Full 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser Review
What's New for 2013
The 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser gets a new off-road-ready Trail Teams special edition package.
For a brand long known for building cars that put practicality and reliability before "hey-look-at-me" styling, the 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser is a bit of an outlier.
While this midsize SUV shares much of Toyota's core dependability DNA, its rugged looks make it stand out anywhere it goes. The FJ's traditional body-on-frame design and excellent off-road capability also go against the recent trend toward building car-based crossover SUVs. But even if it's an outlier, the FJ Cruiser has a lot going for it.
On the road its strong V6 engine, responsive steering and reasonably comfortable ride quality make it a lot less truckish than you might expect -- and more fun than the average Toyota as well. Off the pavement is where the FJ Cruiser really shines, however, thanks to its high ground clearance, generous approach/departure angles and serious four-wheel-drive hardware including low-range gearing and a locking rear differential.
The FJ Cruiser's quirky design saddles it with several inherent weaknesses, though, including the short windows and thick roof pillars that create blind spots large enough to make negotiating tight urban environments a little dicey. The rear half-doors also make getting in and out of the backseat a hassle.
That said, we still are fond of the unapologetic FJ. Its main competitor, the 2013 Jeep Wrangler, is even less refined for everyday driving, though it does provide superior off-road capability and greater opportunities for aftermarket modifications. The Nissan Xterra takes the opposite approach, offering more livable qualities like four real doors and better visibility. As such, the FJ Cruiser represents the middle-ground choice for a rugged SUV that's happy to spend a lot of time in the dirt.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser is a five-passenger SUV with two regular front doors and two half-sized rear-hinged doors.
There is only one trim level and it comes standard with 17-inch black-painted steel wheels, an electronically controlled locking rear differential (manual transmission 4WD only), full power accessories, air-conditioning, an eight-way manually adjustable driver seat, a 60/40 split-folding rear seat, a tilt-only steering wheel, water-resistant cloth upholstery, heavy-duty vinyl flooring, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
There are a number of option packages available. The Convenience package adds rear privacy glass, a rear wiper, a spare tire cover, keyless entry, cruise control, a rearview camera and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The Upgrade package adds 17-inch alloy wheels, an upgraded traction control system on four-wheel-drive models, rear parking sensors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, extra gauges and trip computer functions, and an 11-speaker JBL sound system with a six-CD changer. The Off-Road package adds Bilstein shock absorbers, the locking rear differential, an upgraded traction-control system and extra gauges. The TRD package adds special 16-inch alloy wheels, BFGoodrich off-road tires and different Bilstein shock absorbers.
The Trail Teams Special Edition bundles unique gray exterior paint, special interior trim, 16-inch alloy wheels and off-road tires, an upgraded suspension, an electronically controlled locking rear differential, a large roof rack, rock rails and most of the content from the Convenience and Upgrade packages.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser is powered by a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 260 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque.
A five-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive and a limited-slip differential are standard. There are also two different four-wheel-drive systems available, including a part-time system that comes mated to the five-speed automatic transmission and a full-time system fitted with a six-speed manual and a locking rear differential.
EPA-estimated fuel economy for the two-wheel-drive model is 16 mpg city/20 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined -- not great, but typical for off-road SUVs. With four-wheel drive, those numbers are 17/20/18 with the automatic and 15/18/16 with the manual.
Standard safety features on the 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and active front head restraints. In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the FJ Cruiser received the top rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset and side-impact tests, but a second-best rating of "Acceptable" in the roof strength test.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser sports a no-frills interior with dash panels color-matched to the outside body color. Controls are well placed and easy to use, though some buttons and knobs are so big they look a little silly. Front seats offer good comfort and the water-repellent upholstery and rubber floor covering are built to take abuse.
The bad news here is that the wide rear roof pillars and outside-mounted spare tire create enormous blind spots and diminished rear visibility. Even the view forward isn't that great because of the high dash and hood. You may look good in the FJ, but seeing other people is a bit of a problem.
The rear seat has its own problems, starting with the rear-hinged back doors. Like those on extended-cab pickups, they require you to open the front doors every time someone gets in or out of the backseat. You'll also find getting into the second row requires a bit of a climb and, once you're in, the accommodations are fairly tight. Folding down both sections of that 60/40-split rear seat creates a cargo hold with a healthy 67 cubic feet of space. That's about the same as in a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4.
On the road, the 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser performs surprisingly well for a vehicle with such an off-road slant. The V6 engine offers plenty of grunt, while the suspension tuning and precise steering feel put the Jeep Wrangler to shame. Again, the limited visibility all around is a distinct negative in about any situation you can name. The robust-looking exterior also creates a fair amount of wind noise at highway speeds.
Leave the pavement behind and the FJ Cruiser is in its element. The combination of ample ground clearance, excellent approach and departure angles, ample wheel travel, low-range gearing and the available locking rear differential gives it the ability to tackle rugged trails with ease.