What Makes Toyota FJ Cruiser Off-road Capability Stand Out?

7 min readJul 13, 2021

The Toyota FJ Cruiser was universally praised for its aggressive retro style and off-road performance when introduced in the North American International Auto Show in 2005. This mid-size SUV has seen strong sales on its initial run until the recession hit and the sales declined till its final year in 2014.

Nevertheless, the Toyota FJ Cruiser left a lasting impression. It gained a cult following among car and off-road enthusiasts. There has been a steady rise in its popularity given the current automotive landscape where demand for off-road vehicles is robust. It became a highly sought-after SUV in the secondary market with invulnerable value.

There has been a buzz in the automotive community that the Toyota FJ Cruiser Off-road SUV deserves a comeback here in the US market as much as the latest Ford Bronco. Consumers currently have a high interest in anything nostalgic and off-road capable. But what makes it so special that people have their eyes set on it?

Striking Exterior and Interior

The Toyota FJ Cruiser is well-known for its iconic retro styling that pays homage to the design trait of the Toyota FJ40. These design cues include the stocky frame and short wheelbase of the original FJ40.

The exterior featured pillarless door construction with rear-hinged access doors for the backseat, 3 wipers for entire coverage of near-vertical windshield, grille-headlight arrangement, and special high-strength steel for impact protection. The name “Toyota” is noticeable since it is spelled out across the grille instead of the known Toyota emblem.

It also offered color choices that are usually energetic and complement the retro look of the vehicle. The roof is often painted white to keep the interior cooler by deflecting heat. The boxy body provides good visibility for when you need to place the corners of the vehicle exactly where you want them to be.

These distinctive exterior elements make it an attention-grabbing vehicle that is easy to spot and recognize on the road. It remains a fan favorite because of these.

The interior provides design elements that enhance off-road practicality as well as comfort. It is superior to its predecessors in terms of comfortable passenger ride even during off-roading.

The interior is well-insulated from dust. It can put up with dirt from any outdoor use due to its ventilated, water-repellent seats and easy-to-clean surfaces. All surfaces are covered with grey, washable rubber materials for easy cleaning. The seats are also covered with special breathable resin-coated fabric that makes it easy to wipe down.

A collection of modern tech for functionality and safety was provided as standard amenities such as side curtain airbags and vehicle stability control. It has gauges for rock climbing and outside temperature with a standard Sat-Nav unit. It also offered oversized controls for drivers wearing gloves.

Body-on-Frame Advantage

There is a current surge in demand for body-on-frame vehicles, and the Toyota FJ Cruiser is no exception from this. It has a body-on-frame structure and underpinnings of the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado and the Toyota 4Runner.

This body-on-frame gives an advantage in chassis design which provides higher ground clearance and excellent approach, departure, and ramp-over angle. Having a body-on-frame construction means that it benefits from having a sturdy foundation for greater hauling and towing capacity and tolerance for torsional flex.

The FJ Cruiser chassis consists of a high-mounted, double-wishbone front suspension with a stabilizer bar, and a 4-link rear suspension with a lateral rod, coil springs, and a stabilizer bar. It is easy to work on suspension upgrades so you can install any compatible suspension lift kits available.

It is also equipped with an A-TRAC system which is a specialized traction control system that mimics a traditional locker to control wheels that lost traction.

Remarkable Powertrain

The FJ Cruiser is powered by a 4.0-liter Dual Overhead Camshaft (DOHC) variable valve timing V6 engine that generates 239 hp at 5200 rpm and 278 lb-ft of torque at 3,700 rpm on 91 octane fuel. 2010 to 2014 models were upgraded to 259 hp at 5600 rpm and 270 lb-ft on 87 octane fuel with improvement in fuel economy.

Similar to the Toyota 4Runner, it is powerful and versatile enough to handle off-road terrains with better on-road bearing. This makes it an ideal vehicle for daily driving and comfortable long drives.

The drivetrain offers rear-wheel 2WD or part-time 4WD for automatic transmission models with a limited-slip rear differential and full-time 4WD for manual transmission models.

The transmission includes 5-speed automatic transmission for both rear-wheel drive and part-time 4WD models and 6-speed automatic transmission for the full-time 4WD model.

Satisfying Wheels and Tires Performance

The best thing about the Toyota FJ Cruiser is that all you need is an aggressive set of wheels and tires to traverse any kind of off-road terrain.

Even without the Toyota Racing Development (TRD) package, you can count on your stock wheels and tires since it was designed to meet most off-roading requirements. Although, fitting your choice of wheels and tires is much more interesting to tweak its off-road capability to your liking.

The FJ Cruiser can accommodate tires with specific features that add to its off-road capability. Tires are often the first upgrade made to provide a smooth and consistent grip off-road. There are plenty of choices for mud tires and all-terrain tires that you can fit on this vehicle. These tires mostly have deep sidewall lugs and a tread pattern that enables them to perform well in harsh off-road conditions.

Numerous kinds of wheels are also available in the aftermarket. You can elevate its exterior’s aesthetics with intricate spoke patterns and finishes such as the black wheels of Moto Metal wheels.

You can fit bigger tires for better traction by utilizing the extra space underneath the chassis. The ground clearance offers plenty of articulation for trail driving. It can make climbing rocky terrains an easy accomplishment without being scraped heavily on its body and undercarriage.

Even with aggressive tires, The Toyota FJ Cruiser can drive comfortably and quietly at highway speed. No tire noise or wind noise up to 130km/h can be heard inside the cabin.

Fun to Customize

The appeal of the Toyota FJ Cruiser is that it was built to accommodate upgrades and aftermarket parts. It anticipated the notion that stock won’t simply be enough for many off-road and outdoor enthusiasts. It is easy to find whatever you need to improve the vehicle to a more formidable off-road SUV.

The FJ Cruiser possesses better ergonomics than the likes of the Jeep Wrangler and the Land Rover Defender. Customization never gets boring because of the customizable accessories that allow you to personalize the vehicle according to your need. For example, it has a dashboard switch panel with a lot of blank switches for auxiliary controls for light bars, winches, and other trail tools.

You can reinforce the protection by installing bumpers or grille guards. You can also set up a winch on it for recovery, in case you get yourself and the vehicle stuck in a tough spot during off-roading.

Take advantage of its excellent towing capacity of 4,700 to 5,000 pounds by adding a towing hitch. This is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who like to take other smaller vehicles or a camper that they need for the trip.

There are plenty more aftermarket products that you can add. These products are great ways to personalize and improve the functionality and performance of the Toyota FJ Cruiser. You can find these products at 4WheelOnline.

Potential Collectible

The FJ Cruiser is seeing a rise in the public’s interest even though it hasn’t been on sale in the US market since 2014. They are enticed by it for being a capable off-road SUV and a reliable daily driver.

Staying true to its homage to the design cues of the FJ40 Land Cruiser, the FJ Cruiser is on its way to becoming a classic collectible.

The FJ Cruiser’s value in the secondary market continues to rise. A well-maintained one with low mileage can fetch a sum of $50,000 in the secondary market. Way back in 2014, you can get a brand-new vehicle for the starting MSRP of $27,000. Even the ones with reasonable mileage, you need to prepare a budget ranging from $20,000 to $30,000 depending on the condition. You can see those in mint condition enter the pages of collector car auctions. This proves how well it has held its value and desirability over time.

In addition, Toyota recently sold one new FJ Cruiser here in the US between January to June 2021. This is considered a “zombie” sale, meaning it hasn’t been on the market for some time but was sold as new.

The unit was the “Final Edition”, a swan song model with a beige body color that continues on the interior including the seat upholstery and the sides of the center console. It was a modified FJ Cruiser with new Bilstein shock absorbers to improve the suspension system’s handling and control. It also includes updates such as a new skid plate, bead lock wheels with BF Goodrich A/T KO tires, rock rails, and roof rack. There’s no information on how much it was sold for. If a used one can fetch a huge amount of money, one can only imagine how much that buyer has paid for a brand new one.


There is no doubt that the Toyota FJ Cruiser is an iconic off-road SUV that can directly compete with the likes of the Jeep Wrangler and the Nissan Xterra. It continues to garner recognition because of the attention given by the automotive community. Those who have online platforms dedicated to automotive content can showcase the Toyota FJ Cruiser which helps increase youth interest.

Even after it was discontinued, It looks like the retro design of the Toyota FJ Cruiser will never go out of style. The demand for this highly customizable and capable off-road SUV will continue to rise.

Originally published at http://blog.4wheelonline.com on July 9, 2021.




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