2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara
$26,195 start, $40,280 as tested. jeep.com/wranglerunlimited
The four-door Wrangler Unlimited is a true sport utility vehicle: It's rugged enough to handle off-roading while versatile enough to haul five passengers and tow up to 3,500 pounds with an available towing package. With several roof-top configurations and plenty of after-market options, how rugged or urban it looks depends on you. The high-riding Unlimited has the familiar Wrangler look with the trademark seven-slot grille, round headlights, clamp-down hood and rear-mounted full-size spare. Our tester, the mid-level Sahara trim, had the body-color three-piece removable hardtop upgrade ($1,795), which made it look more like a standard city-slicker SUV. The 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 is competent, but the heavier weight and longer wheelbase of this four-door model make it feel more sluggish compared to the zippy two-door Wranglers we've driven. Still, the ride is fun, though a bit jittery. Our tester's cabin was nicely appointed with supple leather on the seats and steering wheel. Plastic on the dash and trims comes off as cheap. But after all, the Wrangler's interior can be washed down; there's a drain plug on the floor. However, even with the hardtop and better sound insulation, the cabin is prone to road noise. Getting into the Wrangler can be a challenge for shorter drivers; there's a step, but even that is placed high. With summer here, we can see how this Wrangler can be the ultimate beach machine. But is it a daily commuter? The ride and estimated fuel mileage (16 mpg city, 20 highway) may say no, but this Jeep's ruggedness and utility could overcome our reluctance.
2014 Toyota Tundra 4x2 Platinum Crewmax
$26,200 base start, $44,550 Platinum start, $45,794 as tested. toyota.com/tundra
With the Platinum trim level, the Toyota Tundra starts to blur the line between utility and luxury. Toyota calls the interior "urban-themed" with its black leather-trimmed seating and quilted leather trim. The quilting is strangely retro; it reminds Peter of a '70s muscle car or maybe even a cocktail lounge. The Platinum model comes only in the CrewMax cab and also includes upgrades such as 20-inch wheels, some chrome exterior trim and a premium audio sound system with 12 JBL speakers. The leather on the well-bolstered heated/ventilated seats feels durable yet supple. The steering wheel is leather-wrapped and can be heated. It also has electronic telescoping/tilting column makes it easy to find the right position to drive. With a high perch and 12-way adjustable driver's seat, even a short driver has good visibility. The second row is cavernous, and the door opening is wide with full-size doors. (However, this means you sacrifice the length of the truck bed.) Lyra's 10-year-old son sat behind her and said he could extend his legs forward and not touch the driver's seat. The rear seats are well-cushioned and comfortable. The center armrest helps. The seat bottoms can be folded up for interior cargo space. One feature Lyra likes is the rear window, which goes down with a push of a button, leaving it open for fresh air (or for hauling long items). The 5.5-foot-long bed of our tester had a sprayed-on liner with a built-in rail system for easy tie-downs. The no-slam tailgate is easy to lower and lift. Peter used the Tundra to move some furniture and all of those features were convenient — the only thing on his wish list was a bumper step like some of the competition. When it comes to performance, our tester came with the 5.7-liter i-Force V-8 with a 6-speed automatic that put out 381 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. That power delivers stout acceleration and a nice exhaust roar when you step on the gas, but the downside is the mpg: 13 city and 18 highway. Our tester was a rear-wheel drive, which comes with an automatic limited-slip differential. The Platinum trim also comes with a towing package with up to 10,000-pound capacity.