The Jeep Wrangler and the Toyota 4Runner are some of the long-standing names in the off-roading hall of fame. Both of
these vehicles can be seen tearing up MOAB with equivalent ease. That being said, there are a lot of different generations of either vehicle. Besides all of the Jeep Wrangler Body Styles, there are five whole generations of Toyota 4Runners, some of which perform quite a bit better than the others in
off-road situations .
What's Great About 4Runners and Wranglers
One of the things that's great about both of these vehicles is their overall, body-on-frame design. This design
allows the vehicle to be more durable, and flex more as needed when conquering difficult terrain. This body style is
the gold standard for off-roading vehicles. This is necessary for both flexibility and durability.
Additionally, Toyota and Jeep have had a lot of experience designing vehicles for the trails. The Land Cruiser, the
great grandad of Toyota's FJ Cruiser, was made from the same cloth that early Jeep Wranglers were. This isn't a test
of originality, rather, this is to show that both manufacturers have been working on off-road vehicles for years; in
that sense, they know what they are doing.
One of the major benefits of both the Jeep Wrangler and the Toyota 4Runner is their versatility. Either vehicle is
just at home on the highway as they are on mud and rocks. While the 4Runner strikes this balance a little better, it
is by no means the only option between the two that can live a double life.
Finally, both the Wrangler and the Toyota 4Runner have plenty of wonderful tech options and interiors. While neither
vehicle marks the high point of automotive luxury, they certainly aren't lacking in this category. The Uconnect
system offered on the Jeep Wrangler and the Entune audio system on the Toyota 4Runner competently handle navigation,
media, and phone integration.
Toyota 4Runners and Jeep Wranglers : Where do they Excel?
Here are where these two vehicles really stand out. For one, the Wrangler is, and ostensibly will continue to be, the ultimate off-roading platform. The word platform is key here because Wrangler is one of the most moddable vehicles out there. The Jeep Wrangler aftermarket community is huge, and while the Toyota 4Runner has a scene of its own, they can't compare. Considering the Jeep Wrangler platform has only incurred minor changes throughout the years, there is a lot of cross-compatibility with their parts.
Beyond its innate mod-abiity, the Jeep Wrangler comes off the lot more capable to hit the trails than the 4Runner.
Again, this is not to say that the 4Runner is not capable, but that it lags behind the Wrangler in several areas. In
particular, the lack of removable doors and roof does slightly hamper the fun factor of driving a 4Runner
(although they do have retractable rear windows).
On the other hand, the 4Runner is a fantastic vehicle if you care more about your time spent on the pavement than
your time in the mud. The 4Runner's balance is found in its ability to be a reliable on-road vehicle with the
ability to go off-road when needed. The 4Runner has a smoother ride, has more interior storage space, and can offer
an interior that feels more refined than the Wrangler.
Big Differences Between Wranglers and 4Runners
Some of the big differences between these vehicles are the way that they function as daily drivers, their overall
designs, and their off-road performance. Again, while there aren't huge differences between these two vehicles in
these categories, they are significant enough to sway your decision to buy one or the other.
However you feel about the exterior of either vehicle is subjective; it's possible to fall in love with the looks of
any vehicle. However, there is something categorically bland about the design of the fifth generation Toyota
4Runner. These vehicles are the ones that you are most likely to encounter on the road or in dealerships. While the first couple of generations of 4Runners are often regarded as handsome vehicles, the most recent ones are more generic looking.
Additionally, the 4Runner's front fascia is curled into a boar-like sneer, which doesn't really seem to fit its
capabilities (we'll get to that later).
Comparing the 4Runner's looks to the Jeep Wrangler isn't really fair though, given that its looks have become so
iconic. The loveable look of the Wrangler is one of those transcendent designs, like the McDonald's arches or the
Nike swoosh. The seven-slot grille, circular headlights, and removable roof and doors (among many other design elements) all carry with them a strong sense of brand identity. Besides performance, the look of the Jeep Wrangler
is part of the reason that it is used as a benchmark for off-roading vehicles.
In terms of being a pavement vehicle, the 4Runner does have an edge over the Wrangler. It does have higher safety
ratings across the board and the interior is a bit more refined. Additionally, its longer wheelbase does give it a
smoother ride. These benefits do come at the expense of some off-road performance, however. The base 4Runner lags
behind the base Wrangler in terms of off-road capability, and the Wrangler Rubicon does come out on top of the
4Runner's off-road focused trim: the TRD pro.
Wrangler and 4Runner Engine Options
These two vehicles aren't too different when it comes to engine power and fuel efficiency. All in all, both the
4Runner and the Wrangler have enough power under the hood to tackle plenty of off-pavement situations.
Jeep Wrangler Engines
||3.6L V6 24V VVT
||2.0L I4 DOHC DI Turbo eTorque
Toyota 4Runner Engines
||4.0L V6 DOHC 24-Valve with VVT
4Runner and Wrangler : Off-Road Performance
All in all, the Jeep Wrangler is more equipped to handle difficult trails from the get-go. Without modifications, the
four-door unlimited Rubicon has an edge over all of the Toyota 4Runner's off-roading angles. That being said, both
the 4Runner and the Wrangler are innately upgradeable. In particular, early 4Runners are a popular off-road project
vehicle and can be spotted on trails all across the country.
Just like how horsepower isn't the sole determinant of track performance, a vehicle's off-roading angles aren't the
ultimate metric for how a vehicle will fare on the trails. There are plenty of ways the Toyota 4Runner can hold its
own despite its comparative bulkiness. For one, it has greater cargo space and interior room when compared to the
Wrangler, meaning that a 4Runner could haul more gear for various camping and overlanding expeditions. The 4Runner
also has a higher towing capacity, and while that doesn't really impact how it works on the trails, it does mean
that you can haul bigger loads out into the woods, making it a great hauler for smaller 4X4s, bikes, a boat, or
anything that may need to be hauled off of the pavement.
Finally, there are a few tools that come on the TRD Pro 4Runner specifically that can really come in handy on the
trails. TRD Pro 4Runner's, in addition to their skid plates, TRD pro FOX shocks, and electronically locking rear
differential, the crawl control function can greatly improve performance. While most off-roaders relish the
experience of controlling their throttle over difficult obstacles themselves, the crawl control function can take
the guesswork out of many of the things you will encounter on the trails.
On the other hand, the Wrangler Rubicon is a whole other thing to be reckoned with. While it doesn't have as many bells
and whistles as the 4Runner, it is easily one of the best off-roading vehicles that can be bought from the factory.
It comes with a disconnectable sway-bar, rock rails, and steel bumpers, locking front and rear differentials, and
33-inch all-terrain tires (and much more).
Given that there is not a two-door variant of the Toyota 4Runner, the following data will refer to the four-door
versions of both vehicles. Keep in mind, the off-roading angles of the two-door Rubicon are higher than what is
Jeep Wrangler and Toyota 4Runner Compared
||Jeep Wrangler: Unlimited Rubicon
||Toyota 4Runner: TRD Pro
|Cargo capacity (behind rear seats)
At the end of the day, the main difference between the Toyota 4Runner and the Jeep Wrangler is their focus. The Jeep
Wrangler focuses more on being a fun vehicle, that's capable off-road and generally rugged. The Toyota 4Runner, on
the other hand is more focused on its raw utility and offers better cargo space and pavement driving performance
at the expense of the Wrangler's quintessential "funness".
Sources: Jalopnik | Toyota | Jeep Image Credit: Wikimedia | Stockpholio