Full 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser Review
What's New for 2008
An all-new model last year, the Toyota FJ Cruiser rolls into 2008 with minimal changes. Last year's optional side and side-curtain airbags are now standard. The TRD Special Edition model is no more, but much of its additional equipment is now contained in a new off-road package.
In the science fiction TV show Stargate SG-1, a small U.S. Air Force military team uses an ancient alien device to travel to other worlds. The team's adventures typically entail going to other planets, shooting guns, speaking to inhabitants who strangely speak English and saving Earth from otherwise certain destruction. All good stuff, really. But here in the real world, we don't have a Stargate or even Richard Dean Anderson at the ready to reach faraway places for adventure. What we do have is the 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser.
Now in its second year, the FJ Cruiser is the modern reincarnation of the legendary "FJ" series of Toyota's Land Cruiser. The old FJ 4x4 was known for its rugged capabilities and durability and has become a very popular classic SUV. Stylistically, the FJ Cruiser pays homage to the old model via a squared-off stance, close-set round headlights, a retro-look Toyota grille badge and an offset rear license plate. It's a look that screams "I'm ready to go rhinoceros hunting," or if you're a Stargate fan, "I'm ready to scale the mighty dunes of Abydos!"
Though carlike crossovers are increasingly popular with consumers, the FJ maintains the SUV tradition of truck-based heritage and true off-road ability. It's related to the Tacoma pickup, and relatively compact dimensions, a torquey V6 engine, stout underpinnings and plenty of ground clearance and wheel travel allow the FJ to be one of the best off-roading rigs you can drive off the showroom floor. Yet it is surprisingly maneuverable around town on wild adventures to Best Buy.
This dedication to off-road performance and style does come at the expense of some utility. The vehicle's outward visibility is poor even by SUV standards, and its rearward-opening doors aren't as convenient as one might think. As such, you might find the FJ's main competitors, the Hummer H3, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and Nissan Xterra to be a little better in terms of daily-use versatility. But the FJ's faults are pretty easy to overlook given how enjoyable it is to drive and own. For an adventure vehicle, it doesn't get much better than the 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser -- unless of course, you have access to a Stargate.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser midsize SUV comes in one body style, essentially a two-door SUV with a pair of smaller, reverse-opening doors behind the standard front ones. There is a single trim level that comes with 17-inch black steel wheels, a two-tone exterior paint scheme, air-conditioning, a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo, power windows and locks, eight-way manual adjustment for the driver seat and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Options include a convenience package that includes keyless entry, power side mirrors, cruise control, rear privacy glass and rear park assist. There are also two "Upgrade" packages that add features such as alloy wheels, a locking rear differential, an upgraded audio system with a six-CD changer and steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a 115-volt power outlet, active traction control (4WD models only) and an information display that includes a compass and inclinometer. A Garmin portable navigation system that mounts above the gauges is now available. This year's new All-Terrain package includes special 16-inch wheels and all-terrain tires, Bilstein shock absorbers, an additional engine air filter and a locking rear differential that's optimized with the stability control system for better rock-crawling performance.
Powertrains and Performance
Powering all 2008 FJ Cruisers is Toyota's refined workhorse 4.0-liter V6. In this application, it makes 239 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. FJ Cruiser buyers can choose between a five-speed automatic and a six-speed manual transmission. Most automatic-equipped FJs will come with a part-time four-wheel-drive system, though Toyota also has a two-wheel-drive version available. Vehicles equipped with the manual have a full-time 4WD system. In our testing, a 4WD automatic FJ Cruiser went from zero to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds. Towing capacity, at 5,000 pounds when properly equipped, is about average, as is fuel economy. A 2008 FJ Cruiser automatic has a 16 mpg city/20 mpg highway rating.
Stability control, traction control, antilock disc brakes, front seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags are all standard. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, the 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser earned a top five-star rating for driver safety in head-on collisions. Front passenger protection rated four stars. For the side-impact test, front and rear passenger protection received five stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the FJ a top score of "Good" for its protection of occupants in frontal-offset and side-impact collisions.
Interior Design and Special Features
The FJ's retro-looking dash is color-keyed to the exterior, and most of the controls are straightforward and functional. Seating in front is very comfortable, but getting into the rather cramped rear compartment requires a high step up and a contortionist dance, even with the rear doors open.
Those rear access doors open up a big portal, but in actuality they're not particularly convenient. The front doors must be opened first to get the rears open, and the rears can be hard for people seated in the rear to close. As a children-schlepping vehicle, an FJ isn't the best choice. Flipping that split rear seat down results in 66.8 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity. Unfortunately, rear visibility is tanklike because of the wide C-pillars, tiny rear side windows and tailgate-mounted spare tire. Front visibility also takes a hit due to the high hood line, making both parking maneuvers and off-road obstacle-spotting a bit tricky.
The 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser simply rocks off-road. Its supple suspension articulation enables it to clamber over boulders, tree roots and most anything else. On pavement, the FJ handles better than you might expect. The steering is precise and the ride is smooth over most types of pavement. At the same time, the V6 engine is able to get the FJ up to speed in quick fashion, and the automatic transmission shifts smoothly and accurately. Wind noise on the highway is often noticeable due to the vehicle's blocky exterior shape.
Read our Toyota FJ Cruiser Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test