Full 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser Review
What's New for 2011
For 2011, the Toyota FJ Cruiser receives minor equipment changes, including upgraded standard audio system and better access to the rear seat, plus folding headrests for rear seat passengers. The Trail Teams Special Edition debuts later in the year, complete with Army Green paint, fortified underpinnings and water-resistant seats and floors.
No doubt influenced by its forebears, the 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser nods to the old school, with its boxy shape and narrow-set headlights inspired by the design cues of the original, iconic FJ40 that came to America in the 1960s. And just like the old FJ, it is as tough and agile as a mountain goat thanks to a robust engine, a rugged chassis and a nimble off-road nature.
The FJ Cruiser hasn't changed much since its introduction four years ago. Of course, this means that its strengths and weaknesses haven't changed, either. While it offers reasonable maneuverability and comfort on either blacktop or dirt, the FJ's thick roof pillars and high hood line compromise visibility. Rear-seat ingress and egress is also awkward. Despite the increased folding angle for the front passenger seat in this year's model, climbing (key word) into the back is still hampered by small rear-access doors and a high step-in height. Well, this is a vehicle for sport, not limousine duty.
As midsize SUVs go, the 2011 FJ Cruiser has formidable competition. The 2011 Nissan Xterra has four conventional doors, so it's a better choice for those who want a capable off-roader with maximum daily versatility. And there's always the venerable 2011 Jeep Wrangler. Although not as refined or powerful as the FJ, it has four real doors (in the Unlimited model) and about the best off-road ability of anything with four wheels. That said, the 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser is still a serious piece of off-road kit and should satisfy anyone who wants a rugged rig with the boulder-crawling spirit.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser is a midsize SUV with standard-size front doors and smaller, rear-hinge half doors. It's offered in a single trim level with a list of standard features that includes 17-inch steel wheels, two-tone exterior paint, air-conditioning, power windows and locks, eight-way manual adjustment for the driver seat and a six-speaker audio system with CD/MP3 player, satellite radio, Bluetooth, auxiliary/USB jacks, iPod integration and steering-wheel-mounted controls.
Options include a Convenience package that offers keyless entry, power side mirrors, cruise control, rear privacy glass, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a rearview camera. The TRD package includes 16-inch alloy wheels, all-terrain tires and off-road-biased suspension tuning. The Upgrade Package #2 (oddly, there is no #1) features 17-inch cast-aluminum wheels, a full-size spare tire (with matching wheel), active traction control (4WD), a locking rear differential, rear park assist, a 120-volt AC outlet, an upgraded 11-speaker JBL audio system with six-CD changer, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, silver-tone cabin accents and additional gauges including an inclinometer and compass.
The All Terrain package (available on 4WD models) includes Bilstein shocks, a locking rear differential, active traction control and the additional gauges of the Upgrade package. The Trail Teams Special Edition will debut later in the model year and offer Army Green paint, black bumpers/grille/mirrors, water-resistant seats and floors, the features of the TRD and All Terrain packages, skid plates, rock rails, rearview camera, multiple power outlets and the JBL sound system.
Powertrains and Performance
Beneath the hood of the 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser is a 4.0-liter V6 good for 260 horsepower and 271 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 four-wheel-drive system; models with automatic transmissions come with either two-wheel drive or a part-time 4WD system.
Towing capacity, at 5,000 pounds when properly equipped, is about average. Fuel economy ratings stand at 17 mpg city/21 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined for the 4WD with the automatic transmission. The 4WD with the manual gearbox drops to 15/19/17, while the 2WD is 17/22/19.
Standard safety features include stability control, traction control, antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags and rollover-sensing side curtain airbags. In Edmunds testing, the Toyota FJ Cruiser came to a stop from 60 mph in 123 feet -- very good performance for an off-road SUV.
The Toyota FJ Cruiser has not been rated using the government's new, more strenuous 2011 crash-testing procedures. Its 2010 ratings, however, (which aren't comparable to the new methodology) were 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 gave the FJ its top score of "Good" for the vehicle's protection of occupants in frontal-offset and side-impact collisions. The roof strength test resulted in a second-best score of "Average."
Interior Design and Special Features
The FJ's retro-themed dash is color-keyed to match the exterior. Controls are placed within easy reach and are easy to find. The front seats are comfortable, but the rear compartment is a tight fit and requires a high step-up for entry. Wide roof pillars, small rear windows and a tailgate-mounted spare tire all contribute to poor rearward visibility. Front visibility is also less than optimal due to the FJ's high hood line.
The rear-access doors, like those on most extended-cab pickups, open rearward. Though this configuration offers a wide portal with both front and rear doors open, it's tiresome if you're frequently carting rear passengers, as the rear doors won't open with the front doors closed. This is a vehicle for sport, not for kids. With the rear seats folded, 67 cubic feet of cargo space is created.
The 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser is in its element when off-road. With ample suspension articulation, it crawls over boulders, ruts and most other obstacles with ease. The FJ is also surprisingly good on pavement, offering precise steering and a smooth ride. But the boxy shape creates noticeable wind noise at highway speeds, and poor outward visibility can make parking or identifying off-road obstacles difficult. Acceleration from the V6 engine is brisk, particularly at low- and midrange speeds. Notably, the FJ does not require premium fuel.