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2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser

by Martha Hindes

Toyota FJ Cruiser
2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser Interior

Anyone thinking of "Toyota" and "off-road" might remember the desert dynasty of the Land Cruiser, a longtime favorite -- among others -- of mid-East sheiks, and their assorted affiliates. If the idea of plowing through shifting sands under a blazing Sahara sun doesn't register a mental image, Toyota's latest newbie might do it. It's the smaller, but no less hardy FJ Cruiser, that announces its presence with swagger, a hint of humor and a large reserve of go-anywhere capability.

Nothing's apologetic about Toyota's newest, true SUV for '07, based on the longstanding midsize 4Runner foundation. A boxy midweight, its face has the look of a weathered cowboy glaring from below a furrowed brow, daring any competitor to invade it's space. Inside there's a flat-planed dash with bold knobs and grip handles that denounce any sissy intentions, despite such techy comforts as nine-speaker premium audio with MP3 capability. Water resistant seats and wipe-down flooring beg for abuse.

The low-slung roof and shallow windshield would avoid low hanging branches on safari, but could limit the view of overhead stoplights in town, where the FJ Cruiser undoubtedly will spend most of its life. No matter. The "fun to drive, aggressive and tough" youth market it's aimed at probably wouldn't care. Available outside are auxiliary driving lights, rock rails, brush guard, taillight guards and sport exhaust, to enhance the wilderness woman's intent for owning one.

The frame-based FJ Cruiser is powered by a high compression 4.0-liter V-6, generating 239 HP and 278 lb.ft. of terrain taming torque. There's a choice of six-speed manual or five speed automatic for 4X4 versions; 4X2s are auto only. Max towing with optional hitch is 5,000 pounds. Plan to plunk down a minimum of $21,910 (2X4) or $23,500 (4X4), plus enough in premium fuel for a best 18/22 mpg (2X4 automatic).

Early reviews have raved of its gutsy performance, something hinted at during our brief time cruising around town. We wouldn't remotely compare this with crossover softies that would consider groomed gravel driving a wild adventure.