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2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser

2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser

By Michael Cohn

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2007 Toyota FJ CruiserSaturday came around and it was time to head to Morris Mountain ORV Park near Heflin, Alabama. I was familiar with the park, having driven my own vehicle there, so I already had a good idea of where I wanted to take the FJ Cruiser for testing.

As our group wound around the logging trails, the FJ Cruiser soaked up the stumps and bumps nicely. At no time did I ever feel like I was being thrown around like a rag doll or pummeled by a jackhammer. One of the first obstacles we came to was The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. Now I already knew better than to think the FJ Cruiser would make it up the leftmost two sections of this. I'm not crazy, after all. So I watched several vehicles, including Jeeps and a Land Rover Discovery work their way over the right side. Some floundered a bit but all eventually made it up. I carefully looked it over, deciding whether or not I thought the FJ Cruiser could clear a few spots and decided I'd give it a go.

The crowd gathered round, all curious to know if this new-fangled thing could really climb. I crept up to the obstacle and engaged the rear locker. With low range sending 50% power to both the front and rear and both rear wheels turning, I was able to climb the obstacle carefully and deliberately, cresting the top easily and without incident. Nice!

We'd spend the rest of the day hitting various trails throughout the park. Some were simple up and down mountain climbs, allowing us to test the FJ Cruiser on inclines. Others were side hills and rocky obstacles.

Toyota FJ Cruiser
Toyota FJ Cruiser

In addition to the locking rear differential, the A-TRAC (Advanced Traction Control) came in handy in a few spots. A-TRAC allows power to be routed to the wheel(s) with the most amount of traction, unlike a typical open-differential equipped vehicle. So in just about any instance where a tire may be lifted or just not getting traction on slippery surfaces, A-TRAC reroutes the power to the wheel(s) with traction to help move you forward. In the front, especially, this is very useful. A front locker can be hard on driveline parts and can make it difficult to steer when engaged. A-TRAC allows the front to get power to the ground in a much less harsh way, though it does require the RPM's to climb a good bit before engaging. Couple this with the rear locker and it makes the FJ Cruiser hard to get stuck.

We had plenty of chances to test out the A-TRAC and lockers at the park. The FJ Cruiser comes with a very street-style tire tread, which helped account for the wonderful on-road ride. Looking at the tires at the office, though, made us double check that we had tow points and recovery equipment, as we were sure we'd be getting yanked a lot that day. Not so. Though the tires would not dig in and bite like a more aggressive tire would, the traction control systems did an awesome job of getting us out. We took the truck through plenty of muddy goo and got it hung up in enough spots to really test it out. We were pleasantly surprised. We only needed our yank strap once during the day and only because we got high-centered due to our long wheelbase and lack of lift.

Toyota FJ Cruiser
Toyota FJ Cruiser

This brings us to the underside and body in regard to off-roading. The wheels of the FJ Cruiser are pushed outward to the corners, giving the truck very good approach and departure angles. In addition, the front bumper angles upward in front of the wheels, allowing the wheels to attack the trail easier. Underneath, everything is tucked up nicely and there is a very flat profile. This setup offers great clearance when going over obstacles and keeps things from hanging you up. The lower/front suspension arms also stay high further out than arms on other trucks we've driven, so they don't bump into things as easily.

Toyota FJ Cruiser
The underside of the FJ Cruiser has off-roading in mind.
Everything is tucked up very nicely, including the arms.
Toyota FJ Cruiser
New regulations mean no more gas tanks behind the rear axle. There's a ton of room back there under the rear of the body.

The FJ Cruiser kicked serious tail on the trails for a stock vehicle. It climbed over just about anything we tried and moved smoothly over the access trails. The only problems we had were due to low ground clearance. The running boards, though meant to protect body sheet metal, actually caused us to get hung up a lot, since they hang rather low. On several occasions this happened, and on one, specifically, caused us to rotate and damage the plastic on our front bumper. The running boards did protect our body but both were trashed by the end of the day, despite our careful driving. This, however, can easily be remedied by the aftermarket. If you plan on 'wheeling your FJ Cruiser, forego the running boards and get steel rocker bars instead. Also consider a steel front bumper.

Toyota FJ Cruiser
Crossing over these ruts, we got hopelessly hung up and had to get out the strap. Though the running boards did protect the body, they hang down low and get in the way.
Toyota FJ Cruiser
This and a few other spots caused plenty of cosmetic damage to both running boards. We recommend aftermarket metal ones if you're going to 'wheel your FJ Cruiser.

I really enjoyed my week with the FJ Cruisers. They were comfortable and fun to drive around town and proved to be very useful when I needed the actual utility part of the SUV. One easily swallowed up a 36" fan I picked up for our warehouse with the rear seats folded down. The rear door, though it looks heavy, actually opens easily and has a locking mechanism to keep it open on hills. Our one complaint on the rear door is that in order to open the back glass you must have the keys in the rear door, which can be inconvenient.

Toyota FJ Cruiser
Toyota FJ Cruiser

The rear seat is usable for kids but not really for baby-carrying. You can access it ok with the rear doors, however, space between the rear and front seats is probably too small for baby seats - especially rear-facing ones. So if you have little ones, let them grow up a bit before considering this as your family car.

The FJ Cruiser proved itself to be a worthy companion, daily driver, and weekend warrior. Toyota's build quality is incredible. Nary a squeak or rattle revealed itself after our trails and nothing broke or fell off as we pounded it on the rocks.

My hunch was that Toyota didn't really intend this to be a 2007 FJ-40 and I was right. Look at the FJ Cruiser in its own right and you'll find it to be one of the most capable and affordable 4x4 SUVs on the market. If you really want to off-road it on the tough trails, lift it a bit (several kits already exist) and put some beefier tires on it and you'll be good to go.

Daring styling, fantastic on-road drive, fair price, and off-road ability make the FJ Cruiser one heck of a great package. We expect we'll be seeing a good many on the trails in the coming years.

Michael Cohn

Michael Cohn is the Editor and founder of Rockcrawler.com. Michael enjoys music, technology, and four-wheeling other peoples' vehicles.

Contact Michael at comments@rockcrawler.com







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