It’s got a bit of a retro-outback look, but Toyota’s FJ Cruiser might surprise you. It’s better than you think on the road, and it’s as good as you hope it will be off the road. There aren’t many changes in the 2013 model of the FJ Cruiser other than a new color scheme e_SEnD Cement Grey e_SEnD for a Trail Teams Special Edition.

Powered by a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 260 horsepower and 271 lb.-ft. of torque, our test FJ performed very well around town and on a quick run on Interstate 10 across the spillway to Lafayette. The FJ Cruiser is a rear-wheel drive vehicle available in 4x4 and 4x2 configurations. Transmission choices include a 6-speed manual or an electronic 5-speed automatic on the 4x4. The 4x2 offers only the automatic.

The Cruiser has a durable interior with fabric seats and rubberized floor material. Toyota says even the stitching on the seats is treated with a sealant to keep liquids out. The driver’s seat is eight-way adjustable and the front passenger gets a four-way adjustable seat. The metallic center of the dash is the same color as the exterior of the vehicle, and gauges and controls are simple and large, especially the climate control dials on the center stack.

At the top of the stack is an available “floating ball” cluster of three round gauges: a compass, a temperature gauge and an inclinometer. The rear seat is a 60/40 split that folds flat for cargo. With the seats folded, cargo space is generous, with cargo tie-downs and cargo net hooks.

The FJ Cruiser is one of those vehicles that is instantly recognizable. There are two large front doors and two smaller doors in back that open via a latch inside. That means, of course, you have to open the front doors before you can open the back doors. The rear-hinged back doors – manufacturers frown on the term “suicide doors” – open 90 degrees, so it’s really pretty easy to get inside.

Available power side mirrors have illumination markers that resemble small headlights. Other available features include upgraded JBL Premium Audio, a 120V AC power outlet, 17-inch alloy wheels and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with controls. Toyota dealers also offer factory-custom accessories like auxiliary driving lights, rails, a roof rack, a brush guard, taillight guards, a sport exhaust system, a wind deflector with off-road lights and a receiver hitch.

Standard connectivity on FJ Cruisers includes an AM/FM CD player with MP3/WMA playback capability and six speakers, XM Satellite Radio, a USB port and Bluetooth wireless technology with hands-free operation.

The FJ Cruiser is upright and somewhat boxy with a wide stance and trademark circular headlights. The vehicle gets 16 miles per gallon in the city and 20 mpg on the highway for an average of 18 mpg.

After the pavement ends, the FJ Cruiser keeps going. Engineers installed skid plates to protect the engine, the transfer case (4x4 models,) and the fuel tank. With standard tires, ground clearance is 9.6 inches on 4x4 models and 8.7 inches on 4x2 models. On 4x4 models, the approach angle is 34 degrees and the departure angle is 31 degrees.

The 2013 FJ Cruiser is equipped with Toyota’s Star Safety System, and gets “good” ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in all tests except roof strength, where it scored “acceptable.”

The base price for the 2013 4x2 FJ Cruiser is $26,880. A convenience package, an upgrade package and running boards boosted the sticker’s bottom line to $32,815, including $845 in freight.

2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser

  • Engine: 4.0-liter V6
  • Horsepower: 260
  • Transmission: 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic
  • Test model base price: $26,880
  • EPA mileage rating: 16 mpg city / 20 mpg highway