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