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Used Car Spotlight: The FJ Cruiser

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The FJ Cruiser may no longer be in production, but it’s still a popular used vehicle that people look to buy. Here’s everything you need to know about the Toyota FJ Cruiser from its history to its endless road potential.

1975 FJ Cruiser
1975 FJ Cruiser on Carsforsale.com

Though Toyota’s FJ Cruisers stopped production in 2014, drivers everywhere have come to love its off-roading capabilities and all it has to offer. We’re exploring how the FJ Cruiser has maintained its reputation as a well-loved off-roading adventure vehicle despite its discontinuation.

The History of the FJ Cruiser

1961 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40
fj.co

The predecessor to today’s modern FJ Cruiser started back in 1960 with the FJ40. Shaped somewhat like a Jeep, the FJ40 was used in the backcountry for off-roading, studying wildlife and conservation efforts, as well as transporting military personnel and goods. The FJ40 continued to be manufactured until 1984 in the U.S. and became one of the most sought-after vehicles in Latin America to this day for its off-roading capabilities.

By the mid-1990s, Toyota was looking for new ways to expand on its new luxury line of Land Cruisers. In secret, Toyota’s vice president Dave Danzer and president Akio Toyoda began to design the contemporary FJ Cruiser. During the late ‘90s, Toyota set up a special shop to test the viability of a new FJ40 since it was still in production in Brazil.

Originally known as the RYU, Rugged Youth Utility, the FJ Cruiser was designed to attract more young male drivers.Click To Tweet

Eventually, the name was changed to FJ Cruiser and the interior design of the prototype model was altered to cut back on expenses. Original features like a gear shifter shaped like a shovel handle and removable interior lights that could also be used as flashlights were cut out of the final production model to keep the price low.

The FJ Cruiser made its debut at the Detroit Auto Show in 2003 and Toyota found all the praise they needed to move forward. With its unique design and ruggedness, the FJ was ready to hit the road by 2007. The base price for the original 2007 FJ Cruiser landed somewhere between $21,000 to $24,000 depending on what drivetrain you chose.

20017 FJ Cruiser
2007 FJ Cruiser on Carsforsale.com

The Adventurer’s Choice: The FJ Cruiser

Thankfully for Toyota, drivers everywhere rejoiced at the release of the FJ Cruiser. This all-terrain vehicle hinted at both the nostalgia of off-roading days decades before and the luxuries of a rugged, contemporary vehicle. The 4X4 FJ managed 9.6 inches of ground clearance and forded up to 27.5 inches of water. The towing package allowed the vehicle to tow up to 5,000 lbs. With departure angles of 30+ degrees, the FJ made it easy to navigate difficult terrain and obstacles.

One of the most unique features of this vehicle are the half doors, an ode to the FJ40’s two-door design. Much like an extended-cab pickup, the FJ Cruiser doors opened from the front row of seats with a half door behind it to allow passengers and gear in and out. Its rear door swung wide like a wagon door much like Jeeps, as well.

Toyota tested the FJ Cruiser’s capabilities before releasing the vehicle back in 2004 on some of the toughest trails in the U.S. This left them with some ideas for future editions that would come to be as the FJ became more popular among adventurers.

Blue Toyota FJ Cruiser
Jtosh at Wikipedia

Special Edition FJ Cruisers

TRD (Toyota Racing Development) Special Edition

The first special edition of the FJ was the TRD, or Toyota Racing Development model. This special edition came with off-road shocks, rock rails, all-terrain tires, specialty TRD wheels, and official TRD badges. This edition was the first to introduce mechanical changes that were causing technical issues in earlier models.

Trail Teams Special Editions

Later, the Trail Teams Special Edition and Ultimate Trail Teams Edition came to be in an effort to maximize the FJ’s off-road capabilities. These editions featured many of the same or congruent characteristics of the TRD edition, but later included CRAWL control which had previously only been featured on other 4×4 Toyota and Lexus models.

ARB FJ-Crawler

The FJ-Crawler was a modified Cruiser that was offered after 2007. In partnership with Dealer Service International and ARB, a company well-known for building rugged off-road products for the Australian market, Toyota only offered FJ-Crawlers at Toyota’s new-vehicle dealerships. The Crawler featured an ARB front bull bar bumper, a 3-inch suspension lift from Old Man Emu, and 33- or 35-inch off-road tires.

You could customize the FJ Crawler even more with an ARB roof rack, Warn winch, and specific suspension packages. The Crawler also had speedometer calibration added to ensure that speed and mileage were accurate due to aftermarket tire sizes.

Best Features of the FJ Cruiser

  • A-TRAC Traction Control
  • Anti-lock braking system
  • Brake assist
  • Vehicle Stability Control
  • CRAWL Control
  • Water-resistant seat fabric
Interior FJ Cruiser
Netcarshow.com

Criticism of the FJ Cruiser

As cars always do, the FJ Cruiser was met with some criticism. Posed as an adventure vehicle ready to take on any obstacle, the biggest challenge for Toyota was to overcome the rollover statistics that came with it. Some thought the chance of body roll and blind-spot issues caused more trouble than it was worth.

Thankfully, many drivers saw past these critiques and realized that a vehicle like the FJ would never be perfect for both driving in town and off-road. Though the hardships for the FJ would continue…

Why the FJ Cruiser Came to a Halt

By 2009, the FJ struggled to meet sales goals and hit a sharp decline that led to its demise at the factory. With an increasingly competitive mid-size SUV market that included the Jeep Wrangler, the FJ Cruiser couldn’t overcome a less than 12,000-unit year.

How the FJ Continues to Thrive Post-Production

2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser
2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser at Carsforsale.com

The FJ Cruiser continues to come up time and time again despite its halt in production in 2014.

Drivers everywhere love the way it looks, how it handles, and what it has to offer and like many Toyota vehicles, the FJ has held its value well over the last 5 years.Click To Tweet

Today, though there are no signs of reviving the FJ, outdoor lovers and off-road drivers continue to seek out the FJ Cruiser for a reliable, affordable, and durable vehicle.

What do you think about the FJ Cruiser? Would you buy one? Let us know in the comments below!

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Erin Maxson

Erin loves nothing more than a good road trip. To her, getting behind the wheel is one of the biggest adventures you can take because it can lead to anywhere. Alongside her Toyota Tundra, you'll find her co-pilot pup, Rory, and a 1976 Airstream Argosy in tow. Her motto: Life is a scenic road, take your time and enjoy the ride.

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