Few SUVs have the level of name recognition that the Toyota 4Runner enjoys. Launched in 1984, the 4Runner has always been Toyota's smaller and more affordable complement to the legendary Land Cruiser. Even though the first 4Runner was little more than Toyota's compact two-door pickup with a removable top, it was nonetheless rugged and tough. Over time, the 4Runner has earned its own reputation as a durable vehicle -- off-road and on.
During the SUV-crazy '90s, Toyota introduced more models, which allowed the company to move the 4Runner up a few notches in size, accoutrements and price. Still truck-based and still outfitted with a solid rear axle, the current Toyota 4Runner boasts old-school brawn. A midsize crossover SUV will likely be a better choice for most shoppers, considering a crossover's more carlike handling and fuel economy, but the 4Runner continues to be a top choice for a dependable SUV that's both comfortable, yet rugged enough for recreational off-road duty.
Current Toyota 4Runner
The current Toyota 4Runner is based on the same platform as the rugged FJ Cruiser. As ever, it has a trucklike solid rear axle for superior off-road performance. There are three trim levels: SR5, Trail and Limited. All are powered by a 4.0-liter V6 that makes 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. The sole transmission offered is a five-speed automatic. The SR5 and Limited can be had in either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive (part-time system on SR5, full-time system on the Limited), while the Trail comes only with part-time 4WD.
The SR5 comes standard with alloy wheels, skid plates, foglights, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories with a power rear window, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a CD/MP3 audio system. The Trail (available only with 4WD) adds a hood scoop, a locking rear differential, Crawl Control (which automatically modulates throttle and brakes when ascending or descending hills), off-road tires, a rearview camera, water-resistant upholstery and Bluetooth.
The luxurious Limited gets Toyota's X-REAS adaptive suspension dampers (for controlling body roll), keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control and an upgraded audio system with Toyota's Entune smartphone integration system. Major options include a third-row seat and a navigation system. The available Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) can disconnect the front and rear stabilizer bars at speeds below 40 mph for greater wheel articulation over uneven terrain.
In reviews, we've been pleased with the 4Runner's excellent off-road ability and strong V6 engine. It's also useful for carrying people and cargo thanks to its available third-row seat and 90 cubic feet of maximum cargo space. Just don't expect it to drive like a car-based crossover -- this is a traditional SUV. If all you need is an urban runabout, there are better choices.
Read the most recent 2014 Toyota 4Runner review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Toyota 4Runner page.