Better off-road vehicle: Toyota 4Runner or Jeep Wrangler?
Toyota’s fifth generation 4Runner debuted four years ago, and though it’s been around awhile, a redesign is not forthcoming in 2014. Instead, the 4Runner gets a face peel, upgraded cabin and more standard equipment. Three trim levels remain, as does its 4.0-liter V-6.
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With the same chassis and running gear as the FJ Cruiser and Tacoma, this explains why the 4Runner won’t get an overhaul. Cosmetic changes include a new front fascia and LED taillights., Door trim and a leather-wrapped steering wheel in the SR5 and Trail models are less inspiring, with Toyota’s Entune infotainment system with a backup camera, and blue and white dash lighting added to all 4Runners.
New standard features on the 2014 SR5 are a power driver’s seat and roof rack. Limited’s get projector beam headlights, while part-time 4WD is back on the Trail. Part-time 4WD is available on the SR5, while full-time 4WD can be had on the Limited. The Trail’s electronic locking rear differential, Multi-Terrain drive-mode selector, front skid plate/bumper cover and Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, an anti-roll bar decoupling system to maximize off-road suspension travel and articulation, adds to its off-road capability.
Toyota’s 4.0-liter V-6 makes 270 HP and 278 lb-ft of torque, regardless of drive configuration, through a 5-speed automatic. Fuel economy stays at 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway for 2WD models and 17/22 for 4WD 4Runners. Prices haven’t been announced, but shouldn’t change much.
Though there are plenty of standard versions, and now as much luxury as Jeep will allow in a Wrangler, it’s the 2013 10th Anniversary Rubicon Trail edition that we’re comparing with the 4Runner. A decade ago, Jeep first offered upgraded gear from the factory on the Wrangler, and the latest version continues that tradition.
Chrysler’s new 285-hp Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 is turning 4.10:1 Dana 44 axles through a Rock-Track part-time transfer case. With Tru-Lok differentials and a first-gear ratio reduction of 73:1, this will ensure you get where you’re going and back, regardless of terrain.
Raising the ride height by 1/2” helps the Rubicon keep its BF Goodrich KM2 265/70-17 tires and satin-black painted and polished aluminum wheels from rubbing. Winch-ready steel bumpers with removable end caps, Mopar rock rails, and mesh over the fuel filler door and tail lamps are part of the Wrangler’s protection and appearance.
Available in two- and extended-wheelbase four-door versions, with your choice of a Sunrider soft-top or optional hardtop, it’s the 4-door hardtop that compares with the 4Runner. While also off-road ready, it’s the 4Runner’s appearance that is oddly enough dated, a contrast to the Wrangler, whose profile in any configuration is seen as iconic. Just ask any hardcore off-roared enthusiast or sun-loving coed, and they’ll tell you.
Want to get your SUV ready for off-roading this season? Download ATC’s free ebook, The Total Guide for the Off-Road Adventurer.