Entry Price: $34,610
Price as Tested: $40,235
This week, we’re driving Toyota’s popular 4Runner, delivered in Toyota Racing Development (TRD) Off-Road 4x4 trim. Listed as a “standard size” SUV by the EPA, 4Runner is a “larger” mid-size built for both off-road and highway travel.
Since its inception back in 1984 as a four-cylinder compact Toyota pickup with a hatch on the back, 4Runner grew into today’s impressive SUV. Over five generations, 4Runner expanded its wheelbase by 6.8 inches through five generations and as for popularity, sales for 2017 came in at a near record-high 128,296 units, up from 111,970 the prior year.
One thing constant through the years is 4Runner’s build platform. Specifically, it’s always been built on a body-on-frame truck chassis for added muscle and superior SUV performance. 4Runner models for 2018 include an entry level SR5 4x2 at $34,610; SR5 Premium at $36,440; TRD Off-Road at $37,785; TRD Off-Road Premium at $39,695; TRD Pro at $42,875; and top tier Limited at $42,925.
New for 2018 are two new packages, including a Wilderness upgrade and a TRD Enhancement package. The TRD Enhancement package is exclusive to the TRD Off-Road model only. These new packages are pretty much small add-ons, as the Wilderness features all weather floor mats, roof rack crossbars and a cargo tray for an additional $434. The TRD Enhancement finds TRD specific 17-inch alloy wheels and a TRD stamped aluminum front skid plate for $1,750 more. Our tester had neither option, nor would I recommend them.
4Runner’s versatility easily meets the driving demands of most consumers who seek true SUV performance, be it rear-drive or 4x4. The Off-Road TRD underpinnings feature skid plates that protect the engine, front suspension, fuel tank and transfer case. The independent double-wishbone front and four link rear coil spring setup assures 4Runner’s chassis will deliver brute strength for serious off-road adventures yet still provide a comfortable ride for long highway road trips.
Under the hood, 4Runner’s engine offers power to climb a grade, pass quickly or easily merge thanks to a standard 4.0-liter V6 that delivers 270 horses and 278 lb. ft. of torque. The engine mates to a five-speed electronically controlled automatic with sequential shift mode. EPA numbers for the 4x4 are tolerable at 17 city and 20 highway, while the rear-drive does just one better on the highway at 21.
All 4Runners weigh over two tons and can tow up to 5,000 pounds thanks to a standard tow package that includes an integrated tow receiver and wiring harness. Hill Start Assist, Multi-terrain Select and Crawl Control come standard. Exterior standard features include seven-spoke alloy wheels, color-keyed front and rear bumpers with silver accents and color-keyed hood scoop. The “TRD Off-Road” badges let everyone know you’re driving a Toyota racing inspired vehicle. Inside you’ll find an overhead console, TRD shift knob and TRD floor mats that augment the functional interior.
Our tester featured an 8-speaker Entune Premium Audio with integrated navigation and App Suite, 6.1-in. high-resolution touch-screen display and all the modern smartphone and app features. SiriusXM delivers three months fee service and notable is a CD player that many manufacturers are now eliminating.
Our tester came with the optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System for $1,750 more. Known as the “KDDS” system, this option allows each wheel to respond to the terrain separately, allowing for maximum traction regardless of terrain or serious bad weather driving condition. I do recommend this feature for those who are serious about their off-road adventures or want the very best for demanding bad weather encounters.
The 4x4 unit is part-time and offers a locking rear differential and active traction control. Ground clearance is better on the Off-Road TRD models as they are .6-inch higher than the SR5 model’s 9-inch clearance build. This extra half-inch adds more off-road maneuverability and added safety going over rough terrain.
Five-passenger 4Runners feature a second row seat with split and fold feature that allows folding one or both seats down. If all seats are folded down, there’s lots of cargo space available. Additionally, for those who want to haul seven passengers, a third-row is optional on select models. Your Toyota dealer is waiting to explain all the 4Runner intricacies and options when you visit.
Every 4Runner built comes with Toyota’s “Star Safety” system, a combination of six distinct attributes designed to keep driver and passengers as secure as possible. Included are vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock 4-wheel brakes, brake assist, electronic brake-force and “Smart Stop” technology. All expected airbags are standard as is a backup safety camera. Overall government safety rating is good with four stars out of a possible five.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 109.8 inches, 4,750-pound curb weight, 37.4 foot turning circle, 9.6-inch ground clearance, 23-gallon fuel tank and up to 88.8 cu. ft. of cargo space with seats down.
In summary, 4Runner offers consumers an SUV for changeable lifestyles. Be it towing, off-road worthiness or hauling the kids to a baseball game, the good looking 4Runner has a model for you. 4Runners also deliver flawless Consumer Reports magazine reliability ratings and recently made the magazine’s top 10 list of vehicles that go routinely go over 200,000 miles trouble free.
Likes: Reliability, V6 power, spacious interior, off-road abilities.
Dislikes: Average handling, fuel mileage, touchscreen cumbersome.
— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other Gatehouse Media publications.
Test Drive: 2018 Toyota 4Runner
Entry Price: $34,610