Once upon a time in America, sport utility vehicles were big and brawny, more like trucks than cars. On today's SUVs you'll still find sporty exteriors but most of them have anemic engines. They're more like station wagons than the SUVs of yesteryear. Not to worry though. There are still true SUVs out there. Two that stand out are the Jeep Wrangler and Toyota 4Runner. In this comparison guide, we'll look at both and see which lives truer to the spirit of the SUV.
Off-Roading: 2018 Jeep Wrangler
If you don't plan on doing any off-roading, there are more sensible SUVs to choose from. But if you do off-road, you can't go wrong with a Jeep. From top to bottom, the Wrangler was designed with off-roading in mind. This Wrangler boasts a 3.6L V6 engine mated with a 6-speed transmission. You'll have plenty of ground clearance in the Jeep Wrangler, which offers 10.8 inches. Other perks include a winch-capable steel bumper, standard skid plates, and steel off-road rock rails, along with red tow hooks for recovery. Finally, the Wrangler has a part-time 4x4 system and an impressive 84.1:1 crawl ratio.
The Toyota 4Runner, unlike the smaller RAV4, is actually designed for off-roading. After all, the 4Runner boasts limited-slip differential, skid plates, and at least 9 inches of ground clearance with four-wheel-drive models having 9.6 inches. The very best 4Runner for off-roading is the 4Runner TRD Pro trim, which has Bilstein high-performance shocks, aluminum front skid plate, and 17-inch Nitto Terra Grappler tires. Which SUV is better for off-roading? Well, the Toyota 4Runner has a weaker engine than the Jeep Wrangler's, with only a 5-speed transmission mated with the 4.0L V6. Plus, the Wrangler has more ground clearance. Finally, there's not really any off-road gear, tech, or feature that the Wrangler doesn't also have. So we're calling the Wrangler off-roading king.
Price: 2018 Jeep Wrangler
After our endorsement for the Wrangler's off-roading chops, you might expect it to be more expensive. But it's not, not by a long shot. The base price for the 2018 Jeep Wrangler is just $27,500. That price goes all the way up to $40,995 for a four-door Wrangler Rubicon. Meanwhile, the Toyota 4Runner starts at $34,410 and hits the ceiling at $42,725.
Passenger Space: Tie
Some may cry foul with the price comparison because the 2018 Toyota 4Runner is 15" longer than the Wrangler. But the extra you're paying is mostly just cargo space. The Wrangler and 4Runner have virtually the same leg room, and the Wrangler even has a little more head room than the 4Runner. There is one extra seat in the 4Runner, but it's in the middle of the back seat. Not exactly the best seat in the house. So, expect for those who absolutely need five seats, not four, or plenty of cargo room, the Jeep Wrangler is a bargain compared to the 4Runner. And with its off-roading capability, it's tremendously fun to drive as well.