Tired of off-road SUV wannabes that look the part but can never back it up? Consider the 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser, the truck that's right at home where the pavement ends and the dirt begins.
On the outside, the 2013 FJ Cruiser follows the retro style of the original FJ40 Land Cruiser from more than 40 years ago. Like the original, the 2013 model features a large rectangular grill with a contrasting Toyota emblem, oversized round headlights and a rear-mounted full-size spare tire.
The interior follows the exterior's retro and unconventional flavor not typical of SUVs. For instance, the dashboard is a wall of hard plastic, and the oversized controls are right out of a Tonka truck toy. While the instruments are easy to read and the iPod, USB and Bluetooth connectivity are standard, they are basic compared with current technology on other Toyota models, such as navigation or the feature-filled Entune interface.
If you spend a few extra dollars on the Upgrade, Off-Road or Trail Teams Special Edition packages, Toyota installs a dash-mounted floating-ball multi-information display that has three gauges: an inclinometer, a compass and outside temperature. The display is a good touch for both novice drivers and seasoned off-roaders but can be a little lackluster.
Unlike a Jeep Wrangler that can be found in a true 4-door configuration, the FJ Cruiser comes only with two full-size front doors and two reverse-hinged rear doors. Because of this design, the back seat is a challenge. However, don't worry about getting the interior dirty when climbing into the back since the seats are water-resistant and the floor is rubber-covered for easy clean up.
The 2013 FJ Cruiser has three trims based on the powertrain: 2-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive with a 5-speed automatic or a 4-wheel drive with a 6-speed manual transmission. All models come standard with a potent 4.0-liter V6 engine that produces 260 horsepower and 271 lb-ft of torque, offering enough power for any backwoods adventure.
Even though Toyota opted for a V6, don't expect much in gas mileage. With the manual transmission, miles per gallon estimates are high teens to low twenties on the highway. Mileage will be less with the automatic or while using the 4-wheel-drive system.
Base price for the FJ 2-wheel drive is $27,030. Toyota offers great option packages and many TRD accessories, including sweet beadlock-style alloy wheels; however, the Upgrade Package, which comes with larger alloy wheels, a JBL stereo system and the floating-ball multi-informational display, adds another $4,500 to the price.
Competition in this still uncivilized market of SUVs includes the Nissan Xterra and the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. The Xterra offers the same amount of power, but it has a more comfortable backseat. The Jeep, on the other hand, comes standard with the famous off-road pedigree, four conventional doors and a more energetic 6-cylinder engine.
To many, the 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser is considered a blunt instrument since its main purpose is to take you anywhere you want to go. While the style might be crude for some and the fuel mileage not pretty either, the FJ Cruiser with the Trail Teams package will provide more "happy trails" than just about any other SUV.