2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser SUV melds grit with glamour

The new 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser is essentially the same 4.0-liter V6 engine-powered all-wheel drive sport-utility truck as the 2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser, except that it will cost a few dollars more to drive out of the showroom.

The 2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser (pictured) is stickering for less than 1% over last year, which amounts to a price bump up of about $200. MSRPs for the FJ range from $25,990 for the 4x2 equipped with a 5-speed automatic transmission to $27,580 for the 4x4 V6 automatic.

These prices for thse cute little FJ Cruiser models do not include a handling fee of $810 that will be tacked on by the Toyota dealer when you buy the truck.

While most people will want the FJ for its everyday creature comforts, reliability, functionality and roominess, this distinctly styled SUV has superior off-road performance capabilities.

The Trail Teams Special Edition Package incorporates a standard Off-Road Package and for 2012 is available in Radiant Red for the first time. With an optional Class Four receiver hitch, the 2012 FJ Cruiser can pull a trailer up to 5,000 pounds, and that allows drivers to tow anything from a boat to a car, and even dirt bikes and Jet skis.

Toyota calls the 2012 FJ Cruiser's audio and connectivity features "cicilized." Standard fare includes an AM / FM CD player with mp3 / WMA playback capability, six speakers, satellite XM Radio, an auxiliary audio jack, USB port with iPod connectivity, and hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology. The steering wheel has audio system and Bluetooth controls. A JBL 10-speaker premium audio system, including sub woofer, is optional on most FJs but is standard on a red Trail Teams Special Edition FJ.

The standard FJ Cruiser delivers 271 lb.-ft. of peak torque and a broad torque curve makes it easy to cruise in these wheels, on- or off-road.

The FJ is available in 4x2 or 4x4 configurations. The 4x4 allows the driver to pick between a 6-speed manual transmission and an electronically shifted 5-speed automatic transmission. The 4x2s all have 5-speed automatics.

A Flex Lock-Up feature allows the clutch in the torque converter to maintain a half-engaged position, enhancing fuel efficiency and increasing the lock-up clutch's operational range. The driver can manually shift the automatic transmission using a shift lever on the console.

With a manual transmission, the FJ's transfer case uses limited-slip center differential with a locking feature to distribute engine power 40:60 under most driving conditions. The TORSEN unit varies power distribution based on steering angle and wheel slippage. An electronic locking rear differential is standard with the manual transmission and optional with the automatic transmission.

Toyota says it engineered the FJ Cruiser for "serious trail-driving capability." Ground clearance is almost 10 inches on 4x4 models, about 9 inches on 4x2s. The 4-wheel disc brake system uses ventilated 12.6-inch front and 12.3-inch rear rotors. The FJ Cruiser employs a variable-ratio, hydraulically assisted rack-and-pinion steering system. Standard wheels are 17-inch steel with P265 / 70 R17 tires. Aluminum-alloy wheels are available.

The FJ Cruiser’s standard features include air conditioning, power windows and door locks, a tilt steering wheel, four cup holders and two bottle holders, a rear-window defogger, front- and rear-tow hooks and mudguards. The standard full gauge package includes a speedometer, tachometer, amp meter, temperature gauge and fuel gauge and uses round, black-white dials for enhanced visibility. Switches for major functions, including climate and audio controls, and the optional locking rear differential, are mounted in the center dash panel.

The 2012 Toyora FJ Cruiser’s safety package has airbags everywhere. It includes front seat-mounted side airbags and first- and second-row roll-sensing side-curtain airbags. There also are dual-stage front driver and passenger advanced airbags.

A LATCH child-restraint system secures car seats.

The FJ also has Vehicle Stability Control,Traction Control, an Antilock Brake System, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist and Smart Stop Technology, Toyota’s brake override system.

The present day FJ's look harkens to the FJ40 4x4 utility vehicle that is considered a collector car today. It was sold new in America from 1960 to 1983 and was a vehicle of choice for safaris and expeditions in the wild.

"Heritage-design features," as Toyota calls them, include a front grille with two round, 5-inch headlights, which are reminiscent of the FJ40’s fascia; hood and fender contours; and a rear-mounted and exposed full-size spare tire with an off-center license plate mount.

The FJ Cruiser’s side access doors open 90 degrees to let people get into and out of the truck with ease. A swing-up glass hatch is incorporated into the side-hinged back door. The glass hatch opens independently of the rear door and helps accommodate longer items.

Three wiper arms provide nearly complete coverage of the wide windshield.

The FJ Cruiser's large control knobs provide easy grip, even when wearing gloves.

The driver’s seat is 8-way adjustable. The front passenger seat offers 4-way adjustment. Seating materials are water-repellant. The stitched seams of the seat covers are treated with sealant to prevent liquids from penetrating.

The rear seatback is split 60 / 40, with folding, removable bottom and back cushions that convert to a nearly flat cargo floor. The rear cargo area is equipped with cargo-net hooks, multipurpose grocery-bag hooks and sturdy, floor-mounted cargo tie-down anchor points. A 115-volt accessory power outlet is available.

An available Convenience Package worth adding includes useful extras that should be standard: Keyless entry, cruise control, power side-view mirrors with illumination markers, rear privacy glass, rear window wiper and a spare tire cover. This package also includes a rear backup camera integrated with an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. The only non-essential feature here are the daytime running lamps.

Other options are a floating ball type multi-information display with compass, inclinometer and temperature gauge; a JBL Premium Audio system; an 115V AC power outlet; 17-inch alloy wheels; a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls; a metal-colored shift lever; and interior door-trim inserts keyed to the vehicle's exterior color.

You can reach TN's Hawke Fracassa at [email protected] or (248) 747-1550. Follow him on Twitter @HawkeFracassa.

Image source: Toyota

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Though I love the FJ Cruiser, think it's THE vehicle for mountain living and realize it may have a certain savoir-faire, I don't think of it as glamorous.