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Toyota FJ Cruiser, Rugged yet Elegant, Retro yet Luxurious.

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Rugged yet elegant, playful but powerful, retro and luxurious all at the same time, it’s all I can use to describe one car Toyota FJ Cruiser. Retro in style, it actually has its origins in the original FJ40 Land Cruiser that ceased production in 1984, after it was re-engineered to the legendary Land Cruiser.  Toyota must have had a hard time to try and retrieve back a shape that for two decades was in the archives.

First introduced as a concept car at the 2003 Chicago Auto Show, Toyota has been releasing a new FJ Cruiser model every year since 2007. This Sports Utility Vehicle compact family friendly vehicle is most definitely a blast from the past, both aesthetically and to drive, whether you live in the city, suburbs or country side. An icon that performs perfectly on the rugged streets where I live, where hills, valleys, speed bumps galore as well as a surplus of pot holes in our neighborhood I would have had a better place to enjoy the ride.  This performed flawlessly. I also drove the FJ Cruiser on some freeways both at top speeds, and in stop and go traffic which unfortunately is a way of life here in the City. I even took this peppy vehicle down to the beach to watch the sunset. I wasn’t able to put this to the true test of taking it off road but everywhere else I drove it handled well, I hope do that soon.

On the outside the FJ Cruiser sports yesteryear features with lots of sharp angles think angular mid-century modern furniture to visualize this compact SUV’s style. Built with a stocky body frame, some of the standing out design elements includes a big bulky grill and headlight system in front with a 3-wiper windshield that’s nearly stands up straight atop the dashboard. Above, the going-on-a-safari heavy pipe luggage carrier looks so stylish and equally practical for hauling luggage, ski gear or camping equipment on a road trip.

The rear tail lights that are squared off and edge out of the back end, too. That little touch reminds me of the kind of car you might have found in the Jetson Family garage in the 1960s. Also very space-age looking: the rear opening driver and passenger access doors that create a cavernous rocket ship ambiance as you step inside. And while the doors are open you’ll notice there’s no central beam where the front and back doors join. Like in other SUVs on the market because Toyota employed specially designed super strong steel that protects passengers from impact in the case of an accident. If you ask me, this car’s overall sturdy feel brings an army tank to mind and a sense of feeling really safe while driving it. The driver’s seat was comfortable and spacious for me with the front seat view resembling an airplane cockpit, especially the trio of controls that sit front and center on top of the dashboard. In fact most of the controls on the panel are oversized and easily accessible for a reason, to aid driving especially when you are wearing gloves. The inside of the car also features heavy duty water resistant seat fabric to make cleaning it a snap if you are going on an four-wheel outing adventure or if you have kids that are constantly making a mess in your car. What’s more is that there is a nice size cargo area for schlepping all your kids’ gear all over town, too.

As with people looks aren’t everything and it’s what you find on the inside that really counts with this car. The FJ Cruiser comes in both 4×4, as well as 4×2 WD. Under the hood there’s the 4.0 liter V-6 engine that has enough power to accelerate easily on freeway on ramps. With so much power I was surprised that this gets decent mileage for a car in it segments an estimated 19.0 miles per gallon in town.

With all that I loved about this car, I have a couple of things on my wish list that could be improved upon. First, it seats only five people so it wouldn’t be big enough for a larger family. Still for a family of five or less, I think this SUV would be great for in-town car pool duty as well as to drive on challenging terrain like a family road trip to go skiing this winter. The other thing is the FJ Cruiser would be even more fun to drive if there was a sun roof either as a standard or factory option.

If you’re in the market for a new family vehicle that’s fun and functional consider giving the FJ. Then you can judge for yourself if this is the right choice for you.

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