Now Is The Time To Buy Toyota's Strangest SUV

Smart Buy / 16 Comments

The FJ Cruiser is becoming a cult classic.

If you want a reliable and semi-affordable off-road SUV that isn't a Jeep Wrangler, the Toyota 4Runner is your best bet, especially the TRD Pro model. As cool as the 4Runner is, it doesn't have the same iconic look as the Wrangler. But if you rewind the clock back to 2006, Toyota did offer an off-road capable SUV with retro-iconic styling that could go toe-to-toe with the Jeep.

It was called the Toyota FJ Cruiser and it was designed to harken back to the original FJ40 Land Cruiser. Toyota showed the FJ Cruiser as a concept car but quickly put it into production after receiving an overwhelmingly positive response. The model hasn't been on sale in the US since 2014 but you can actually still buy one in other parts of the world. Since it doesn't look like the FJ will be replaced any time soon, we think now is a great time to buy a used one.

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Why You Should Buy One

There aren't any vehicles on sale today that look quite like an FJ Cruiser. When you are on (or off) the road in one of these (especially when finished in its signature Voodoo Blue), people will take notice. It features a nearly verticle front windshield with a unique three windshield wiper layout for maximum coverage. Underneath, there aren't many SUVs built like this anymore either. The body-on-frame platform shares most of its underpinnings with the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado. In 4X4 form, the FJ boasts 9.6 inches of ground clearance with 34-degree approach and 30-degree departure angles, and a 27.4-degree breakover angle. In simple terms, no terrain can stop an FJ Cruiser.

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The Price

The FJ Cruiser has quickly earned status as a cult classic collectible with low-mileage, well-maintained examples commanding up to $50,000 on the used market. This is even more impressive because even a fully-loaded example back in 2014 only sold for around $36,000. If you are willing to take an example that is a bit more "loved" with nearly 200,000 miles on it, prices start at around $8,000. This is testament to how well the FJ Cruiser has held its value over the years. We suggest trying to find an FJ with reasonable mileage (40,000 to 80,000) and plan to budget anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 depending on condition.

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The Performance

All versions of the FJ Cruiser came powered by a 4.0-liter 1GR-FE V6, which is actually the same engine used in the current 4Runner. It originally produced 239 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque but was later increased to 260 hp in 2011. A five-speed automatic transmission could send power to the rear wheels while an optional part-time 4X4 system was also available. All examples equipped with the six-speed manual rocked a full-time 4X4 system. While certainly not fast, the V6 is bulletproof reliable and offers plenty of torque to move the FJ Cruiser up any terrain.

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The Interior

Much like a Wrangler, the FJ's interior is rugged and simple. All of the surfaces are covered in washable rubber materials, making it easy to hose out the cabin after a day of muddy off-roading. Don't come into the FJ cruiser expecting any luxury amenities, just the bare bones essentials like a radio, clock, and air conditioning. If you so desire, the base radio can easily be changed out for a modern system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

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The Practicality

Due to its quirky suicide door design, the FJ Cruiser was never the most practical people hauler. Even though the vehicle is massive, the rear seats only offer 31.3 inches of legroom. Behind the rear seats, 27.9 cubic feet are available with 66.8 cubic feet once the rear seats are folded. As you'd expect of a big truck, the FJ isn't very efficient with up to 17 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway.

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Nothing like the Toyota FJ Cruiser exists today, which might explain why this quirky SUV has such a loyal following. It looked like nothing else on the road and few vehicles, even today, can match its rugged dependability. There are plenty of crossovers that can haul more people and stuff without guzzling gas but few offer the same uniqueness as this oddball creation. Toyota is a conservative company that rarely takes big chances like this, which is why we think a used FJ Cruiser is an excellent used purchase.

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