Review by Jeff Wilson, photos by Ryan Edwardson
2013 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4X4 vs 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser Trail Teams Special Edition
2013 Jeep Wrangler & 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser. Click image to enlarge
I grew up in suburban Southern Ontario. During my childhood, my father owned a series of trucks – usually half-ton or smaller – to tackle whatever recreational hauling the family needed. We never had anything with four-wheel drive because, quite frankly, we never needed it.
Sure I had school friends who lived on nearby farms that I would visit and blissfully tear around the fields on mini-bikes or ATVs, but never had an opportunity to brutally abuse any old field trucks or do any real off-road driving.
It’s this upbringing that I suspect has made me such a car lover. I appreciate trucks, but for their strictly utilitarian purposes. They should be tough, strong, capable and probably dirty and dented (or else you’re just not workin’ hard enough).
When the opportunity came up for me to drive a Toyota FJ Cruiser, I jumped at the chance, having never driven one before but always admiring them for recalling Tonka truck adventures in the sandboxes of my youth. But to truly put the FJ into perspective, I deduced, it needs to be measured against its truest nemesis: the Jeep Wrangler.
Our friends at Chrysler were warned. I told them Toyota had provided me an FJ fitted with the Trail Teams Special Edition package, which, at more than $8,000, provides such off-road necessities as heavy duty Bilstein shocks, chunky BFGoodrich T/A tires, and most importantly, the oh-so-cool roof-mounted auxiliary lights. Still, Jeep didn’t have a Rubicon trim Wrangler available (which provides off-road-tweaked suspension, active front anti-roll bar and an electronic limited-slip differential), so a mid-level Sahara would have to do battle with Toyota’s most-butch off-roader.
The results here surprised me.
A buddy of mine is my go-to guy for honest truck insight and off-road wisdom. He’s a hard-workin’, no BS, country boy who grew up playing with motorized toys in the dirt. His jacked-up Dodge towers over the Wrangler and FJ like a bigger sibling about to give ‘em a shot in the shoulder for flinchin’, and its roar can be heard in the next township. When this guy tells ya “I know somebody with a sandbox we can go play in”, you know you’re in for some fun.
After a fifteen-minute drive into rural nowhere, our convoy of off-roaders passes through a gate and into a metal fabrication shop. Based on appearances, I must confess, I momentarily worried that I’d need to make the uncomfortable phone call to both Jeep and Toyota and tell them that I had voluntarily brought their rigs to a chop shop to be disassembled and sold overseas. The scenic, rolling green hills around the shop are periodically littered with what appeared to be the carcasses of Frankenstein’s monster-esque 4Runners and Broncos of varying vintages. I can’t be certain, but the FJ may have quivered a little.