The Real Reason 2021 Toyota 4Runner Struggles to Out-Cool the Jeep Wrangler

Toyota 4x4s and Jeep 4x4s are really similar in most ways. Both of them struggle for the same reasons that people love them. Jeeps have always been crude, loud, square, and overall simple. However, this is their greatest attribute. (Consumer Reports begs to differ on this.) On the other hand, Toyota was cutting edge for a time, but its trucks and 4×4 SUVs have not changed over the last decade – like, at all. The result is a company that makes reliable off-roaders that cost new car prices for what is, essentially, a 10-year-old truck. The 2021 Toyota 4Runner is too expensive compared to the similarly simple 2021 Jeep Wrangler. 

Is the 2021 Toyota 4Runner Better than the 2021 Jeep Wrangler?

I guess it depends on what you are looking for and who you ask. As far as offroad capability, the hardware is fairly comparable. Both trucks are body on frame, have low gear 4×4 systems, and are more than powerful enough to get where you need to go. The 4Runner is much larger and heavier than the Wrangler, which doesn’t really help hardcore trail riding. The Jeep Wranglers (at least the two-door versions) can mountain goat through areas most other (bigger) SUVs will struggle to navigate. 

2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with half doors
2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with half doors | FCA USA

Now, the 4Runner’s size does have a strong upside. If you aren’t taking it off-road for some reason, the interior of the 4Runner is much bigger, more comfortable, and quieter; for day-to-day life, these things are a big deal. Folks like to be comfortable in their vehicles. This is, without a doubt, the worst aspect of the Wrangler. They are loud, rough, and spartan. 

How much does a 2021 Toyota 4Runner cost?

The problem with the is the 4Runner is the price. Sure it’s strong and reliable, but it isn’t a “nice” vehicle. There are few luxuries if any at all, and while this is also true for the Wrangler, the 4Runner starts at $36,590 compared to the Wrangler at $28,475. The money to value ratio just doesn’t add up for the Toyota. 

Now the coolest versions of the Wrangler can skyrocket in price, and if you want a four-door Wrangler, that will start at a few thousand dollars more than the base two-door. Honestly, this is another feather in the cap of the Wrangler; It has so many configurable options. The more traditional two-door gives you a shorter wheelbase for more extreme four-wheeling and classic looks, but if you need to haul your friends or family along with you, the four-door still keeps things tight but allows for easier access to the back half of the truck. 

2021 Toyota 4Runner press photo shown in lunar rock
2021 Toyota 4Runner | Toyota

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The 4Runner has options and performance packages like the TRD stuff, but the list of options isn’t even close to as extensive. Not to mention the fact that Jeep has a bazillion after-market parts and outfitters that make the options nearly effectually endless. 

How reliable is the 2021 Jeep Wrangler

The new class of Jeeps is not the toughest thing roaming around the woods these days. This is a shame because, for the longest time, the TJ model Wranglers with the 4.0-liter inline-six engines were unstoppable little bulldogs. That is not the case with the current models. 

Consumer Reports gave the 2021 Wrangler a predicted reliability score of two out of five. This is not good. The previous model suffered from engine trouble, cooling problems, even suspension issues. This is a silver bullet to an otherwise off-road beast. The Toyota, on the other hand, predictably scored a perfect 5/5 here. This is the undeniable upside to Toyota trucks. They simply keep going. 

…But “cool” is not a metric, it’s a feeling

I’m really not arguing that the Wrangler is objectively better than the 4Runner. I think that would be a hard position to defend. I am, however, arguing that the Jeep is cooler. It is a vehicle that people are more excited to buy, own, and drive every day. Simply put, Jeep Wranglers are dream cars, and Toyota 4Runners are not. People love their 4Runners; hell, I loved mine, but it was a truck I grew to love because it was good. I sought out my Wrangler. I saved and struggled to buy it. I loved it for 11 years, not because it was good, but because it was a Jeep – and Jeeps are cool.