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Toyota FJ Cruiser

The Toyota FJ Cruiser is the most capable of all Toyotas when the pavement gives way to gravel, sand and rocks. That’s saying something, given the capabilities of the 4Runner, Land Cruiser, and Tacoma. All of these Toyotas are among the best in their respective classes for travel over rugged terrain. 

The FJ Cruiser seats five. The front doors are front-hinged. Rear-hinged rear side doors provide access to the back seat. Main access to the cargo area is through a door hinged on the driver’s side of the vehicle instead of a typical roof-hinged hatch-style closure. Having the hinge on the driver’s seat makes curbside loading and unloading easier. 

Retro styling gives the FJ Cruiser presence. Designed in California, the FJ Cruiser recalls the Toyota FJ 40, known in North America as the original Land Cruiser. The FJ Cruiser will not be mistaken for anything else. Short overhangs aid capability for traversing ditches and other terrain that challenges ground clearance. Image

The rugged, minimalist interior is easy to clean. No leather here, rugged fabric is designed to resist dirt and water. 

An Off-Road package further enhances the FJ’s capabilities with BFGoodrich Rugged Trail tires, trail-tuned Bilstein shock absorbers, and a rear differential lock that works in conjunction with Toyota’s A-TRAC off-road traction control system. With this setup, the FJ Cruiser can hang with the Jeep Wrangler crowd. 

Toyota’s 4.0-liter V6 engine makes 260 horsepower and 271 pound-feet of torque. It has dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), which means variable valve timing for both intake and exhaust. We found the FJ Cruiser superb in rugged terrain yet comfortable on the road. Its V6 engine delivers more than ample power and torque for any foreseeable situation. 

Fuel economy for the 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser is an EPA-estimated 17/21 mpg City/Highway for a 4WD automatic, 15/19 mpg for a 4WD with 6-speed manual gearbox, and 17/22 mpg for a 2WD automatic. 

The full-time 4×4 with the manual transmission offers the best capability in rugged terrain. 

Changes for 2013 are minimal: Power outside mirrors with marker lights are standard on all 2013 FJ Cruisers, and a sharp orange hue called Magma has been added to the paint palette. The 2013 FJ Cruiser Trail Teams Special Edition comes in Cement Gray. We don’t expect any significant changes to the FJ Cruiser anytime soon. 


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Toyota Highlander

The Toyota Highlander is a midsize SUV that’s smooth and quiet underway, with a versatile cabin that seats seven. Highlander is a crossover SUV, meaning it’s built more like a car than a truck, while feeling nice and big like a truck SUV. It’s based on the platform of the Toyota Camry midsize sedan. 

All Highlanders were extensively revised for 2011, with freshened styling and upgraded audio and safety systems. There are no additional changes to the 2012 Highlander. 

 

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The 2012 Highlander comes with a choice of powerplants. The base 2.7-liter four-cylinder makes 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, and delivers EPA fuel economy ratings of 20/25 mpg City/Highway. It’s matched with a 6-speed electronically controlled automatic overdrive transmission, and is available only with two-wheel drive. 

The optional 3.5-liter V6 is extremely smooth and delivers 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. Also smooth is its 5-speed automatic transmission, which downshifts seamlessly to provide ample punch for passing. Front-wheel-drive Highlanders with the 3.5-liter V6 are EPA-rated at 18/24 mpg City/Highway; Highlander AWD (all-wheel drive) models are rated slightly lower at 17/22 mpg, which is about what we got in the AWD V6 we drove, including a 300-mile freeway run. 

There’s also a Highlander Hybrid, whose gas/electric powertrain uses three electric motors: One to drive each axle, for AWD, and a third to regulate the electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT). The Highlander Hybrid’s gasoline engine is essentially the same 3.5 liter V6, but with port, rather than direct, fuel injection and milder tuning producing 231 horsepower and 215 pound-feet of torque. But add in the additional punch of the electric motors, and the total system horsepower is 280. EPA estimated fuel economy is 28 mpg, city or highway. Unfortunately, we found it difficult to achieve that during our winter test drive using power accessories full blast. 

Highlander offers a quiet cabin and a comfortable ride, while being a pleasant way to carry a group of people, with generous space for passengers and cargo. A versatile cabin adds to its attractiveness as a family vehicle. The second row can slide forward and back, and the third-row seat is good for children and capable of carrying adults. Getting in and out of the first two rows is easy, and Toyota provides both a walk-through and a fold-and-slide-forward second-row seat to ease access to the third row. 

 

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