For serious off-roaders, Jeep® has been the undisputed king of the hill for seven decades, and the 2011 Wrangler continues to outclass the field including the Toyota FJ Cruiser.
Both the Jeep and Toyota are descended from legendary vehicles like the original World War II Jeeps and the Toyota FJ-series Land Cruisers that were inspired by the American original. The 2011 Jeep Wrangler retains its incredible off-road skills while adding an all-new and more refined interior.
Jeep remains the only SUV brand to certify many of its models as Trail Rated by ensuring that they can reliably traverse the world’s most demanding off-road terrain. In order to earn the Trail Rated badge, a Jeep needs to excel in five areas - ground clearance, maneuverability, articulation, water fording and traction.
To start, the Jeep Wrangler has a lower starting price ($22,045) compared to the FJ’s ($25,090). Those thousands of dollars must give you more, right? Oddly enough, the Wrangler still gives you more despite the price difference.
Vehicle dimensions are critical to ensure that an off-road vehicle can achieve the necessary degree of mobility needed to get through these treacherous regions. A vehicle that is too wide simply won’t fit down a narrow path of trees or rocks and the 73.7 inch wide Jeep holds a 1.3 inch edge over the Toyota.
Perhaps even more important than absolute size is the relationship of the wheels to the body. When the time comes to climb over a boulder or up a steep slope, pushing the wheels to the corners allows for huge approach and departure angles. With its short overhangs, every 2011 Wrangler has a minimum approach angle of 40.8 degrees and a departure angle of 37.4 degrees. Stepping up to the ultimate Wrangler Rubicon brings a 17-inch wheel and Tire Package that increases those angles to as much as 44.6 and 40.4 degrees respectively.
The best that an FJ Cruiser can manage is a 34 degree approach and 31 degree departure.
Similarly, the Wrangler Rubicon can clear 10.2 inches at its lowest point while the Toyota only manages 9.6 inches. The Wrangler can also turn around in just 34.9 feet compared to the 40.7 foot circle required for an FJ Cruiser.
The Trail Rated Wrangler Rubicon features Jeep’s unique Rock-Trac part-time four-wheel drive system. This system allows the Wrangler to run in fuel-saving rear-wheel drive on pavement while maximizing grip in the tough stuff. The two-range transfer case has a super-low 4:1 low-range allowing the Jeep to descend steep hills safely with ultimate control of speed. In comparison, the FJ Cruiser’s low range is just 2.566:1. Even the standard Jeep Command-Trac system has a lower 2.72:1 low range. These 4WD-low ranges combine with the Rubicon’s lower 4.1:1 final drive ratio for a crawling ratio of 73.1:1 while the FJ has a best ratio of 41.8:1.
Both Jeep 4WD systems have tough, fully locked transfer cases in 4WD mode while the Toyota uses a Torsen center differential with a manual locking mechanism. When off-roading, FJ drivers can only lock the rear differential, leaving the front open differential to spin a wheel if it’s up in the air. Wrangler Rubicon drivers can lock both axles in at the touch of a button, meaning that as long as at least one of the four wheels can get purchase, the Jeep can still move.
The Wrangler Rubicon is equipped with the Next Generation Dana 44 solid axles at both the front and rear ends. These axles have larger and stronger ring gears and pinion bearings and a stiffer and stronger housing. Dana 44s are specifically designed to withstand the abuse and extreme loading of climbing steep grades and crawling over boulders. This is especially important when the two opposite wheels are the only ones touching the ground.
Additionally, the Wrangler Rubicon trim also includes a sway bar disconnect, operated from a switch on the dash. With the flip of a switch, the front sway bar is disengaged when driving under 18 mph in four-wheel drive low range. This allows the wheels to drop and compress up to an additional 20 percent for outstanding wheel articulation. Toyota doesn’t offer this feature on the FJ Cruiser at all.
Off-road trails aren’t always desert dry and sometimes rivers and streams get in the way. Trail Rated Jeeps get extra sealing for the electrical system and body along with high-mounted air intakes that allow them to ford water bodies up to 19 inches deep without stalling.
Another feature unique to the Wrangler is the ability to enjoy the sunshine when crawling around in the great outdoors. The Rubicon comes with a standard folding soft top, removable doors and even the classic fold-down Jeep windshield.
With its new and more attractive interior, the Wrangler is also now a more pleasant place to spend time, regardless of whether you're driving on or off the road. The 2011 Wrangler gets the new standard Jeep steering wheel with audio system controls and the standard Media Center 130 CD/MP3 audio system. This system includes a standard audio jack and SIRIUS Satellite Receiver. The optional Connectivity group adds a remote USB port to plug in phones and MP3 players, uconnect Voice command and an electronic driver information center in the instrument cluster.
The FJ Cruiser is certainly a very capable off-roader and deserves the name of its forebears. But for serious off-road capability, only the Trail Rated Jeep Wrangler can get to the top of hills that others can’t even hope to climb.