Our friendly salesman, Robert Raphael, was very helpful in getting us a test drive in this just-off-the-truck FJ. The truck literally had 3 miles on it when we started it up, so it was almost a shame to get it dirty in the snow. This model was a manual transmission that included the Off Road Package, so it was a pretty good representation of what you’ll find at a local dealer.
Pretty much all brand new FJ Cruisers drive the same, so we won’t bore you with details on handling, blind spots, engine details, or basic features. The biggest changes for the 2011 FJ Cruiser are interior related and we made some interesting notes on some of these.
First, the new radio that comes in the FJ (should we still call it the FJammer?) has really bumped up the features quite a bit. The system comes with integrated Bluetooth (BT) technology that not only allows you to make hands free phone calls, but also supports BT audio (more on that in minute). When you turn the system on you get a cool FJ Cruiser logo, which is always great to see. The buttons are large and easy to use, and the unit supports both WMA and MP3 playback. The system also includes a USB-AUX input for iPod and similar devices, but we didn’t test that feature. In addition to BT audio, the new stereo includes XM satellite radio for those that like to jam in the backcountry. Our favorite feature though, by far, is the Bluetooth audio interface. After we setup the hands free calling (which is as good as any OEM unit we’ve seen), it asked us to pair for BT audio. A few seconds later we were able to use Pandora or any other audio source from the iPhone wirelessly to the FJ. While this doesn’t help with charging, it certainly is a great feature for the daily drive to work.
The two other changes we looked at were ‘easier’ access to the rear seats and the folding rear headrests. It is indeed easier to slide into the back seats in the 2011 FJ with the new changes. The front passenger seat slides forward quite a bit more than previous years, so those with older children will like this feature quite a bit. The rear seat headrests are another issue though.
Those of us with older FJ’s know that if you want the seats to fold flat, you have to remove the rear headrests. While this isn’t a huge issue, it is a little bit of a pain. For 2011 Toyota has included rear headrests that fold into the seats that are supposed to help with this issue. The problem is that even though they fold down, it’s still very difficult (or impossible) to fold the seats completely flat with the headrests installed (see photo). We didn’t jump on the seat to get it to slide down, so it may be possible with enough force, but this is not a worthwhile solution as far as we can see. This may be useful if you remove the seat bottoms, but that really is not an easy job and defeats the purpose. For now, you’ll still likely remove the headrest completely to fold the seats flat.
Overall we’re impressed with the 2011 FJ (except for the headrest issue), and it yet again seems like a wonderful vehicle. The Bluetooth & Satellite radio integration are very worthy upgrades, so we’ll see if it’s possible to install these into previous FJ Cruisers. We look forward to seeing many ’11 FJ’s on the trail this summer!
To get your copy of the April 2011 issue of FJC Magazine: