Full 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Review
What's New for 2014
This is the last year of production for the Toyota FJ Cruiser. To mark its retirement, Toyota is offering a special Ultimate Edition of the off-road-themed Trail Teams package. Only 2,500 will be built, and all will have a Heritage Blue paint job with a color-matched roof. Functional hardware on the 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Trail Teams Ultimate Edition includes an upgraded TRD-tuned suspension, 16-inch bead-lock wheels, all-terrain tires and a thicker front skid plate. In addition, most of the items in the Convenience and Upgrade packages are standard on this model. Otherwise, the FJ Cruiser is unchanged.
Given Toyota's reputation for play-it-safe vehicle designs, the funky FJ Cruiser stands out. Even in the eighth year since its introduction, it still looks whimsical and retro, a throwback to the FJ40-series Land Cruisers from decades past. Behind that iconic styling, there's real off-road capability, so the 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser is rare not just among Toyotas, but also among sport-utility vehicles as a whole. It's with a heavy heart, then, that we bid farewell to the FJ Cruiser: Toyota has announced it will discontinue this midsize SUV after the 2014 model year.
With its two primary front doors and two, rear-hinged half-doors, the FJ Cruiser has always been more like a tall coupe than a traditional five-passenger SUV. This door design makes the FJ Cruiser interesting and distinctive, but it also makes getting in and out of the backseat cumbersome, especially if you have small children. Furthermore, the FJ's bunker-like windows make seeing out of this vehicle a challenge, whether you're on an off-road trail or just trying to negotiate your way into the Starbucks drive-through. Apart from these practicality issues, the Toyota FJ Cruiser is a pretty neat vehicle to drive. Its strong V6 engine, responsive steering and relatively comfortable ride make it a lot more viable as a daily driver than you might expect.
At the same time, its spiritual home is definitely off the pavement. Even in stock form, the FJ is quite capable of scaling rocky hillsides or frolicking in the sand dunes thanks to its high ground clearance, capable suspension and generous approach and departure angles. It's also available with serious four-wheel-drive hardware, including low-range gearing, a locking rear differential and a pretty sophisticated off-road traction control system known as A-TRAC. The Trail Teams Ultimate Edition package ups the ante with a TRD-developed suspension that includes special Bilstein shock absorbers (with remote reservoirs for the rear dampers) and new front springs that increase ride height.
The departure of the Toyota FJ Cruiser will leave a bit of a void in the small population of midsize SUVs with legitimate off-road credentials. The 2014 Jeep Wrangler is the obvious alternative, as it's virtually unstoppable off-road, available in two- or four-door body styles and easily customizable thanks to extensive aftermarket support. Yet the Wrangler isn't as likable for commuting, given its louder cabin and bouncier ride. The Nissan Xterra, meanwhile, is a more civilized option with a more accommodating backseat, but its interior isn't as high-quality as the Toyota's and it's not as capable off-road. Although not perfect, the 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser represents a desirable middle ground between these two. If you want one, this is certainly the year to buy.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser is a five-passenger midsize SUV with two conventional (front-hinged) front doors and two half-sized, rear-hinged doors.
The FJ Cruiser is offered in only one trim level and comes standard with 17-inch steel wheels, an electronically controlled locking rear differential (manual-transmission 4WD models only), a limited-slip rear differential (2WD models only), full power accessories, air-conditioning, an eight-way manually adjustable driver seat, four-way manually adjustable passenger 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.
Most options are bundled in packages. 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, upgraded traction control on four-wheel-drive models, rear parking sensors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, ancillary 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 (for automatic-transmission models), an upgraded off-road-oriented traction control system (known as A-TRAC) and additional instrumentation (including an inclinometer and compass). Other options include 16-inch alloy wheels with BFGoodrich all-terrain tires, upgraded Bilstein shock absorbers, larger brakes and a performance exhaust kit.
The Trail Teams Ultimate Edition package arrives later in the model year and will include a specially tuned TRD suspension (with remote reservoirs for the rear shock absorbers), 16-inch bead-lock wheels (better for aired-down tires during off-roading), all-terrain tires and an upgraded front skid plate that provides better protection. All Trail Teams FJ Cruisers get a Heritage Blue paint job (with a matching blue roof) and include the bulk of the content from the Convenience and Upgrade packages.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser is powered by a 4.0-liter V6 engine that produces 260 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque.
Three different drivetrain configurations are available: A five-speed automatic transmission with rear-wheel drive (and a limited-slip differential) is the standard setup. You can also get one of two different four-wheel-drive systems: There's a part-time 4WD system mated to the five-speed automatic transmission and a full-time system fitted with a six-speed manual transmission and a rear locking differential. The locking differential is optional on automatic-equipped 4WD models.
EPA-rated fuel economy for the two-wheel-drive model is 18 mpg combined (16 mpg city/20 mpg highway) -- not great, but typical for an off-road-oriented midsize SUV with a gasoline engine. With four-wheel drive, those numbers are 18 combined (17/20) with the automatic and 16 combined (15/18) with the manual.
Standard safety features on the 2014 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 moderate-overlap frontal-offset and side-impact tests. Its seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts. The FJ received the second-best rating of "Acceptable" in the Institute's roof-strength crash test.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser sports a no-frills interior design with a touch of style. Certain dash panels are color-matched to the outside body color. Controls are well placed and easy to use, though some buttons and knobs are comically huge. The front seats offer good comfort, and the water-repellent upholstery and rubber floor covering are ready for the kind of abuse active owners may inflict upon them when the FJ is used as intended.
The thick rear roof pillars and outside-mounted spare tire that make the exterior look so cool create enormous blind spots and diminish rear visibility, so the rearview camera and parking sensors are very worthwhile add-ons. Even the view out the front isn't that great because of the high dash and hood. The wide but slim windshield needs three wipers for complete coverage in the rain, but admittedly, the trio looks pretty cool in operation.
The rear seating area has its own problems, starting with the rear-hinged back doors. As on old-school extended-cab pickups, you have to open the front doors first before anyone gets in or out of the backseat. The FJ Cruiser's tall ride height also requires a bit of a climb to get inside, and once you're in, the accommodations are fairly tight for three people. There is plenty of legroom back there, however, with the rear bench set rather far back in the cabin. 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.
On the road, the 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser performs surprisingly well, considering it was designed with serious off-roading in mind. The V6 engine offers lots of grunt and moves the heavy truck with authority, though it can get coarse and loud at high rpm. The ride is surprisingly compliant over serious bumps, and the suspension tuning and precise steering feel put the more rudimentary Jeep Wrangler to shame when driving on pavement. There's a considerable amount of wind noise at highway speeds due to the Toyota's decidedly un-aerodynamic body, but it's still more serene than the Jeep.
Once the road goes away, the Toyota FJ Cruiser is in its element. The combination of ample ground clearance, available knobby all-terrain tires, and the available locking rear differential and advanced traction management system gives it the ability to tackle rugged trails with ease. It can keep up with the Jeep Wrangler on most trails, though due to the FJ's challenging visibility, it can be hard to see what you're running over.