May 30, 2014
2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Trail Teams Edition. Click image to enlarge
Review and Photos by Jacob Black
Like pretty much every single child in the western world, I had a Tonka truck I used to play around with. It was big, tough and could go anywhere my thick, chubby hands could push it. Little wonder I had sandbox flashbacks every time I got into Toyota’s FJ Cruiser.
The 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Trail Teams Edition is the spiritual descendant of the types of tough-as-guts Land Cruisers I was used to in Australia. Things like those and the “unbreakable” Toyota Hilux are probably the reason I associate Toyota’s with off-road prowess and rugged capability while my Canadian born-and-raised wife couldn’t understand that association.
Truth is, everywhere else in the world it’s Toyota that has been the modern equivalent of the ultimate bush-bashing rig. Poachers in Africa (and the people who chase them), run Land Cruisers. Cops in the outback of Australia? Well, Commodores mostly. But in the real outback – Land Cruisers. When the ASO wants to plot the next Dakar Rally course guess what they use? Battered old Land Cruisers.
So the FJ Cruiser is the next iteration of that particular feather in Toyota’s cap. It has all the right stuff, bar work, skid plates, big-arse wheels, and a proper two-speed transfer case. This is the modern age though, so there are also electronic aids like a rear-differential lock, automatic disconnecting rear diff, and Active Traction Control. Missing is hill-descent control, though the three-speed crawl control function fulfils that role if you need it.
You also get a 4.0L V6 engine that’s good for 260 hp at 5,500 rpm and 271 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. It’s a lumpy, agricultural-sounding engine that adds to the brutish FJ charm, but in regular driving conditions on highways and around the suburbs it needs too much throttle to get where you want to go.
Part of that is down to the short gearing and close ratios of the five-speed automatic gearbox this tester was fitted with; the six-speed manual might be better.
The result is a lot of engine noise and a sense of frustration for your writer. How am I supposed to ram people off the road if I can’t catch them?!
Knowing that peak torque is delivered up high in the shortish rev-range (the red line is set at 5,500 rpm) made me wonder how one is supposed to navigate dunes and the like with this car. I’d always been taught that unless you’re prepared to mash the throttle and keep it there, one should use finesse when driving off-road. It turns out a decent amount of the available torque is there from early on, and I never had a problem generating forward momentum – even in the slipperiest of conditions.
2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Trail Teams Edition engine bay & dashboard. Click image to enlarge
Not wanting to overstep my skill level I was perhaps timid with the systems, but managed to navigate some large piles of mulch and desiccated green waste using the standard AWD systems. I used crawl control to navigate up and down one pile successfully – but to be honest the FJ is capable enough for even a novice to do most off-road driving themselves and not rely on those functions.
I apologize for not getting out and taking a photo – I was petrified of being stuck. Last time I got stuck off road bad things happened.
So the truth is the FJ Cruiser is more than capable of satisfying the wants and needs of most off-roaders. My cousin in Australia had one which he treated disgracefully, and Jeff Wilson seemed impressed by his ability to coat one in mud during a Toyota FJ Cruiser vs Jeep Wrangler comparison test. The FJ looks the off-road part too, especially with its Trail Teams badges, industrial-inspired dashboard latticing and Amsterdam-inspired gear levers.
2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Trail Teams Edition dashboard panel, wheel, and some light off-roading. Click image to enlarge
The wheels look the part too but that’s an important note, the look the part. I thought the FJ had beadlock rims standard – which would have been excellent for dune running – but these are “beadlock style”. What does “beadlock style” mean you ask? Well, it means a similar thing to “chicken-flavoured” or “cubic zirconia”. Regardless, the FJ Cruiser packs enough impression of toughness to keep those Tonka truck flashbacks coming.
This edition also had a rugged interior that was pressure-wash compatible – had I got it too dirty inside I could have just opened all the doors, turned the squirter on it and Bob’s your uncle.