The FJ Cruiser was Toyota's attempt to take a slice of the Wrangler pie. Off-roading vehicles were, and are, a large automotive market, and Toyota decided to release what is essentially a remake (with great liberties taken) of their FJ40 Landcruiser. Unfortunately for the FJ though, it was only able to last for eight years in the United States, from 2006 to 2014. Regardless, this vehicle continues to be compared to the Jeep Wrangler. Both vehicles are built for the same purpose and have vaguely similar designs (they might look the same if you're squinting), so the competition between the two is clear.
FJ and Wrangler Engines
The sole engine option of the 2014 FJ Cruiser was the 1GR-FE 4.0L V6 with dual overhead cams. It was able to produce 260 hp at 5,600 rpm, and 271 lb-ft of torque. This was slightly outclassed by the base 3.6L Pentastar engine which makes 285 hp at 6,400 rpm and 260 lb-ft of torque. That being said, there are more powerful options on the Wrangler line, including the 2L turbo four and the upcoming turbodiesel V6.
For either of their sizes, they both have enough horsepower to get the job done. Neither the Wrangler or the FJ are meant to be (or are known as) quick vehicles, so the only metric that really matters on either is torque. Torque is especially necessary for off-roading situations as the force that can be funneled into the wheels is what allows it to climb rocks and free itself from sticky situations. That being said, there isn’t enough of a difference in torque between the FJ and the Wranglers to make any large difference.
The Wrangler leads the pack in raw power, and once the turbo diesel engine is released onto the Wrangler line (which is expected to make 260hp and 442 lb-ft of torque), then that bump in power will be a significant improvement over the FJ.
There are again rather minor differences between fuel efficiencies between the two. The FJ Cruiser’s MPG is 16 in the city and 20 on the highway with a combined rating of 17 miles per gallon. The 2019 Wrangler, on the other hand, sports an 18 city and 21 highway with 19 combined. The difference between the two is relatively slim, but again, the Wrangler comes out on top. Neither vehicle really has a particularly aerodynamic design and considering they are more slanted towards recreational driving than pure practicality, this is basically par for the course in terms of fuel efficiency. Again, this will change once the Wrangler is imbued with the power of diesel.
Unfortunately for the FJ, all models made before 2011 require premium gas, which makes its slightly lower fuel efficiency rating more of an issue. Not only is it not as efficient with fuel, but it is less efficient with money as well.
Wrangler and FJ Transmission Options
When it comes to off-road focused vehicles, the option of a manual transmission is important. Both the FJ and the Wrangler have this option, so drivers can have more control over their vehicle’s torque output and speed when on the trails.
The FJ has the option of either a 6-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic. The automatic transmission is only available on the 4X4 FJ models, while the manual remains an option on the 4X2 FJ’s. That being said, it’s hard to imagine buying a 4X2 FJ now, especially since they are not actively being made anymore.
The Wrangler has come with a variety of transmission options over the years, but a manual ostensibly will always be an included option, especially considering the strong enthusiast following that it has. The 2019 Wrangler has an 8-speed automatic transmission, as well as a 6-speed manual. There aren’t any significant issues with either transmission, so the inclusion of the additional gears give the Wrangler the advantage here.
Jeep Wrangler's Exterior vs FJ Cruiser's
The Wrangler's design has contributed to its popularity. It’s simultaneously rugged, unassuming, cute, and tough. There’s something about the simple seven-slot grille that always evokes a strong reaction.
The FJ has quite a striking design too, even if you are not partial to it. It strikes a similar balance to the Wrangler in the sense that it seems competent but not exceedingly tough and rugged. There are a few core parts of the FJ’s design that attract a lot of attention, so let’s examine those to get a sense of its design.
For one, there’s the two-tone paint that is present on most base FJ cruisers. The roof remains white despite the rest of the color of the vehicle. There are a few exceptions to this, like the TRD special editions which retain the color all the way through the vehicle. This two-tone paint design is one of the most polarizing parts of the vehicle, as it suggests retro styles on a vehicle that looks softly modern. This has caused people to say the FJ looks like a toy. Additionally, the soft paint colors of the FJ don’t help with this either. Many of the paint colors on the Jeep Wrangler are vibrant, making it feel more innately adventurous.
One of the things that the Wrangler and the FJ have conspicuously in common is the rear spare tire. This is just as important a part of the Wrangler look as is the grille. On an FJ, there’s a proprietary plastic tire cover emblazoned with the FJ logo. This discussion could quickly derail into the merits of spare tire covers (it won’t), but they aren’t always a good look. Wranglers that have them generally have some sort of vinyl cover that protects the tire that can also bear some message (usually Jeep things).
There’s a pretty big difference between the Wrangler and the FJ Cruiser. Unlike the Wrangler, the FJ’s roof and doors are there to stay. The Wrangler can be partially dismantled, converting the vehicle into a lightweight off-roading convertible of sorts. This is one of the big appeals of the Wrangler, and there aren’t many other vehicles on the
market that offer this same freedom. The ability to remove the roof and doors is a signature Wrangler move, and it’s hard to fault the FJ for lacking one.
There’s a lot to say honestly about the looks of the FJ. At the end of the day, beauty is in the eye of the key holder. If the looks of the FJ strike you, then don’t worry what other people think. Your car is yours. If you want your Wrangler to look angry, then sure, that’s your decision. If you want a two-toned pastel off-roader, then that’s your decision as well.
FJ Cruiser and Jeep Wrangler Interiors
The interior of the FJ Cruiser is more reminiscent of older Wranglers than the JL Wrangler is. That’s a bold claim, sure, but the new Wranglers have followed the trend of large central infotainment touch screens that are obligatory on any modern car. Even in 2014, the FJ Cruiser had an incredibly simple interior. There is a small stereo, with a sparse cluster of oversized controls meant to be operated with gloves on. Beyond this, however, the whole interior just screams plastic.
Now simplicity isn’t inherently good. While the FJ Cruiser is supposed to be a tough and capable off-roading vehicle, there is a line to how bare-bones the interior can be before it becomes off-putting. Both the Wrangler and the FJ Cruiser do have rather small interiors, but the lack of removable doors and roof mean that the claustrophobia is inescapable on the FJ.
The JL Wrangler’s interior looks quite nice and is able to seem rugged while simultaneously giving you access to satellite radio. Jeep Wrangler interiors have consistently had a design cohesive with its external appearance. When there is a spartan Wrangler interior (like the YJ’s interior for example) it still looks nice, not austere like the FJ’s.
Off-Road Performance : Jeep Wrangler vs FJ Cruiser
This is arguably the most important metric to compare between these two vehicles. Both are quite capable off-road, and while the FJ can’t compare to the aftermarket scene for the Wrangler, it has a respectable amount of parts available for it.
The FJ Cruiser does have quite the bag of tricks at its disposal. For one, the FJ has the crawl control option that is popular on TRD Tacoma’s, which is basically cruise control for the trails.
The ways that the FJ can really excel on the trails have more to do with its build rather than its powertrain. The roof rails provide a good space for storage, and the frame is designed to be easily and quickly jacked up, especially when not on pavement. Like the Wrangler, the FJ is outfitted with recovery hooks and skid plates as well. Finally, there is an AC power port on the FJ that allows you to power whatever appliance you may need.
Given that they have a comparable amount of power under the hood, one of the significant determining factors on the trails are both the FJ Cruiser's and the Jeep Wrangler's off-roading angles. While the Wrangler wins with approach and departure angles, the FJ Cruiser has a considerably better breakover angle. This means that the FJ, while not as adept at climbing steep obstacles, can pass over more complicated obstacles on a flat plane than the Wrangler. Additionally, the Wrangler can handle a few more inches of water than the FJ, but both are well equipped to handle most water hazards.
||4 Door JL Jeep Wrangler
Both the FJ Cruiser and the Wrangler have their own off-road performance-focused models as well. The Wrangler has the Rubicon, which drastically improves the Wrangler’s already impressive off-roading capabilities. The FJ Cruiser has the TRD package (which is also offered on the Tacoma). The TRD FJ Cruisers come with a TRD cat-back exhaust, off-road-tuned Bilstein shocks, rock rails, all-terrain tires, and of course, a TRD badge.
During the final years of the FJ’s production, the Trail Teams Ultimate Edition was also offered. This edition was quite exclusive, as only 2,500 were made. As a nod to its heritage, it comes painted in a shade of blue shared by the original FJ40 Land Cruiser. This model also comes with a custom-tuned suspension system with Bilstein shocks, a factory lift, and quarter-inch aluminum skid plate embossed with the TRD logo under the front bumper.
Who Wins: FJ Cruiser or Jeep Wrangler?
In terms of off-road performance, these two vehicles are quite close. In terms of raw data, the Wrangler does have a slim advantage over the FJ Cruiser, but the difference isn’t major. However, the combination of the Wrangler’s many minor victories over the FJ Cruiser (even when compared to its contemporary Wrangler competition) puts the Jeep Wrangler firmly on top.
There is an undeniable charm of the FJ. Toyota so clearly set their sight on the Jeep Wrangler with the FJ Cruiser that it ultimately doomed it. They were trying to ride a wave that had already broken. The FJ is still a quite competent off-roading vehicle, but it slightly misses the key off-roading demographic. The FJ Cruiser is more functional as a vehicle that you can go camping with, a vehicle that can help you schlep a kayak or a raft to the river bed. The Wrangler can do this too, but it is also open to just go off-roading for pure fun. That's where the Wrangler excels truly, it's a thoroughly fun vehicle that remains practical. The FJ, on the other hand, is mostly just the latter.
Ultimately, this isn't too fair of a fight now, given that the FJ is no longer in production. The Jeep Wrangler is not only a great vehicle but a dynamic platform that can transform nearly entirely with the help of mods.
Sources: Toyota FJ/ Jeep Wrangler JK Death Match, MotorTrend | The Jeep Wrangler and Toyota FJ Cruiser Just Don't Depreciate, But Which One Should You Buy?, The Fast Lane | Image Credit: Jeep | Wikimedia