With the shift towards crossover SUVs and their unibody frames, there are a decreasing number of SUVs designed with off-road driving in mind. Two moderately priced competitors in this category worth considering are the Jeep Wrangler and the Toyota FJ-Cruiser.
Jeep is the original SUV. It first debuted during World War II becoming the primary light 4-wheel-drive vehicle of the U.S. Army and its allies. The first Civilian Jeep (“CJ”) was sold in 1945. The company changed the name of its CJ model to the Wrangler for the 1988 model year. Today, the Wranger is one of the few remaining SUVs with solid front and rear axles, which are know for their strength and durability.
The 2011 Wrangler comes in two and four-door model configurations. It has a revamped interior. It now has steering wheel vehicle function buttons and a redesigned center console and instrument panel. Interior noise has been reduced. The Wrangler comes in five new color choices and a body-color hardtop is now available on “Sahara” models. The model has eight trim lines: Sport, Unlimited Sport 4X2, Unlimited Sport 4X4, Sahara, Unlimited Sahara 4X2, Rubicon, Unlimited Sahar 4X4, and the Unlimited Rubicon.
The Wrangler comes with a 3.8-liter 202-horsepower V-6 engine. Rear wheel drive comes standard with a four-wheel drive option. Transmissions are either six speed manual or four-speed automatic. The Wranger goes from 0-60 in about ten seconds. Fuel economy is about 15-mpg city and 20-mpg highway depending on the configuration.
The FJ-Cruiser returns for its fifth model year in 2011. Its styling is largely based on the Toyota’s 1970s FJ-series Land Cruiser. The 2011 FJ-Cruiser adds a special edition that features Army Green paint and matching seat inserts. It also has new Billstein shocks, active traction contorl, 10 speaker audio, and a locking rear differential. Toyota offers an off-road FJ-Cruiser package. The FJ-Cruiser returns in three trim lines: 4X2, 4X4 MT, and 4X4 AT.
All FJ-Cruiser’s come with a 4.0-liter 270-horsepower V-6 engine. Rear wheel drive comes standard with a four-wheel drive option. Transmissions are either six speed manual or five-speed automatic. The FJ-Cruiser can go from 0-60 in less than eight seconds, making it a more spirited on road driver than the Wrangler. Fuel economy is about 17-mpg city and 21-mpg highway depending on the trim. The automatic transmission actually gets about 2-mpg better in both city and highway economy than the manual.
Both the Wrangler and FJ-Cruiser excel off-road. Both have a running round clearance of about 10 inches and similar weights of about 4,300 pounds. The Wrangler is able to handle steeper approach and departure angles. The Wrangler has a towing capacity of 1,000 to 3,500 pounds depending on the trim line and a maximum payload weight of 750-1,150 pounds while the FJ-Cruiser has a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds and a payload capacity of 1,250-1,300 pounds.
In their November 2010 issue, Motor Trend magazine had a new Truck and SUV Buyers’ Guide section, which reviewed both the 2011 Wrangler and FJ-Cruiser. Motor Trend called the Wrangler “Better Than Ever” giving it five-stars. The FJ-Cruiser received four stars out of five and the comment, “Good looks backed by ability”.
The Wrangler has a greater range of models and pricing than the FJ-Cruiser. The Wrangler two-door has a base price of about $22,000 while a well-appointed four-door model can easily top $30,000. The FJ-7 comes with only four-doors and has a starting price of about $26,000. The Wrangler is assembled in the United States while the FJ-Cruiser is assembled in Japan.
A Jeep Wrangler vs. Toyota FJ-Cruiser comparison reveals the many similarities between these two compact SUVs. These vehicles are designed for off-road driving. Ultimately, deciding whether to buy a Jeep Wrangler vs. Toyota FJ-Cruiser comes down to the buyer’s needs and preferences. Both vehicles are solid, capable off-roaders with enough interior features to keep the driver and passengers comfortable on road. Prospective buyers may also want to consider another vehicle in this class, the Nissan Xterra.