This car still speaks to the core audience that made the 4Runner such a famous brand name for Toyota. It is distinct in character from Toyota’s other midsize SUVs such as the Highlander although it does cross paths with the FJ Cruiser. The 4Runner’s days may be limited, like the days of all rough-and-tumble off-roaders, but for now I suspect there are sufficient buyers, especially given its solid-gold reputation among outdoor adventure types.
Overall, it’s quite a nice vehicle. It has some undertones of the Land Cruiser, although it’s lost its previously available V-8. The optional V-6, though, has plenty of power, even if it sacrifices some towing capacity. 5000 lb is still pretty good, and the engine sounds good when you really leg it getting onto the freeway. There’s an Eco mode with a green light that illuminates if you keep the revs down; at 35 mph and 1500 rpm the Eco button was on for me. A four-cylinder engine is available again for the first time in years.
In terms of driving dynamics, there’s a small amount of body roll but nothing untoward for an SUV. The steering could use a little more communication but is not overassisted. The brake pedal is just a little bit spongy but the brakes themselves seem to work very well.
The interior has a utilitarian aesthetic but is far from Spartan; it seems to be inspired both by the FJ Cruiser and the Land Cruiser. It’s trying to be masculine. I like the five big chunky knobs for radio volume, radio tuning, fan speed, temperature, and HVAC selection, which are all very logically and symmetrically presented to the driver and passenger. There’s also a great Toyota stereo, and the all-new “party mode” button, standard on all models, is pretty cool: it sends more of the music to the rear of the vehicle for tailgating parties. This is an unexpectedly cheeky feature for a conservative company like Toyota.
The seats are comfortable. I note that the 4Runner retains its signature power-roll-down rear window in the hatch; this allows owners to, say, haul surfboards in the back with them sticking out.
Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor
Another weekend, another trip to Ikea to pick up a bulky item, and it should come as no surprise that the 4Runner was up to the job. This time we got a cheap set of bookcases for the basement. The bookcases stand a little over 79.5 inches tall (a little over 6.5 feet), so we folded the rear seats and slid the long, flat boxes up over the center armrest so we could close the rear hatch. Had we been thinking (and had it been warmer than 30 degrees) we could have rolled down the rear window and let the boxes stick out the back. While that wasn’t necessary in this particular case, it’s a nice option to have when transporting long objects.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
I must be right in the age group that Toyota is aiming for with the new 4Runner because the car has a lot of items that appeal to me. It has off-road capability for those camping trips up north, slide-down rear-hatch window for those large projects around the house, and a new “party mode” for those wild tailgating gamedays. And with a 5000-lb towing capacity, it’s entirely possible to load the trailer up, and take the racecar to the track.
For as great as its amenities are, however, on the road the 4Runner drives just ok. The steering feel is rather numb and the vehicle is very susceptible to cross winds. On the highway the 4Runner tends to wander in the lane and wind noise is bothersome. And the brake pedal is very touchy and reminds me of the FJ Cruiser.
The exterior styling is rigid and masculine while the interior has a rugged look and feel, but still provides comfort. Engine power is sufficient; our SR5 4×4 test unit’s 4.0-liter V-6 with 270 hp. Toyota also offers a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine for the 4Runner with 157-hp; that’s not much oomph for a vehicle that weighs just shy of 4300 lbs. Plus the fuel economy benefit is just one mpg.
Mike Ofiara, Road Test Coordinator
An older me – with things to tow and children to tote – would be seriously attracted to the 4Runner. The ride is somewhat compromised and the climb-in height is a bit tall compared to a crossover, but the 4Runner is the perfect size, offering much of the capability of a larger vehicle. With that, I lament the loss of the V-8 and towing capacity. While the 4Runner is a truck I’d consider owning, I have absolutely no interest in the larger Sequoia or Land Cruiser.
The large knobs and buttons controlling the radio and climate control are fantastic. They’re easy to locate without taking your eyes off the road and can readily be twisted with a pair of bulky gloves on. They’re also a nice extension of the let’s-go-off-road exterior styling. I also love the 4Runner’s signature roll-down glass in the rear hatch. It may by of dubious value compared to the traditional flip-up window, but it’s so much cooler.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor
My fiancée and I love the FJ Cruiser, but for completely different reasons. She’s smitten with the visual throwback to the FJ45 (especially when painted in that bright blue), but I’m more impressed with the solid, capable chassis underneath.
Thankfully, for cosmetic conservatives like myself, the 4Runner proves to be a saving grace. As others have mentioned, the chassis underneath this all-new 4Runner is pretty similar to the FJ (and the Lexus GX), but is somewhat longer, stiffer, and wrapped in a more practical (and in my mind, tasteful) body shell.
The interior is equally attractive, and, with few exceptions, well arranged. I love how designers thought it important enough to place the iPod jack and power outlet inside the locking glovebox, but I’m a little puzzled by the traction control switches mounted on the overhead console.
I loved the original 4Runners for being an inexpensive body-on-frame SUV with impressive off-road chops. While I’m glad Toyota is sticking with the rough, tough, body-on-frame mantra, the 4Runner is far from cheap. I’m glad even the least expensive SR5 model has at least some off-road prowess, as the hardcore Trail model — which throws in a locking rear diff, crawl control, and Toyota’s kinetic suspension — pushes the price tag closer to $40,000. Yikes.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
I parked next to a Highlander in my apartment complex and couldn’t help but feel vastly superior. Sure, the two may look somewhat similar, but only one of these Toyota tall-riders would survive the apocalypse. Indeed, there’s no doubt the 4runner has a certain of swagger to go along with its capability, from the subtle, but tough exterior to its traditional roll-down rear window. If my life ever called for a real truck that could conquer dirt roads, the 4Runner would be near the top of my list.
Still, it amazes me that so many suburban folks bought body-on-frame SUVs a decade ago. The 4Runner is about as refined and well designed as you can make such a vehicle, but the drawbacks are still apparent. From the vague, light steering to the way the nose dives when you hit the brakes, there’s no doubting this vehicle does not handle on-road chores as well as the average car or crossover.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
2010 Toyota 4Runner SR5 4×4 V6
Base price (with destination): $31,715
Price as tested: $36,634
4.0L V-6 engine
5-speed automatic transmission
Hill-start and downhill control
17-inch alloy wheels
Integrated tow hitch
Rear clearance sonar
Multi-info display with fuel consumption, temp, and compass
Options on this vehicle:
Convenience package – $1050
Power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade
AM/FM/MP3 with 8-speakers – $585
USB port with IPod connectivity
Steering wheel audio controls
Backup camera – $525
Sliding rear cargo deck – $350
Premium package – $2205
Leather-trimmed and heated seats
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
Carpet floor mat & cargo mat – $204
Key options not on vehicle:
17 / 22 / 20 mpg
Size: 4.0L V-6
Horsepower: 270 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 278 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Weight: 4675 lbs
17-inch alloy wheels