Sunday, June 8, 2014

Motor Trend Compares the FJ Cruiser and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

With the Toyota FJ Cruiser coming to the end of its production run and no replacement in the works, Motor Trend Magazine decided that one final review of the truck was in order.  They selected a 2014 Toyota FJ Cruiser Trail Teams Ultimate Edition, one of 2500 that is a special send-off version to commemorate the last of the FJ Cruisers, and they pitted it against a special edition of the JK - the
2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Willys Wheeler Edition.

The article does a great job of explaining the differences between the two vehicles from both an on-road and an off-road standpoint.  While they proved to be evenly-matched on the pavement, the Jeep (in spite of the Willys Wheeler Edition not being a Rubicon-based model with the heavier-duty drivetrain and additional offroad prowess) demonstrated a clear superiority in the dirt.  The Toyota's independent front suspension provided a slightly better ride at high speeds, but the Jeep's dual solid axles walked over everything in their path.  From the article:
The Jeep Wrangler, on the other hand, feels unstoppable off-road. Surprising, right? Though not at home speeding down open trails like the FJ is, the Wrangler still eagerly does anything you ask of it. On tight, technical trails, you never find yourself questioning the Jeep's capabilities. Point and shoot the Jeep at an obstacle and it overcomes it. No muss, no fuss. The Jeep easily took to steep climbs and descents, rocky frame twisters, and more, seemingly eager for yet more.
The Jeep's other big advantage over the Toyota is its price; as-tested, the Jeep cost roughly $5000 less than the Toyota.  Sure, a fully-optioned Rubicon can match the Toyota's price point, but the Rubicon's additional offroad equipment would further the performance gap.  Thus, the Jeep was their unanimous victor in this match:
Ultimately, there can be just one winner, and that victory goes to the original: the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Willys Wheeler Edition. While you really can't go wrong with either the Toyota or Jeep, the Wrangler just offers up that little extra something that makes you want to keep going. The Wrangler oozes personality; spend any time in it and it immediately becomes part of the family. Basically what it boils down to is this: the Jeep Wrangler makes you want to drop the top and actively go out and seek adventure. In the Toyota FJ Cruiser, you're content holing up at home for a weekend-long Netflix marathon and hitting the road later.

In an increasingly busy world, there's no beating the feeling of freedom the Wrangler affords you, and for that it walks off with the win.
Perhaps if Toyota had equipped the FJ Cruiser with a proper pair of solid axles (from the 80-Series Land Cruiser, for instance) and had continued refining and updating the vehicle as Jeep has done with the Wrangler, it could have put up a better fight against the Jeep.  While the FJ Cruiser is a decent performer, it (like every other vehicle on the American market) just can't match the benchmark that Jeep has set with the Wrangler.

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