Drives: Sometimes You Just Want to Play Outside
Here's the best way I can think of to enjoy the World Series under a harvest moon: Hop into a Toyota (NYSE:TM) FJ Cruiser, find an isolated campsite, pitch a tent, and start a fire. Then open the to-die-for suicide doors and listen to the AM radio call of the old ball game while introducing sir marshmallow to messieurs chocolate and graham cracker. If this sounds like the ultimate fantasy of an eight-year-old boy, well, it is. The FJ is a grown-up version of the coolest, toughest truck in the sandbox. The sprightly square design of this 4X4 is a pastiche of World War II vehicles, surfer jeeps, and your dad's beloved old Land Cruiser in a fun, new-school package.
But the FJ Cruiser isn't some kitsch-factor novelty item. It handles well on city streets, and it owns the great outdoors. I knocked it around pretty good at Glimmerglass State Park, which is just outside Cooperstown, New York, and its relics of our national pastime. The FJ uses a version of the Toyota 4Runner's automatic transmission, which is great for inclines because it monitors the vehicle's speed and throttle to automatically shift into the appropriate gear. The FJ also has electronic traction control, so dirt, rocks, hills, and valleys are no sweat.
The interior looks and feels industrial, like it can take a beating as well as a slathering of mud. The seats are water-repellent and the rubbery floor can be hosed down back at base camp. Mounted on the dashboard are a compass and an inclinometer so that you can keep tabs on the horizontal axis while scaling your friendly neighborhood mountain. As the nights grow longer, the air gets cooler, and the best baseball teams take to the diamond under the lights, there just may be a new fall classic to savor--one that's parked under the stars.
2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser
$23,300 base price; $30,983 as tested
4-liter 239-hp V-6 engine; 1,325-pound payload capacity; 17-inch wheels; 17/21 mpg
An optional rear subwoofer kicked out enough bass for me to make believe I was rolling through the 'hood with Dr. Dre. And folding down the back seats opens up the spacious 66.8 cubic feet of cargo room.
The acceleration is sufficient, but it isn't going to blow anyone away. Toyota shoulda had a V-8. Though the FJ Cruiser technically seats five, it would be airtight with three adults in the back seat. And somehow the oversize side mirrors don't have quite enough visibility for comfort.
"The FJ harkens back to Toyota's history of off-road vehicles and proves the automaker isn't just about self-congratulatory hybrids and plain-vanilla sedans," says Edward Sanchez, senior Web producer for Truckin' and Sport Truck magazines.