The 2021 Toyota 4Runner Killed the 2021 Land Rover Defender on Consumer Reports

We are always trying to find the coolest and best 4x4s. Sometimes those two things overlap but not often. In fact, most of the coolest off-roaders are not great vehicles for everyday life. Take Jeep Wranglers, for example. They have more in common with sports cars than anything else. They are uncomfortable, purpose-built, kind of expensive, and not overly reliable (newer ones, that is.) To further prove the point, Consumer Reports rated the 2021 Toyota 4Runner and the 2021 Land Rover Defender. The Defender is cooler for sure, but still got dragged by the 4Runnner. 

Consumer Reports recommends the 2021 Toyota 4Runner over the 2021 Land Rover Defender

These are easily two of the most recognized and loved 4x4s in the game. The Land Rover has proven itself to be a fan favorite across the world for many decades, as has the Toyota 4×4 platform on which the 4Runner is built. It is tough to choose between the two when they are both so cool and closely priced. Thankfully Consumer Reports is here to do the removed and non-emotional necessary to make a logical decision. 

Is the 2021 Land Rover Defender a good SUV? 

Consumer Reports gave the Defender the rough overall score of 45/100. Customers have been excited about the Defender reboot for a while. Of course, the grumpy boys and girls on the internet will have plenty to say about it not being like the old ones (once removed from a literal mule), but the truth is, people who have actually bought one tend to like it. 

a silver 2021 Land Rover Defender
2021 Land Rover Defender

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Consumer Reports gave the Defender good marks in many categories despite what the rating might suggest. The Defender is comfortable, quiet, and all-around well equipped for such a strong off-roader. 

The Defender has solid engine options 

The Defender currently has two engine options available, the 296-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder and the 395-hp turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder. Both engine options are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Although it isn’t available yet, Land Rover just announced the addition of a V8 version for what will likely be in the 2022 model. As far as the two that are available, CR has almost nothing bad to say. Power delivery is quick and smooth, and the same can be said for the gearbox. 

As might be expected from a big, boxy 4×4, the Defender suffers from sluggish braking and low maneuverability at speed. This is not so surprising as many SUVs work this way. However, the part that really hurts the Defender is the predicted reliability. CR takes a model’s reliability history very seriously. A low predicted reliability could tank an otherwise good score. The Defender is obviously all-new, but the Land Rover line has had a bumpy past regarding reliability. Time will tell if Jaguar/Land Rover has made the new Defender any tougher than previous models. 

Is the 2021 Toyota 4Runner a good truck?

Toyota has had a troublesome past decade or so. That isn’t to say that a drop in quality or anything has tarnished the name. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite of that. Toyota has been painfully slow to update, well, anything having to do with its line of 4x4s and pickups. 

2021 Toyota 4Runner parked in the mountains
2021 Toyota 4Runner | Toyota

The 2021 4Runner is a rad truck that is still selling despite its nearly 20-year-old motor. Not only is the 270-hp 4.0-liter V6 old, but nearly everything else is too. The interior, transmission, chassis, and almost everything else other than the body and some electronic odds and ends, the 4Runner is like many other Toyotas, old. 

The engine, transmission, and basically any other moving part are rock solid. They really don’t break. This is why the Toyota line keeps working without any major updates or improvements. The trucks are solid, and that is basically what the CR score of 64/100 confirms. CR hated how loud the cabin was. The ride was bouncy and stiff. And, the gas mileage is pretty bad. The 4Runner is like the Jeep Wrangler in many ways; it rides on the laurels of its history of toughness and its loyal fan base, not because it is a well-made truck for daily life. 

Consumer Reports values reliability and utility above all else

CR really does love comfortable and quiet riding vehicles, but their objectivity forces reliability and toughness to take precedent when forced to chose. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how comfortable and well-equipt a truck is; if it isn’t reliable, CR will spit it out like lukewarm water.