2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on July 05, 2012

Published on July 05, 2012

FJ looks especially cool in Trail Teams Special Edition trim. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 05, 2012

Published on July 05, 2012

Published on July 05, 2012

The FJ drives well on road or off. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 05, 2012

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Gotta love the matte black rims and all-terrain tires. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 05, 2012

Published on July 05, 2012

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Published on July 05, 2012

Off-road driving lights look nice with FJ covers. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 05, 2012

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Heavy duty roof rack can stow a lot of camp gear. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 05, 2012

Published on July 05, 2012

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Two-tone colour scheme looks fabulous! (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 05, 2012

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FJ interior details are really nice. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 05, 2012

Tiny rearview camera is useful when it's dry. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 05, 2012

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Clam shell doors are a pain at times, but FJ interior is roomy enough for smaller families. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on July 05, 2012

Published on July 05, 2012

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Published on July 05, 2012

Published on July 05, 2012

After years of off-roading there's one thing I want more than engine output, maneuverability, or even ground clearance: fuel economy. I'm not a competitive off-roader so driving quickly up and over hills or through swamps and bogs isn't for me. I'd rather take my time crawling slowly over rocky crags and trudging through deep mucky puddles, enjoying every carefully trodden mile and eking out as much from each tank of fuel as possible so I can delve deeper and deeper into yet more uninhabited wilderness. It's just my thing. Of course, good fuel economy pays off day in and day out too.

When the FJ Cruiser was introduced in 2006, fuel economy wasn't a big issue. Certainly we were all cognizant of pump prices and the environment, but nothing like we are today on either account. I attended the Canadian launch program in and around Ottawa, where, after a day's drive through the countryside that included a particularly fun afternoon of getting our testers all muddied up in a cordoned off gravel pit, all I could do was gush about the talented SUV's fabulous off-road capability, comfortable ride, decent on-road handling, good build quality and cool retro styling. Of course, the gasoline powering that FJ Cruiser was paid for by Toyota, not yours truly, so why should I complain. What about this most recent 2012 FJ tester?

Let's just say it might not be the best choice for everyday commuting if you're on a tight budget. Its Canadian rating is estimated at 13.6 L/100km city and 10.2 highway in base 6-speed manual trim or 12.4 city and 9.5 highway with the 5-speed automatic, the latter definitely the way to go and fortunately the way Toyota equipped my tester. Hmmm… my results weren't that good. Just for curiosity I checked the FJ's U.S. EPA mileage as that rating system is considered more realistic than ours, and found the following numbers (converted to metric for your convenience): 15.7 city and 13 highway for the manual or 13.8 and 11.7 for the automatic. Now that's a lot closer to the 13 L/100km average I experienced in my weeklong test. Deplorable? No. But if there was ever a prime candidate for a turbo-diesel re and re in Toyota's lineup, this is it.

Other than a thirst for regular unleaded, I couldn't have complained about Toyota's choice for a powerplant. The 4.0-litre V6 is energetic enough at 260 horsepower and its 271 lb-ft of torque gets it going from standstill with gusto, while overall it's smooth and refined. The automatic tranny could use an extra forward gear, which would likely improve its highway mileage, but it's a good strong transmission and like the engine, smooth and refined.

As mentioned, I've off-road tested the FJ before and come away grinning like a school kid. It's not just good off the beaten path, it's extremely good. And while you'd think I'd be satiated (if that's ever possible when it comes to 4x4s), the ultra-cool Trail Teams Special Edition that Toyota provided had me salivating at the thought of hitting the mud on an especially wet West Coast weekend. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) I'd spent the week driving a new 2013 Porsche Boxster from the fabulous Bear Mountain Westin Resort just outside of Victoria, BC to the beautiful Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, and then back again, and then once back home again I was immediately consumed by the first of my son's postseason Little League baseball tournaments that had me using the FJ as more of a glorified shuttle bus than anything close to what it was designed for.

Fortunately the FJ's ride is pleasantly comfortable and that Trail Teams Special Edition is very well equipped, not to mention so awesome looking it had all the kids on the team wooing at its lipstick red paint and matte black grille, bumpers, door handles and mirrors. Yah, it's hot! Especially the go-anywhere all-terrain tires on matte black 16-inch rims with red TRD caps, and the matte black roof rack with "FJ" emblazoned off-road driving lights atop. Just don't drive through any shopping mall parking garages or you'll lose all that stunning looking hardware along with your ego. Additionally, the Trail Teams Special Edition gets a black air dam up front and off-road rock rails down each side to protect the lower bodywork, while the cabin boasts a colour-tuned motif to match the monotone exterior paint scheme.

Yah, the Trail Teams Special Edition might look cooler inside than it does from the exterior. Body-colour insets garnish each door panel as well as the dash surface around the audio system, while the leather steering wheel is two-tone body-colour and black, too. Ditto for the seats, albeit in a nice heavy-duty woven water-repellent cloth.

The all-weather floor mats are rubber and look up to the task of Canadian winters (or Canadian summers on the Wet Coast), while the floor and cargo area is covered in the same durable material. Other standard FJ equipment includes air conditioning as part of a manual HVAC system that features nice beefy well-made dials, plus AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with an upscale looking interface and decent sound. Bluetooth phone connectivity comes standard in the FJ too, plus all the usual powered convenience features.

The Trail Teams Special Edition also includes everything from the optional Off-Road Package, which incidentally adds one of my favourite FJ features, a dash-top multi-information gauge package with a digital outside temperature display surrounded by an ultra-cool floating ball compass and even sweeter inclinometer. This is worth the price of admission, although the package also adds Bilstein shocks and the aforementioned roof rack, as well as keyless entry, powered mirrors with lamps, cruise control, a folding passenger armrest, rear privacy glass, a cargo mat, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with the world's tiniest back-up camera. It may be small, but it was quite clear when conditions were dry. In the wet, even a few drops on the camera lens made it less useful.

The FJ utilizes the same clamshell rear doors that I find annoying in the Tacoma Double Cab it's based on, which means if you're picking someone up who needs to get in back you or your front passenger will need to unbuckle the seatbelt and open a front door before the rear door can be opened. Second row seating is tight on legroom, but with 60/40 split-folding seatbacks it makes for a sizeable cargo area maxxing out at 1,891 litres (66.8 cubic feet) when folded flat. Behind the rear seatbacks there's still 790 litres (27.9 cubic feet), so you'll probably only need to drop the seats for longer items. The FJ's payload is 558 kilos (1,230 lbs) and towing capacity good for up to 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs), so light to medium sized trailers are no problem.

So what's my verdict? After almost six years I still love the FJ Cruiser and am even more smitten with this new Trail Teams Special Edition. The FJ is a fabulous SUV on and off the road, with as much character as a Jeep Wrangler and a lot better expected reliability. If Toyota could only improve the fuel economy it'd be near perfect.

The 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser starts at $34,285 including destination, with the Trail Teams Special Edition starting at $42,555.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: SUV, Toyota, 2012, FJ Cruiser, $30,000 - $39,999,

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