2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser
2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Click image to enlarge


Review and photos by Michael Clark

Photo Gallery: 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser

Go with what you know, especially when it comes to retro.

It’s no surprise that the former Big Three are busy dusting off their production memos from the golden age of the muscle car. Whether it’s a Mustang, Camaro, or Challenger, arriving at or very close to these original designs is a sure-fire way to get Joe and Jane Payment into the showroom. They may leave with a Focus, Aveo, or a Caliber, but we all know what brought them through the door.

Turbo Supra’s and blown MR2’s may have been some of the best performing road cars of their day, but the heritage of Toyota was built on trucks. So it only makes sense that the company which brought us the likes of the FJ40 and the original Land Cruiser would meld the two legends together. The 2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser has been a favourite of this reporter’s 9 and 3 since its launch in early 2006. (They’re still probably hosing off the goop on the tester’s frame rails from the press event.) As with most press events, especially off-road ones, there tends to be more time spent playing Up-The-Splash-Ante in the rock quarry than analysing the convenience features.

2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser
2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser
2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Click image to enlarge

My Flying Fickle Finger of Interior Debate has Toyota’s sporty brute lined up in the crosshairs, which tips the scales at an MSRP of $36,280 as equipped, with the ‘C’ Package upgrade. Let’s find out if those Loonies stack up as high as the ground clearance.


Cabin

Controls:

I’m still trying to get my head wrapped around the leather-wrapped steering wheel placement; it seems that the static angle of the column and lack of telescope makes for a wheel that is wheely far away from most drivers. The tilt function is controlled by a lower-left stalk, instead of the usual drop-down clamp. Audio controls are found on the left of the wheel, while the corporate cruise control flipper is found at the 4 o’clock position. The knobs that matter the most, such as audio head unit volume and HVAC controls, are oversized for easy grab.

Shifter throws on the six-speed manual are reasonable, in keeping with the truck image. The transfer case changes are lever fed, and never clunky or imprecise. Exterior mirrors are power-positioned, with breakaway functionality. They need about an inch more width, especially with the massive C-pillars. The mirrors boast Image Lamps, which double as both running lamps and turn signals.

2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser
2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Click image to enlarge

Front power windows include driver’s side auto-down. Expect little in the rear-view vision department, unless you enjoy keeping tabs on your spare tire. Gauges are white-faced, though not as legible as Toyota’s Optitron array.

Convenience:

There is a certain degree of simple elegance within the FJ’s wash-and-wear interior. Carpet, schmarpet; the FJ uses a rubbery floor covering throughout. It does seem a little thin in places, which may lead to cracks in extreme cold temperatures. The front doors have adequate cubby space, while the rear tip-out doors have an upper and lower storage void. The space below the HVAC controls houses the switch array for the rear AC power plug-in, in the cargo hold.

2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser
2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Click image to enlarge

There’s also the back-up sensor, Active Traction Control System cancel, and rear differential lock. There are even a few dummy switches for future upgrades.

A 12-volt DC plug-in is directly above the auxiliary audio input jack. Glove-box size is above average. A pop-top storage cavity is found directly in front of the driver, with no lining material to subdue rattles from your Ray-Ban’s. The console cupholders have removable rubber inserts for various mondo cup sizes; too bad it has zip grip for my Timmy’s Large double-double. The rear of the console does not possess a cover, but there is a removable rubbery tray, with three individual sections for Clif bar organization. There is but one vanity mirror, on the passenger side visor,

2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser
2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser
2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Click image to enlarge

which seems to have escaped from a base Corolla CE. Speaking of visors, the FJ has separate units for the sides of the front seat window glass. Front seat belts have adjustable anchor points.

Seats:

In keeping with the FJ’s go anywhere/get sloppy-mucky nature, the seating surfaces have been treated with water repellent goodness. The driver’s seat gets height adjustment, as well as a vertical angle knob for the bottom seat cushion. Front inner flip-down armrests add to the comfy. The passenger-side rear seatback has a convenient mesh storage pocket.

Safety:

There are plenty of life-saving cushions, from the dual frontal airbags with passenger occupant sensor, and the front seat-mounted side airbags. Curtain airbags complete the security blanket for front and rear passengers. The FJ Cruiser carries the highest rating of ‘Good’ for frontal and side impact, from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Fit and finish:

2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser
2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Click image to enlarge

Let’s put it this way. The ‘J’ in the serial number means Japan, for where it’s built. There is no finer serial number to have.


Spare/trunk/cargo

The full-size spare is an outside-mount, at eye level. Just remember to lift with your knees, or a friend when you remove it. Jack stowage is found on the left interior wall of the cargo hold. There are heavy duty tether points, on the floor, as well as the rear of the seatbacks for cargo netting. The rear seat bottom cushions flip forward, allowing the rear seat backs to be flipped forward for an almost-flat floor space. The cargo floor mat, part of the ‘C’ package, has an over-built thickness to it.

Toyota is starting to state that they are including Roadside Assistance for their Canadian vehicles on their dealer stickers, though it doesn’t state for how long.

2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser
2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Click image to enlarge

The Canadian website states an annual fee of $84.95 per annum. The ‘C’ Package roof rack has plenty of movable braces to support cargo conundrums. The rear cargo door has a heavy duty gas strut, which can be locked into place to prevent unscheduled closures. The Annoyance Factor was high, with the rear flip-up rear glass. The only way to open it is with the key, at the rear of the vehicle. The rear subwoofer, part of the FJammer audio upgrade, appears to pay homage to my JVC blaster, circa 1984. Word to your mother.


Engine


2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser
2008 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Click image to enlarge

This is how it’s done! The 239-horsepower 4.0-litre V6 mill is an accessibility dream. Even the oil filter is placed up high and mighty, with a dribble tray for its upside-down ways. The oil fill has an elongated neck; no funnel required. Reservoirs are up high, easy to distinguish. Parts replacement costs should be using minimal amounts of labour, if the time ever comes.

Clarkey Rating:

Did I mention how much I like the FJ? And no, it isn’t a ploy for a long-term evaluation. This is a vehicle that you can truly live with, with practicality factors that can work with everything from boulder crossing to the morning commute. Five stars.

Next week: 2008 Audi A4

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