Which Reliable Toyota SUV Is Better Off-Road, the 4Runner or Land Cruiser?

Toyota makes two of the most reliable off-road SUVs available today, the 4Runner and Land Cruiser. Both offer four-wheel drive, three rows, and a strong defense against depreciation. But the 4Runner sells in massive numbers, while the Land Cruiser is barely a blip. That’s why the next-gen hybrid model might not make it to the US. Part of that is no doubt due to the Land Cruiser’s significantly higher starting price. But when it comes to off-road capability, 4Runner vs Land Cruiser, which is the better buy?

4Runner vs. Land Cruiser: off-road features

In terms of basic design, both the 4Runner and Land Cruiser are body-on-frame SUVs. But although broadly similar in scope, the two Toyota SUVs differ in their off-roading features.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Limited
2020 Toyota 4Runner Limited | Toyota

Unlike the Land Cruiser, the base 4Runner doesn’t come with standard 4WD. It’s a roughly $1700 upcharge on the SR5 trim. But, the non-Limited 4Runner’s 4WD system is part-time, with a transfer case able to shift between 2Hi, 4Hi, and 4Lo.

The Land Cruiser’s 4WD, meanwhile, is full-time. And while the Land Cruiser’s Torsen limited-slip center differential can be locked, the transfer-case-equipped 4Runners can also lock their rear differentials.

2019 Toyota Land Cruiser
2019 Toyota Land Cruiser | Toyota

When it comes to technology, the Land Cruiser does have a slight edge. True, the 4Runner also receives Multi-Terrain Control, off-road cruise control, and assists for climbing and descending hills. However, the Land Cruiser also has an underbody camera that the driver can use to spot obstacles.

The Land Cruiser also has standard self-leveling KDSS adjustable suspension. The 4Runner can get this, but only on TRD and TRD Off-Road Premium trims. Some buyers might head straight for the 4Runner TRD Pro’s longer-travel Fox shocks—which the Land Cruiser can’t get—but Jalopnik reports the adjustable suspension is perfectly fine for most off-road scenarios. It’s also better suited for those who spend a lot of time driving on pavement.

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro | Toyota

Skid plates are standard for the Land Cruiser, while only TRD 4Runners get them as standard equipment. But normal 4Runners can get them installed as dealer accessories. Although, the 4Runner Limited does get Toyota’s X-REAS dampening system, to improve on-road handling.

Engines and performance

2020 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition with FJ40
2020 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition with FJ40 | Toyota

The Land Cruiser does have a larger, more powerful engine than the 4Runner. The Land Cruiser currently comes with a 5.7-liter V8 developing 381 hp, linked to an 8-speed automatic. The 4Runner has a 4.0-liter V6, which produces 270 hp, attached to a 5-speed automatic.

But the Land Cruiser weighs roughly 1000 pounds more than the 4Runner. Car and Driver reported the Land Cruiser’s 0-60 time was quicker than the 4Runner’s—6.7 seconds vs. 7.5—but the Land Cruiser burned more fuel, returning 17 mpg vs. the 4Runner’s 19 mpg.

4Runner vs. Land Cruiser: hitting the trail

TFLtruck took a 2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro and a 2019 Toyota Land Cruiser fitted with some TRD accessories to the Ironclads 4×4 Trail in Colorado to compare each SUV’s off-road capabilities. While neither SUV is quite on the same level as a Jeep Wrangler or Gladiator, Throttle House already found the 4Runner can more than keep up with a Wrangler.

2020 Toyota Land Cruiser interior front
2020 Toyota Land Cruiser interior front | Toyota

Both SUVs handled TFLtruck’s route well. However, TFLtruck found the 4Runner’s V6 to be lacking in torque compared to the Land Cruiser’s V8. In addition, even with aftermarket suspension, the Land Cruiser’s ride was significantly more comfortable, something The Drive reported as well.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Limited interior front
2020 Toyota 4Runner Limited interior front | Toyota

But, as users on the r/Overlanding sub-Reddit also noted, the 4Runner is smaller than the Land Cruiser, making it easier to fit between rocks and trees.

Which Toyota SUV should I buy?

2019 Toyota Land Cruiser rear
2019 Toyota Land Cruiser rear | Toyota

While the 4Runner doesn’t get all of the Land Cruiser’s features as standard, even a well-equipped TRD Off-Road Premium 4Runner runs at close to half the Land Cruiser’s price. Its smaller size also makes it easier to park and maneuver, whether in city traffic or on the trail. If you want a daily-drivable off-roader, this is a very attractive and affordable SUV.

2020 Toyota Land Cruiser interior rear
2020 Toyota Land Cruiser interior rear | Toyota

But, if you want a more luxurious off-road experience, something that offers the leather seats of a Range Rover without the unreliability, that’s where the Land Cruiser comes in. It’s tough to say if the extra refinement is worth the upcharge—considering its sales figures, most Americans seem to think not. Although, if you can’t afford a new one, older Land Cruisers can be imported from overseas, including the more rugged 70-Series we never got.

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium
2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium | Toyota

For 4Runner vs Land Cruiser, both are equally capable off-roaders. It’s really in the details where their differences are made clear. If you want to off-road in luxurious Easy Mode, the Land Cruiser is an excellent choice. But for those on a budget, you’re not getting the short end of the stick with the 4Runner.

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