Is the 2021 Land Rover Defender That Much Better Than a Toyota FJ Cruiser?

If you’re looking at buying a brand-new off-roading SUV, chances are you’ve at least considered the 2021 Land Rover Defender. However, given the excellent deals you can find on the used market, there are other appealing alternatives to the Defender. Take the Toyota FJ Cruiser, for example, a body-on-frame SUV available for significantly less. To test this, TFLoffroad took both of these SUVs off-roading to see how they perform in the real world.

How does the 2021 Land Rover Defender stack up to the Toyota FJ Cruiser?

An image of a 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser out on a field.
2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser | Toyota

As you might expect, the 2021 Land Rover Defender is packed with tons of useful off-roading tech. Under the hood of this specific Defender lives an inline-six-cylinder engine with a mild hybrid system. Power is rated at 395 hp and 406 lb-ft. Power goes to all four wheels via an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Unlike previous off-roading SUVs from Land Rover, the Defender does not have a body-on-frame design. Instead, it utilizes a unibody design created specifically for this off-roading application. The added benefit here is that this new model offers a smoother ride on the road. Additionally, you can get an optional air suspension system that can dramatically increase your ground clearance while off-road.

Unlike the 2021 Land Rover Defender, the Toyota FJ Cruiser isn’t as modern. For starters, the FJ utilizes a body on frame design and a naturally aspirated engine. The 4.0 six-cylinder engine in question delivers 260 hp and 271 lb-ft. Power goes to all four wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission. However, as TLFoffroad points out, a six-speed manual was available.

While the FJ Cruiser will likely be the least comfortable of the two on-road, its excellent reliability ratings likely mean you’ll be able to go just about anywhere completely worry-free.

The results of this test might surprise you

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To start this 2021 Land Rover Defender vs. Toyota FJ Cruiser test, TFLoffroad started with a hill boasting an incline of about 25 to 30 degrees. As you might expect, the Toyota FJ Cruiser had no problems with the initial ascent. Additionally, as the going got slightly rougher, the FJ did a great job of using the available grip to climb along at a smooth pace.

After finishing the climb, TFLoffroad took the FJ down the very same hill. What is most noticeable is how well the suspension handles the surface changes, easily driving over rocks and big dips. Once the Toyota made it down to the bottom of the steep hill, it was time for the 2021 Land Rover Defender to give it a go.

One of the main tech benefits of the 2021 Land Rover Defender is its advanced camera system. The system allows the driver to clearly see the road ahead and any large rocks or dips. As a result, TFLoffroad tackled the same hill with the camera system engaged.

While TFLoffroad confirms that the Defender can easily tackle the trail, it managed to be less comfortable than the FJ. The reason is that once the air suspension is fully raised, the SUV becomes rather stiff. Regardless, the Defender easily conquered the hill challenge.

Which one should you buy?

2021 Land Rover Defender
2021 Land Rover Defender | Land Rover

If anything, this latest 2021 Land Rover Defender vs. FJ Cruiser test manages to highlight just how good the Toyota is. While the Defender is equipped to handle challenging terrain thanks to its tech features, the Toyota achieves the same with rugged simplicity. As a result, if you don’t need a luxury SUV for daily driving, a used FJ Cruiser could be all you need for your next off-roading adventure.