For many years, the Jeep Wrangler has been in a class all by itself. Not many vehicles could match its unique styling and rugged performance. The Wrangler was so unique

that it was simply known as a “Jeep.” But now Toyota has stepped into the ring. With the advent of the FJ Cruiser, Jeep now has some competition. While the Wrangler’s styling remains largely unique, the FJ Cruiser bears a striking resemblance in all other categories. Reviewers at Car and Driver, Consumer Reports, Edmunds, and Motor Trend have studied those categories and we’ve broken down the new models (2010-2011) to put these two inimitable monsters head-to-head.

Powertrain: The 4.0L V6 of the FJ Cruiser gives more horsepower and torque than the 3.8L V6 equipped in the Wrangler. Surprisingly, it also offers a better fuel

economy at 17/21 mpg (city/highway) than the 15/19 mpg sported by the Jeep. A six-speed manual transmission is standard from Jeep and an option from Toyota. The manual on the Toyota is only available on full-time 4WD systems though. The Jeep does offer an automatic, a four-speed, while the FJ offers a five-speed automatic. Towing capacity on the Toyota far outweighs the Jeep at 5,000 lbs. to 2,000 lbs., respectively.

Winner: Toyota FJ Cruiser

Braking/Safety/Handling: Crash testing goes to the FJ Cruiser, hands down. It earned five stars in all tests but one, the front passenger. It also came to a stop from 60 mph in 123 feet, very good for this type of vehicle. The Jeep, on the other hand, earned a rating of Poor from the IIHS for the two-door model and Marginal on the four-door in crash testing. Its stopping distance was also less-than-average at 137 feet. Handling on the Jeep is familiar to anybody who’s owned one, that’s to say very good, but the Toyota is tight around corners as well as off-road.

Winner: Toyota FJ Cruiser

Cargo/Hauling: When it comes to cargo space, the Jeep is tough to beat. The four-door is capable of hauling 86 cubic feet of cargo, compared to 67 cubes in the FJ with the rear seats folded down. Storing cargo in the Jeep can be a risky situation, however, as the rear flaps are exterior-mounted zipper-drawn plastic. The only lockable areas are the glove box and amply-sized center console. A big drawback for the Toyota is the tailgate-mounted spare tire and small rear window, narrowing driver visibility a great deal.

Winner: Jeep Wrangler

Comfort/Interior: The rear seats in the Toyota are rather cramped, but otherwise the interior is comfortable. Stepping up to the rear can be a chore as well. The Wrangler was never meant to have a luxurious interior as it was meant to be driven through the toughest conditions available and be easily cleaned out afterwards. As such, the interior is barraged with hard plastics and squared ridges.

Winner: Toyota FJ Cruiser

Amenities/Options: Just because the Wrangler was meant for hard driving in rough conditions doesn’t mean that it’s totally lacking in options and tech-savvy toys. It offers such pleasures as an Infinity stereo with six-disc CD changer and iPod interface, cruise control, keyless entry, and security alarm. This is matched fairly even with what’s available on the FJ.

Winner: Tie

Value for the $: The Wrangler starts off at $21,165, compared to $24,180 for the FJ Cruiser. However, with only three styles to choose from, the max you’ll see the Toyota go up to is $25,770. The Wrangler can climb all the way to $32,050 fully equipped.

Winner: Despite its long-running title as one of the most unique vehicles available, the Wrangler is now facing some stiff competition. While it still has its place among off-road enthusiasts everywhere, the FJ Cruiser wins out in several categories, including value.

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