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Typically, when reviewers compare vehicles, they maintain an apples-to-apples playing field. But recently, Car and Driver piqued our interest as they pitted two different opponents, the Toyota 4Runner and Jeep Gladiator, in a “best in bug-out vehicles” review.

The 4Runner is a mean mid-size SUV, and the Gladiator is a smaller-than-full-size convertible truck. Both may be handy in a zombie apocalypse. But we wanted to see what they really thought about both vehicles.

The 2019 Toyota 4Runner reviews

Not much has changed for the decade-old model in terms of performance or design. The 4Runner still offers great space options concerning cargo room and legroom. The fuel economy is considered better than average for an SUV with a V6, with an estimated 18 MPG combined.

The Toyota 4Runner doesn’t necessarily get high marks for pavement driving and comfort, but off-roading is a different story. With amazing grip, the 4Runner has serious chops in two-wheel and four-wheel drive. It may be a dinosaur, but it’s all muscle, especially the TRD level trim. It can tow 5000 pounds, too.

What the 2020 Jeep Gladiator brings to the table

Jeep Gladiator Rubicon at the New York International Auto Show
Jeep Gladiator Rubicon | Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

This gem of a truck is a welcome addition to the Jeep family. Consumers raved about the idea of a beefier truck version of their favorite Wranglers. The interior is noteworthy, with comfortable elevated seating, amazing tech, and connectivity.

Handling is choppy, but not as rough as one may suspect. It drives like a Wrangler, but the wider wheelbase means more stability in handling. It can tow 7,650 pounds, almost 2,000 more than 4Runner. True to Jeep fashion, the Gladiator’s off-road capabilities are phenomenal.

Major differences between the 4Runner and Gladiator

Each brings its own unique character and personality to this comparison. The difference in cargo layouts and designs are truly unique. The 4Runner is an SUV, so expect an SUV performance level and capacity.

The Gladiator, while offering mid-size truck value in a bed, is still much like its Wrangler siblings. Removing doors and converting the top is one of the most unique-to-Jeep features.

Versatility in a pinch

Ideally, if you find yourself in a hurry to pack up and bug out, some features may make more sense for your vehicle. The Toyota 4Runner, for example, offers fold-down rear seats, or in some models, third-row seating. You can fit more stuff or people.

As for the Jeep Gladiator, you may not have extra seating, but you have the functional use of a five-foot truck bed. If you’re loading generators and heavy equipment, it may be way handier in a pinch.

Is the Toyota 4Runner or Jeep Gladiator better?

In this Car and Driver comparison, both the Gladiator and 4Runner were definite first picks for off-roading. They both, however, are also compared to old-school trucks, with moderate responses, lackluster performance, and sometimes bumpy rides.

Due to 4Runner’s five-speed automatic transmission and heavy steering, the Jeep Gladiator comes out victorious. Both are highly capable on pavement and off-road. They each bring something unique to the performance table.

However, should the time come for you to head for the hills, the Gladiator is the better choice. Based on the reviews, 4Runner families would be right behind you.