If it doesn’t have two seats and a low center of gravity (or a Jeep badge), typically hardcore enthusiasts tend to not to notice. But the new Toyota 4Runner is an SUV that deserves your attention. It’s big, aggressive, and actually a lot of fun to take out on the trails—even if they are just a few dirt roads.
Bold Exterior, Blase Interior
Credit where credit is due, the Toyota 4Runner is a very bold-looking SUV. It’s not the prettiest vehicle in the Toyota lineup, but the aggressive fascia and boxy body tends to make it a strangely endearing SUV.
With the off-road package fitted, the wheels are larger, and the body panels are much more utilitarian than the Limited package with its fake chrome trim and flashy front grille. We prefer the off-road package, in terms of aesthetics anyways.
Inside isn’t anything to write home about. The interior is very plain, with cheap black plastic and some big comfy leather seats in the back. Not that we’re complaining, considering it’s bound to be covered in mud 82 percent of the time anyways.
True to Its Roots
Where many of today’s modern SUVs are crossing over (literally) to car-based platforms, the 4Runner stays true to its truck heritage with a body-on-frame layout. That means like unlike many of its softer competitors, it stands up to the test on the tough stuff.
The 4Runner feels at home on dirt roads, and through mud and rock, it doesn’t falter. Under the hood is the same 4.0-liter V6 carried over from the previous generation, which isn’t particularly peppy, but does the job all the same.
There’s also a proper transfer case that gives you rear-wheel drive, 4×4, and 4×4 low, making it that much easier. It’s a bit antiquated, granted, with many of the modern SUVs opting for electronic systems, but it’s nonetheless fun to play with.
Speaking to its technology, it uses an active traction control system (or A-Trac) that distributes torque to any single wheel giving it the most possible traction. It also features the same Crawl Control system we showed you in the new Toyota Tacoma pickup that works like a charm.
We’re glad that the Toyota 4Runner remains one of the few body-on-frame SUVs still available on the market. But that doesn’t mean you should expect it to drive like a more modern crossover on the road.
It’s big, lumbering, and sort of intimidating at highway speed. The body rolls, the steering has plenty of give, and the suspension is soft and squishy. Truth be told, we wouldn’t expect anything less in an SUV of its kind, but it’s not anywhere near as composed on the road as its Highlander sibling.
After a week (and then some) in the 4Runner, it’s an SUV that you really grow to love. It’s a go-anywhere, do-anything sort of vehicle. It may not be as composed or luxurious as the Highlander or other modern crossovers, but it’s plenty more fun.
Starting at $33,510, it’s relatively cheap. But opt for the 4×4 Trail package like we did and you’re staring down a $42,294 price tag. Not exactly what we would call thrifty.
All in all, the Toyota 4Runner deserves a bit more recognition in the big SUV space.
Engine: 4.0L V6
Price (as tested): $42,294
Plenty of interior room
Pricey with options
Not great on road
Photo Credit: Jeff Perez for BoldRide