I recently had the chance to drive a Toyota FJ Cruiser, which is a midsize, brawny SUV that really ought to make a comeback. I say this because the Toyota FJ Cruiser came and went, and it disappeared just before this massive car industry trend toward off-roady SUVs. And I think it would do great if it was on sale now.
Here’s a little background. The FJ Cruiser came out for the 2007 model year, and it was supposed to be a bit of a retro thing, capitalizing on the trend toward retro vehicles at the time — with models like the Chevrolet Camaro, the Ford Mustang, the Chevy HHR, and all the rest. The "retro" piece was the styling, which was intended to be a modern take on the old FJ40 Land Cruiser, and the name, which was also intended to recall the old FJ40 models.
All FJ Cruiser models had the same engine, a 4.0-liter V6 that made between 240 and 260 horsepower (and around 280 lb-ft of torque), depending on the model year. A manual or automatic was offered, and Toyota made various special edition "Trail Teams" models throughout the SUV’s production run that improved its off-road capability over a normal FJ Cruiser.
The problem with the FJ Cruiser is that it just didn’t sell that well. It did fine, sure, but after a few years, sales started to lag — and then Toyota didn’t really know what to do, since it’s proven very difficult to successfully redesign retro-styled cars. So, after the 2014 model year, Toyota simply canceled the FJ Cruiser, and that was that.
Or, at least, that would’ve been that, except it didn’t quite work out that way. What happened instead was, the FJ Cruiser took off in popularity only after it left the market, spurred by an increase in consumer taste for off-roader SUVs like Toyota’s own 4Runner. These days, used FJ Cruiser models bring big money: you can’t get them new anymore, and they’re dead reliable, so they’re highly coveted in the off-roader community.
And for this reason, I think the FJ Cruiser should come back. Well, it’s this, and also the fact that I recently drove one, and I enjoyed it, and I think the FJ Cruiser would be a fantastic match for the market right now. Toyota is selling Tacoma TRD Pro models by the thousands. Imagine if there was a dedicated off-roader in Toyota’s lineup. It’d do great!
And it would especially do great because the FJ Cruiser really is a pretty cool SUV. I spent the day with one, and I really enjoyed the driving experience: the high seating position, the upright dash, the feeling of utter invincibility that comes when you have a torquey engine, an off-roader vehicle, and a Toyota, so you know it’ll be hugely reliable. It’s fun to drive, fun to use, and fun to look at — more visually interesting and cooler than, for instance, a 4Runner or a Tacoma.
Of course, there are some issues, too — and chief among them is fuel economy, which I suspect is one reason why Toyota ditched the FJ Cruiser in the first place. There are a lot of fuel economy standards automakers must meet, and the FJ Cruiser wasn’t doing Toyota many favors at 16 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. It had to go because there wasn’t a reason to justify its existence in 2014, but it also had to go because fuel economy was meager.
But I think it should come back. The FJ Cruiser was a cool car, the market would be more receptive now, and it would do well. But since I suspect Toyota has no plans to bring it back, people who want one will have to go used. And as I figured out from my day with an FJ Cruiser, that’s still a pretty good choice. Find a Toyota FJ Cruiser for sale