Toyota 4Runner vs Toyota Landcruiser: Which is Better?

Stepping into the ring we have the Toyota 4Runner and Toyota Landcruiser, two body on frame dinosaurs that are well equipped to handle both the Sahara and the most grueling test of all: the Starbucks parking lot. In this article, we’ll be comparing the two and recommending which vehicle you should buy. Let’s get started.

The Toyota 4Runner and Landcruiser, while they come from the same company, are still fundamentally different.

The Main Differences Between Toyota 4Runner vs Toyota Landcruiser

The Main Differences Between Toyota 4Runner vs Toyota Landcruiser are:

  • The Toyota 4Runner is meant to be more of a Japanese Jeep; no-frills, able to get dirty at a moment’s notice, whereas The Toyota Landcruiser is more of a luxury commodity, a lot like a Range Rover: solid offroad chops, but more on the comfort side of things.
  • The Toyota 4Runner, being the cheaper of the two, comes with a V6, 4WD, and a bulletproof 5-speed automatic coupled to a chunky two-speed transfer case, whereas The Toyota Landcruiser ships with a 5.7 liter V8, 4WD, and stout differentials front and rear.
  • The Toyota 4Runner is the “budget” offroader from Toyota, ringing in at $36,765, whereas The Toyota Landcruiser retails for a whopping $85,000 bone stock.
  • Finally, the Toyota 4Runner seats 5, whereas the Toyota Landcruiser has room for 8 people; the more the merrier.

Toyota 4Runner

Toyota 4Runner

Reliability

Toyota 4Runner: the SUV that will outlast you and your family, and still be worth $3,000 after the fact. Jokes aside, the 4Runner is a solid, very reliable SUV; it is common for 4Runners of any generation to run well over 200,000 miles without trouble, as long as you change the oil on a regular basis.

Now, even the most indomitable truck is not without issues. Earlier 4Runners with the 3.4 liter V6 usually need to have their timing belt and water pump replaced at around 100,000 miles, but this is common maintenance for many cars. Additionally, many owners of 2003 4Runners report having to replace quite a few suspension components due to “normal wear and tear”. This depends on your version of wear and tear, offroad or not, your experience with that will vary.

Now, the 4Runner was offered at one point with a 4.7 liter V8, and that has issues with exhaust manifolds cracking, creating a ticking sound, and damaging the catalytic converters if you do not replace it fast enough. This issue is due to the manifold design, which places the converters quite close to the main collectors, and so puts weight on the manifolds themselves. Over many heat cycles, the metal eventually cracks and needs to be replaced. The solution is to install a new manifold, although that may not solve the issue.

2003-2009, or 4th gen V6 4Runners, were also known for head gasket leaks, but with that generation only; the problem hasn’t appeared since that generation was discontinued. 4th gen 4Runners also have issues with front brake calipers seizing on some of them.

Now, this isn’t a widespread issue and may vary depending on your duty cycle. Remember, this is designed to go offroad and get dirty, and offroading is tough on parts. The issue hasn’t made a serious comeback since, although 2013-2017 4Runners do report warped brake pads. However, it isn’t clear whether that is a manufacturing defect or from a simple pounding offroad.

The problems you read about here are mostly on 4th gen 4Runners, but even those are perfectly reliable trucks if you are nice to them. Overall, the Toyota 4Runner is still a very reliable and solid vehicle regardless of the model year.

Read our full guide on how to find the best mods and upgrades for Toyota 4Runner.

Handling

This is a big, heavy, 5 door SUV; the 4Runner is not a Supra, although they are made by the same company. It’ll corner without complaint, but if you start pushing, the tires squeal like a steak knife on a blackboard and the traction control punishes you with Orwellian brutality. After all, it is meant to go offroad, tow the occasional trailer, and generally appreciate life at a slower pace; not set a lap record.

Braking performance is adequate-the truck stops when needed. Highway performance is much like steering a German Shepherd through a butcher shop, mostly straight combined with lots of directional input. The 4Runner is hungry like the dog as well, highway mpg is a measly 22, pretty decent for a large vehicle like this, but your wallet will feel the impact every week at the pump after a commute.

Useability

Toyota 4Runner 1

Being as it is meant to be a Japanese Jeep, the 4Runner is a veritable Swiss Army Knife of a vehicle. It can tow a solid 5000 pounds, and before you march to your keyboards and sharpen your complaints, know that this weighs 4600 pounds; 5000 pounds is impressive towing for a little V6 like this one. That being said, tow 5000 pounds of anything with a 4Runner and you’ll spend your time wishing you’d just bought the Landcruiser and saved the trouble. It’ll do it, but it doesn’t like it.

With 5 seats to haul your friends and cargo capacity for the coolers, the 4Runner works great whether you are driving on the beach, to the ski resort, or to that special trail spot no one knows about.

Freeway manners are what you’d expect from a large SUV: lots of steering input while driving dead straight, but it will handle the daily commute with no issue. If I may, the Toyota 4Runner is the ideal vehicle for someone that isn’t concerned about luxuries, doesn’t tow very often, and occasionally drives offroad, but still needs something big and tough. Put it in that vein, don’t expect it to be a Lexus, and it is brilliant.

Verdict

Toyota 4Runner: For someone that wants a Wrangler but also wants Toyota style longevity with some cargo room.

At the end of the day, what you see is what you get with the 4Runner, and that’s refreshing. This is a big, heavy, body-on-frame truck with decent road manners and the willingness to spend all day axle-deep in a mud bog. There’s also more than enough room for child seats, the baseball equipment, and the cooler full of Caprisuns. If I may, the 4Runner is a very reliable lifestyle vehicle: perfect for someone that likes to do rugged activities but still needs some form of civilized transport in one vehicle.

Toyota Landcruiser

Toyota Landcruiser

Reliability

The Landcruiser is legendary among the car community for good reason. Where the Range Rover cannot go and a Jeep begins to struggle, the Landcruiser comes into play, with the unstoppability of a Tyrannosaur and the utilitarian capability of a hammer. Pair that with plenty of towing capacity and Toyota reliability, and you have a winning combination.

Reliability is the Landcruiser’s strong suit. Common issues boil down to a few isolated problems: The load rating sticker is too hard to read, the fuel pump can break prematurely, and the seat belt sensor wire can break, which deactivates the front passenger airbag, knee airbag and passenger seat-mounted side airbag.

Other issues include power steering pumps leaking on higher-mileage Landcruisers, transmissions occasionally misbehaving at high mileages and power windows malfunctioning. These are not issues that constantly happen to Landcruisers, just issues that are common across several model years. It’s still a very desirable and reliable vehicle.

Handling

If you buy a Landcruiser expecting it to handle like a Ferrari, you are in the wrong game. This is a 5700 pound, 7 seat truck with the solidity of granite and the gas mileage to match. A Toyota Landcruiser is meant for traversing terrain you’d struggle to walk over, in comfort and safety, not for scything through corners like a Ducati.

Braking is much as you’d expect for something that weighs the same as London Bridge; effective, but slow and ponderous. The Landcruiser will cruise at a sedate 85mph with ease, and thanks to cruise control with some radar detectors, you won’t need to make constant adjustments to stay in your lane.

Useability

Toyota Landcruiser 1

Being as the Landcruiser is basically a Toyota Tundra with a covered bed and more seats, you could do worse. Towing capacity is a solid 8100 pounds, enough to drag a decent size trailer, and thanks to the 5.7 liter V8 under the hood, you get useable power across the rev range; your wallet is not being sacrificed in vain. That being said, fuel economy is a measly 13 mpg city and 17 mpg highway, but if you can afford a Landcruiser, then fuel economy is not high on your list of priorities.

Being as the Landcruiser is about the size of an M1 Abrams, safety is not a concern. Run into someone and it becomes their problem, not yours. With 7 seats and enough cargo space for a daycare, you’ll have no trouble carpooling with this, whether that is to school or the beach. Think of this as a Japanese Chevy Suburban and you won’t be far off. Now, this is a fairly rare vehicle in the USA at least, thanks to price and low sales volume, so this is a great vehicle if you know exactly what you are looking for. If you don’t and you simply want a different type of SUV, here is your huckleberry. You can’t go wrong with a Landcruiser.

Verdict

Toyota Landcruiser: For someone who wants a Suburban, but wants to look different.

In all honesty, the Landcruiser makes a compelling alternative to a Suburban if you are willing to spend the money, although if you need sheer size over all else, and want a Toyota, then the Sequoia will serve you better; its cheaper and even larger. That said, the Landcruiser is a big, luxurious, expensive SUV that has a reputation for being able to clamber over terrain that’ll stop Jeeps and Land Rovers, and it will last forever too. If this type of SUV is what you are in the market for, then the Toyota Landcruiser will not disappoint.

Toyota 4Runner vs Toyota Landcruiser: Which One Should I Buy?

In all honesty, unless you are regularly hauling more than 5 people over rough terrain and dragging heavy trailers too, the 4Runner will serve you better. Even fully optioned, it is nearly $30,000 cheaper than a base model Landcruiser, and it has the same reputation for reliability and toughness.

If you can afford a Landcruiser, you aren’t buying it to cross a desert, even though it can; you’re buying it because it is expensive and looks great. The 4Runner can do 95% of everything a Landcruiser will do, it gets better gas mileage and is much, much cheaper. The 4Runner also has a large modifying community, so with a little judicious spending, your 4Runner will easily match a Landcruiser offroad or onroad.

Not only that, comparing a 4Runner to a Landcruiser is like comparing a Jeep to a Range Rover. Yes, they both offroad just fine, but they are fundamentally different. The 4Runner is meant to crawl through a rock garden, get sprayed with a hose, and go to work the next day. The Landcruiser will do the same, but you buy it to look good, not to traverse Moab.

If you want a big, luxurious, somewhat rare SUV with the unbreakability of granite, then the Landcruiser is what you want. However, for 99% of people reading this article, the 4Runner is the better choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Should I modify my Landcruiser to go offroad?

Answer: You could, but why bother? The Landcruiser is already a very capable offroad vehicle; you don’t really need to add anything to make it better.

Question: Which one is better: The Landcruiser or the 4Runner?

Answer: Depends on your use case. If you frequently offroad and don’t care about frills, then the 4Runner is the better vehicle for you, but if you have more than 5 people in your car and still want to offroad and drive to a fancy dinner afterward, along with towing more frequently, get the Landcruiser.

Question: Which is cheaper to maintain?

Answer: Definitely the 4Runner. Neither vehicle is unreliable; in fact, the Landcruiser is frequently used in remote, dangerous parts of the world by outfits like the Red Cross, but parts for the 4Runner are cheaper and maintenance is cheaper because it is not a higher-end vehicle.

Question: I frequently tow and do plenty of highway driving. Which one is best?

Answer: If you need to tow anything heavier than 4000 pounds frequently, the Landcruiser is better, and it’s better on the highway as well. Now, if you are buying an SUV specifically for towing and highway driving, then get a Suburban or Ford Expedition, and save yourself the money; neither Toyota is bad, but the Chevy and Ford are better at those two tasks.

Conclusion

If you are choosing between a Toyota 4Runner and a Toyota Landcruiser, then you are effectively choosing two vehicles with essentially the same offroad capability; one is just larger, more luxurious, more expensive and has a bigger engine.  In all seriousness, unless you really want the offroad capability of a goat with your luxurious interior, the 4Runner will serve you better 99% of the time.

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