posted on May 27th, 2020

When sensible Toyota gets retro and wild

Toyota builds some of the most dependable vehicles on the road, especially their SUVs and trucks. For the off-road crowd, models like the Land Cruiser and 4Runner have proven themselves time and time again in the toughest conditions. However, every so often, Toyota builds a vehicle that deviates from the norm. One that tosses convention out the window to try something different, and still makes an impression long after leaving showrooms. The Toyota FJ Cruiser does just that, and that’s why it’s earned the title of May car of the month.

2012 Toyota FJ Cruiser
4.0L V6 260 7.2 sec Enough 18 mpg $65
4.0L V6 260 7.2 sec Enough 18 mpg $65

For the uninitiated, the Toyota FJ Cruiser may leave a lot of people scratching their heads. Its funky proportions, strange window arrangement, and the trifecta of windshield wipers are a major departure from the usual Toyota conservatism, but there is more to the story of the FJ Cruiser than meets the eye. Much of the FJ Cruiser’s styling is directly influenced by the seminal 40-series Land Cruiser, or FJ40, from which it also gets its name. For the FJ, Toyota drew heavily on the Land Cruiser’s legacy of a class-leading combination of off-road capability and reliability.

Unlike the bright colors you’d find on most stock examples, Miranda’s 2012 FJ Cruiser here features a matte black exterior and tinted details which is sure to turn heads wherever it goes. Though this custom look presents a sleek package, it still doesn’t hide the FJ’s bulbous proportions, which initially split opinions but have become more appreciated as time goes by.

Under the hood of the FJ sits a 4.0-liter V6, good for a healthy 260 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. Tipping the scales close to 4,300 pounds with its beefy body on frame construction, the FJ is far from a featherweight — its engine is meant for low end grunt, especially handy in the dirt or snow. To make sure traction is present when you need it most, the 4WD FJ utilizes a Torsen center differential that can evenly split power between axles. Like a lot of modern SUVs, Miranda’s FJ Cruiser comes equipped with the five-speed automatic that lets you pilot the rig with ease as you take in the scenery (Please remember, off-roading is prohibited on Turo).

Just like the exterior, the interior of the FJ is sight to behold. The slab-sided dash layout is throwback to old school no-nonsense 4x4s. Most obvious is the center gauge pod featuring a compass and inclinometer for when the trails get challenging (similar to what you’d find in the original Toyota 4Runner). While the back seat may be a bit of a squeeze, the opposite-hinged rear doors are another fun feature that make getting in and out of the FJ Cruiser an occasion for the passengers.

So, the FJ Cruiser makes a statement whether you’re a bystander or behind the wheel. Regardless of the polarizing opinions, the Cruiser is actually a clever idea straight from the Toyota factory. In essence, the FJ Cruiser is the OEM interpretation of a resto mod.

Lots of people enjoy the looks of classic vehicles, but daily driving them can be particularly challenging at times. That’s where the retro-styled FJ fits the bill. The independent front suspension is still plenty capable off-pavement, but more importantly isn’t punishing to drive on the street like a lot of old school rides. Additionally, there are plenty of creature comforts, such as air conditioning, a modern audio system, and enough room to handle the rigors of daily driving. Arguably, the FJ Cruiser is the automotive embodiment of “having your cake and eating it too.”

It will probably be a while before Toyota builds another retro-inspired ride, which means the FJ Cruiser is a collectible in the making. So if you’re the outdoors type and you want to take your next road trip in something memorable, hit up Miranda about this one-of-a-kind rig or find an FJ Cruiser near you.

Joey is usually thinking about one thing: cars, cars, and did we mention cars? If he’s not talking about cars, chances are he’s tinkering under the hood of his old E30 BMW.