In the seven years since the current 4Runner debuted, the segment of the marketplace in which it competes has exploded in popularity and become littered with fine sport-utes. Yet, Toyota’s rugged entry continues to represent an excellent choice, despite its age and distinctly truck-like underpinnings.
That’s right. If you’re looking for a tall car, the 4Runner is likely to disappoint with its stiff ride and general lack of road feel. But if it’s a roomy vehicle made for serious off-road work, combined with creature comforts and a solid reputation for reliability, that you’re after, then you’ve come to the right place.
Buyers can choose between the standard SR5 or luxurious Limited trim, both of which can be had in either two- or four-wheel drive (the Limited comes with a full-time 4WD system). A 3.4-liter dual overhead-cam V6, attached to a four-speed automatic transmission, makes 183 horsepower at 4,800 rpm and 216 pound-feet of torque at 3,600. It’s adequate, but you’ll likely find yourself wishing for more go-power.
Inside, passengers — once they manage to clamber aboard — are greeted by a chunky, purposeful dash that wasn’t so much styled as it was pieced together. No matter, it works from an ergonomic standpoint. Seating is comfortable and supportive front and rear, with backseat riders benefiting from plenty of legroom. Cloth upholstery in the SR5 Sport is abrasive, but the Limited has far more pleasing leather hides covering the seats.
Along with the leather, the Limited also comes with standard features like fake wood trim, heated power driver and passenger seats, automatic climate control and a CD player. These items can’t be ordered on the SR5, but there is a Sport package that adds a fender-blistered, hood-scooped, monochromatic exterior treatment on the outside with larger brakes, bigger alloy wheels, a front skid plate and a performance-oriented rear differential underneath.
All 4Runners come standard with Vehicle Skid Control (VSC), traction control and ABS enhanced with electronic brake force distribution and brake assist. VSC is a stability control system that helps keep the truck under control when a lateral, or sideways, skid is detected. Brake assist can apply maximum braking power under emergency situations quicker than the driver can.
Cargo capacity measures 44.6 cubic feet with the rear seat in use and 79.8 cubic feet with it folded. Able to tow 5,000 pounds when properly equipped, the 4Runner excels off-road, with as much as 11 inches of ground clearance when the optional P265/70R16 tires are selected. A slick, powered rear window in the hatch, combined with the large, optional sunroof and lowered side glass, results in an open, airy vehicle — much like a convertible, but not.
The 4Runner is nevertheless a truck for people who like trucks. Stout and sturdy, rugged inside and out and boasting excellent crash-test scores from both government and industry entities, this SUV, like most other Toyotas, can take whatever you throw at it.