The original Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 has a timeless design, and even though it is well over 50 years old, it is still one of the most easily recognised vehicles ever made. That being said, the FJ40 and FJ45 are no longer in production, which is a shame because they'll never go out of style. We're sure that Toyota was counting on that when it came to designing a mid-size 4x4 for the next generation of off-roaders.
The lines and stance of the original FJ40 are easily recognised in the modernised Toyota FJ Cruiser. Similar to the original, the Cruiser doesn't have any copycat models, which ensures that you'll stand out on the road or in the mud. Take a quick look at the angles, ground clearance, all 220mm of it, and the width, and note this isn't a wallflower. The Toyota FJ Cruiser is actually useful in anything more challenging than a pothole, which some other so-called 4x4s would be hard-pressed to tackle for fear of getting their tyres dirty.
Getting into the Toyota FJ Cruiser is immediately polarising, just like the exterior, and everyone has either a love it or hate it opinion. Again, this all depends on what you are looking for. The high clearance means just mounting this beast is only for the agile, and the rear suicide doors can make access to the rear seats a little challenging. As a utility vehicle, the Spartan dash is plastic and the controls are chunky. The rubber floor matting and sturdy seat material makes clean up after mudding a breeze, and there's plenty of room in the boot and cubbies to stow all your gear.
The four-wheel drive system is probably one of the best on the market, and it is certain to please. The suspension is soft enough to soak up small bumps with ease, and there's enough suspension travel to maintain a firm grip on the trail. These same features can make highway driving a little uncomfortable with slightly more body roll cornering but, for the most part, it won't feel like you're driving a truck.
The Toyota FJ Cruiser is powered by the same winning combination of a 4.0L V6 and 5-speed automatic transmission taken from another Toyota off-road genius, the Land Cruiser Prado. The engine generates 200kW and 380Nm, which makes ground through a 2-speed electronic-shift transfer case to the rear wheels. The highway and even some light off-road action will only require rear-wheel drive, but shift to four-wheel drive on the fly and you have instant confidence. Getting into even rougher stuff, you can shift to low range and take advantage of 310Nm of torque available at just 1200rpm, perfect for crawling.
Toyota estimates just 11.5L/100km on the highway, but some drivers report as high as 14L/100km. What's really a shame in this model is the small fuel tank, which keeps you on your toes as the engine slowly drains it, especially off-roading, which will definitely exceed 15L/100km.
The Toyota FJ Cruiser is fairly well-equipped with easy-cleaning rubber floor matting and water-repellent seats, 8-speaker CD/USB/AUX and Bluetooth audio, multi-information display, and pitch/roll gauges for off-roading. Fog lamps, power locks and windows, cruise control, basic climate control with air-conditioning, and tinted rear windows are also standard. Safety features include 6 airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, brakeforce distribution, and brake assist. Parking assist sensors and a rear backup camera help to overcome the rear visibility problem. Satnav is available as an option.
The Jeep Wrangler could be the world's original utility vehicle, and is actually more utility than sport when compared to the Toyota FJ Cruiser. The Jeep has similar clearance and angles and is much more capable off-roading than the Toyota. The Jeep's comparable 3.6L petrol engine is slightly weaker, but the 2.8L turbodiesel option is far stronger than the Toyota, which doesn't come with a turbodiesel option. The Jeep could be said to be pure but doesn't come with nearly as many creature comforts. In this respect, the Toyota is more balanced.
The Mitsubishi Challenger adds a third-row seat and has a decent amount of standard equipment for the price. It is also very competent in the dirt. It also comes with a diesel option, which the Toyota FJ Cruiser doesn't offer, so it is a bit more frugal in fuel consumption. The Mitsubishi's interior is in serious need of a refresh and on-road handling is somewhat worse than the Toyota.