By Emme Hall.
When it comes to off-road, people usually fall into two camps: Jeep and Everything Else. Today we’re looking at the 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk and the 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser MT. Both are highly capable off road machines, but you know the drill: there can be only one. Which one earns our Autocomparison seal of approval?
Our test Cherokee came with the optional 3.2L V6 engine, good for 271 horsepower and 239 lb/ft of torque, although the 2.4L MultiAir engine is standard. Power goes to all four wheels via a 9 speed automatic transmission. EPA fuel ratings are 19 mpg in the city, 26 on the highway, and 21 combined.
The Cherokee comes standard with 17” wheels, Bluetooth, iPod integration, satellite radio, a tilt/telescoping multifunctional steering wheel, and the Connect system with an 8.4” screen. Our test model came with the optional Customer Preferred Package, which adds on adaptive cruise control, a few sensors to make sure you don’t hit anything in your blind spot or while backing up, and the parallel and perpendicular park assist. The parking assist still relies on the driver for brake and throttle inputs, but takes over the steering. We also had the optional Comfort/Convience Group, which adds a back up camera, power liftgate, remote start, 8-way power driver’s seat and 4 way power passenger seat. You can also pony up for the Leather Interior Group for leather seats, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel. Other additional options included on our test model were dual exhaust tips, navigation, and a 9 speaker sound system.
As nice as the interior is on the Cherokee, it doesn’t mean a thing if it can’t perform off road. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk includes Jeep’s Trail Rated hardware, ensuring that it can take whatever terrain you throw at it. You can choose from auto, snow, sport, sand/mud, or rock using the Selec-Terrain knob on the center console. The Selec-Speed Control maintains your speeds uphill, downhill, or level. It’s great when you really need to focus on putting your wheels exactly where they need to be. Speed can range from 1 to 5 mph and is easily controlled on the shifter. The Trailhawk also has a locking rear differential, making this a true 4×4 vehicle. Ground clearance is 8.7” and departure and approach angles are aggressive.
All of these features combine to make a vehicle that is incredibly capable. Even with street tires the Trailhawk can scramble up slippery rock faces, crawl over rocks, and handle the mud with few slips. A simple tire swap and you’re pretty much ready for the next zombie apocalypse.
The 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser MT gets a 4.0L V6 engine, knocking out 260 horsepower and 271 lb/ft or torque. Power goes to all four wheels via a 6 speed manual transmission. EPA fuel ratings are 15 mpg in the city, 18 mpg on the highway, and 16 mpg combined. A part-time four wheel drive system is also available, which is mated to a five speed automatic. EPA fuel ratings are 16/20/18 in 2WD, and 17/20/18 in 4WD.
There is only one trim level and it comes standard with 17” steel wheels, power accessories, air conditioning, 8-way manually adjustable driver seat, Bluetooth, satellite radio, iPod connectivity, and a 6-speaker sound system with a CD player. There are a few optional packages to be had for the FJ. The Convenience package adds a rear wiper, keyless entry, rear privacy glass, cruise control, a backup camera, and an auto dimming review mirror. The Upgrade package gives you 17” alloy wheels, an 11-speaker JBL sound system with a six-CD changer, an upgraded traction control system on four-wheel-drive models, rear parking sensors, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The Off-Road package adds Bilstein shocks, a locking rear differential, an upgraded traction-control system including Crawl Control, and extra gauges. The Trail Teams Special Edition adds to the Off-Road package unique gray exterior paint, special interior trim, 16-inch alloy beadlock wheels with BFGoodrich off-road tires, a large roof rack, rock rails and most of the content from the Convenience and Upgrade packages.
Leave the pavement and you’re ready to conquer just about anything. Like the Cherokee, the FJ has aggressive approach and departure angles as well as 9.6” of ground clearance. The FJ performs well in soft sand, rocks, and mud. In fact, the FJ regularly competes in off road rallies around the world, including the grueling Rallye Aicha des Gazelles in Morocco.
The 2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk starts at $29,495, while the 2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser MT starts at $28,310. The choice is easy. The Cherokee Trailhawk gets all the off road goodies standard, while you have to option up the FJ before you get the good stuff. Additionally, the Cherokee has a terrain select feature, while the FJ only has the optional Active Traction Control. While both will get you far off the beaten path, it will more than likely be easier in a Cherokee.