The 4Runner is a rugged, truck-based SUV that sits up high and offers up to 11.1 inches of ground clearance -- a key metric for those into off-roading.
The interior in my tester was more basic than most new vehicles, lacking push-button start and featuring lots of hard plastic in the design, plus cloth seats. You can get more fancy features on higher trim levels, but for most trim levels It’s a basic setup inside, not at all trying to be a luxury ride. This is a rugged vehicle for rugged terrain and not a fancy grocery getter. But it's still large enough inside to take kids to school and go get groceries.
Seating for up to 7 is offered, and the cargo space is impressive for the class.
The 4Runner I tested featured a potent and impressive 4.0-liter V6 engine that put out 270 horsepower and 276 lb.-ft. of torque. The engine was paired with a five-speed automatic transmission.
The 4Runner is offered with RWD, with part-time 4-wheel drive, or with full-time 4-wheel drive (I had the part-time 4-wheel drive). Options to help the off-roading crowd included: Multi-terrain select, crawl control, hill-start assist control, front and rear stabilizer bars, and skid plates. The suspension can also be upgraded to improve the off-road experience further.
My time driving the 4Runner coincided with the first big winter storm of the season. Suffice it to say that I was glad I was driving it, as it made what could have been a very tough day on the roads much more easy.
One thing you should know about the 4Runner: The ride is quite stiff and rough on city streets, since it is designed for tough terrain. That’s why I wouldn’t recommend it for people seeking only a city vehicle -- there are many better options among the crossover offerings if that’s what you are looking for.
On the plus side, the 4Runner features a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds.
With the 4Runner being a vehicle focused on the power plant and ability to handle itself on the road and off it, there isn’t a ton offered in the area of technology and safety features.
You can choose to add the Entune Premium Audio with integrated Navigation. The system comes with a 6.1-inch high-res touchscreen, USB port, voice recognition, Bluetooth connection, hands-free phone use, and satellite radio (with 3-month subscription).
Most of the usual safety features (i.e. blind spot warning, lane keep assist) offered on regular vehicles aren’t featured here, as they wouldn’t make much sense to use when off-roading.
But you still get features like Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, and Anti-lock brakes, as well as Brake Assist with Smart Stop technology.
The official fuel mileage numbers on the Toyota 4Runner are 17 city/20 highway/18 combined. These numbers fell in line with my testing. Unfortunately they lag behind the competition -- both when including off-road specialists and city-focused SUVs of this size like the Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder.
The 4Runner I tested was priced just over $40,000; base price starts about $34K.
Trim levels include: SR5, SR5 Premium, TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, TRD Pro and Limited. The RWD setup and seating for 7 is only offered on SR5 and Limited setups; The other models are 4x4 vehicles, with seating for 5.
If you’re looking for a vehicle of a similar size that’s capable of off-roading, your only real option is the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which has some trail-rated models available.
One other factor to consider is longevity and reliability. The 4Runner is one of the vehicles that owners most often keep into the 200,000+ mile mark. So if taken care of properly, it should be something you own for a long long time.
While I wouldn’t recommend it as a daily city driver, if your goal is to find a large, rugged vehicle that can handle itself capably as an off-roader and in inclement weather, the Toyota 4Runner is one of few vehicles on the market that meets this standard, and arguably your best bet.
Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.