I owned a 4Runner for several years - two of them, actually - so there will always be a warm place in my heart for Toyota's mid-size SUV. About ten years ago it looked like it had hit the weight room and bulked up a bit, and, in 2006 they squared it off a little more.
Now, in 2013, the 4Runner wears its off-road heritage with pride. It's not as city-nimble as some comparable SUVs, so your decision might come down to how you expect to use your vehicle. Here's what I found after a week behind the wheel of the Limited edition.
The boxy exterior is intended (I believe) to remind people of the 4Runner's rugged background. While some competitors are anxious to please folks heading to the mall, this Toyota SUV has always been a camper at heart. By adjusting the lines they reinforced the tough-guy image - perhaps at a price. Some people don't think it looks as sexy as it did in the 90s. It's a trade-off.
Once inside you discover that the 4Runner is mostly about practicality. You won't get pampered, but it's still comfortable. Built to accommodate five passengers on a normal day, a third row could pop up to allow for two more - but they'd better be kids or dogs, because that last row isn't roomy. The first two, however, are quite spacious.
The second row features a 40/20/40 split, and when the row is lowered entirely it adds considerable storage to an already-generous cargo area. All told, you'll find 90-cubic-feet when that second row is stowed. The rear-window can be lowered with a switch, allowing a nice flow of air through the vehicle (in case your dog has been splashing around in the lake - you know how THAT smells.)
Controls are mostly intuitive and well-placed; there's good visibility, as you would imagine; and front-seat storage is ample and convenient.
There are three trim levels: SR5, Trail (which was introduced in 2009), and the Limited (which I drove). Options on my test vehicle included the DVD Touch Screen and upgraded audio. Also, ask about Toyota's Safety Connect system (standard on the Limited), which, with the touch of a button, provides emergency assitance, roadside help, automatic collision notification, and even a stolen vehicle locator.
All 4Runners come with a 4.0-liter V6, which pumps out about 270 horses. Some off-road enthusiasts might long for V8 power, but Toyota's engine is up to the task. I didn't find acceleration overwhelming when I left a red light, but it does have enough get-up-and-go to satisfy most of us.
You can choose between rear-wheel and 4-wheel-drive, but c'mon, in Colorado, isn't there only one real choice? When things get nasty in January and February you'll appreciate the torque-shift between all four wheels, helping traction and control.
It earned four-star safety ratings, gets about 17 mpg in the city and 21 on the highway, and with the DVD-option my test vehicle (the Limited) came in at around $44k.
Obviously there's a lot of competition in this class, but Toyota's heritage 4Runner continues to impress.
Reviewed by Dom Testa, August, 2013