a comeback in 2006 (after ending in a shadow of itself leaving the Lexus mall cruiser in its place) as the retro looking FJ Cruiser sporting a 4.0L engine an active 4 wheel drive system selectable lockers and many more trail worthy additions. The one in this article is the last of its breed in North America but the understanding is it will continue to be offered in other markets, The 2014 Trail edition seen here is the last review of this Unique Toyota model.
I had the pleasure of meeting the design team back in 2006 when the FJ Cruiser was introduced to us at an Ottawa Canada press event. I even have an FJ Cruiser model signed by the Chief engineer who came over for the launch himself. We turned him into a rock star when the first writer asked him to sign the cars they gave us as gifts and we all lined up for the same thing.
I've had the opportunity to drive a few of the FJs over their production years and I can say I've had a love hate relationship with them. I love the fact Toyota brought something interesting to the table as I typically find their cars good but not very exciting. It was a bold statement back in 2006 at how large and global Toyota had become as one of the largest automakers in the world, however like every other "retro" model that was super cool not 10 years ago (flashed off by the Prowler in 1997 and the PT Cruiser in 2001) The FJ Cruiser has somewhat run its course.
It had a bold look but no removable top, a great 4x4 system, but so many traction nannies it was impossible to have fun drifting gravel corners without every traction light coming on, on the dash. Had better access to the back with the mini third door but portholes for rear windows making it near impossible to see anything behind the driver's door windows. A competent V6, but loaded up felt underpowered for a large rig and required premium fuel to run, you get the idea. However, if you like the Toyota Brand it did have a lot to offer for off-road performance, big tires, and that active 4x4 system with real locking differentials and solid toyota reliability (A business associate had over 400,000kms on his).
Not much has changed over its production run, from the outside, still a 4.0L V6, still either a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic gear box, still the same low range ratio in the transfer case but lovable in all its own quirkiness just like any other niche vehicle. So farewell FJ Cruiser, you brought a little fun to an otherwise somewhat bland brand for me.(click images below for larger pictures)