Full 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser Review
What's New for 2009
The 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser gets new safety features. Roll-sensing side curtain airbags have been added, and front-seat active headrests are now standard. Finally, the FJ Cruiser's optional convenience package now includes a rear back-up camera and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
"Back in my day, SUVs were for one thing and one thing only: kickin' up a ruckus off-road!" Somewhere, a wizened grandfather may be telling this to his rosy-cheeked grandkid, and it wouldn't be an exaggeration. For the most part, today's crossover SUVs are unapologetic city dwellers, groomed for comfort and convenience. Most of us have forgotten that there was a time when these vehicles were masters of the trail, born to subdue mountains and slice streams without missing a step.
The 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser is, quite literally, a throwback to these earliest models. It's a modern-day version of the storied "FJ" series of Toyota's Land Cruiser, a line that was known for its indomitable ruggedness and durability. Endowed with a torquey V6, robust underpinnings and ample ground clearance, the FJ Cruiser shines when taken off the beaten path. Its heritage is also reflected in its sheet metal -- its squared lines and close-set headlights hark back to the era of the original FJ.
Around town, this Toyota is reasonably maneuverable, but it comes with a couple of design cues that compromise its appeal as a suburban runabout. Its humongous rear roof pillars and high hood line hinder outward visibility, and its access-style rear doors make getting into the second row a chore. For these reasons, the Nissan Xterra is a better choice for those seeking an off-roader with maximum daily versatility. But the FJ is a lot of fun to drive and own, and will likely satisfy those craving a vehicle with the boulder-crawling spirit of the earliest SUVs.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser is a midsize SUV with four doors. Front doors are standard-sized, but the rear doors are smaller and open outward from the C-pillar. A single trim level is offered, and its list of standard features includes snazzy two-tone exterior paint, air-conditioning, 17-inch black steel wheels, a six-speaker CD/MP3 stereo, power windows and locks, and eight-way manual adjustment for the driver seat.
Options include a Convenience package that offers keyless entry, power side mirrors, cruise control, rear privacy glass, an auto-dimming rear mirror and a rearview camera. Two "Upgrade" packages bring with them features such as alloy wheels, a locking rear differential, a premium audio system with a six-CD changer, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, active traction control (4WD models only), rear park assist and an information display that includes a compass and an inclinometer. The All Terrain package includes special 16-inch alloy wheels, all-terrain tires, performance shock absorbers and a specialized engine air filter.
Powertrains and Performance
Pop the hood of the 2009 FJ Cruiser and you'll find a 4.0-liter V6 good for 239 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. Both a five-speed automatic and a six-speed manual transmission are offered. FJs with manual transmissions are only available with a full-time 4WD system; models with automatic transmissions come with either two-wheel drive or a part-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 -- 16 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined in 4WD models with automatic transmissions.
Standard safety features include stability control, traction control, antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags and rollover-sensing side curtain airbags. In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, the 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser earned a top five-star rating for driver safety in head-on collisions, while front passenger protection rated four stars. In side impact testing, front and rear passenger protection received five stars. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives the FJ its top score of "Good" for the vehicle's protection of occupants in frontal offset and side impact collisions.
Interior Design and Special Features
The FJ's dash features retro themes and is color-keyed to match the exterior. For the most part, the controls are well-placed and easy to find. The front seats are comfortable, but the rear compartment is a tight fit and requires a high step up for entry.
The rear access doors are like a pickup's in that they open rearward. Though this setup means that a wide portal is created when the doors are opened, it ultimately proves to be a bit inconvenient; the rear doors don't open unless the front doors are also opened, and can be difficult to close if you're seated in back. As a result, the FJ isn't the best choice if you're looking for a kid-friendly hauler. With the rear seats folded, 67 cubic feet of cargo space is created.
Wide C-pillars, small rear windows and a tailgate-mounted spare tire all contribute to poor rear visibility. Front visibility is also less than optimal, thanks to the FJ's high hood line. As a result, parking maneuvers can be challenging; it can also be tricky to spot obstacles when traveling off-road.
The 2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser is in its element off-road. Thanks to its supple suspension articulation, it crawls over boulders, tree roots and most other obstacles with the greatest of ease. It's better than most customers would expect on pavement, with precise steering and a smooth ride. The automatic transmission delivers smooth shifts, and the V6 manages brisk acceleration. The FJ's boxy lines result in noticeable wind noise on the highway.
Read our Toyota FJ Cruiser Long-Term 20,000-Mile Test