Toyota 4Runner Overview

toyota 4runner grill Few SUVs have the level of name recognition that the Toyota 4Runner enjoys. Launched in 1984, the 4Runner has always been Toyota's smaller and more affordable complement to the legendary Land Cruiser. Even though the first 4Runner was little more than Toyota's compact two-door pickup with a removable top, it was nonetheless rugged and tough. Over time, the 4Runner has earned its own reputation as a durable vehicle -- off-road and on. During the SUV-crazy '90s, Toyota introduced more models into its product lineup. This allowed the company to move the 4Runner up a few notches in size, accoutrements and price.

Still outfitted with a solid rear axle, however, the current Toyota 4Runner boasts old-school brawn, which helps to set it apart from the other midsize SUVs in its class, especially those that have moved into crossover territory. For some buyers, this traditional SUV style might be a detriment. Overall, though, the 4Runner should be a good choice, new or used, for consumers in need of a dependable SUV that's comfortable for everyday use while still being rugged enough for recreational off-road duty. New for 2010, the fifth-generation Toyota 4Runner is offered in three trim levels: SR5, Trail and Limited.

toyota 4runner tail lightsThe 2WD SR5 comes with a 2.7-liter inline-4 that makes 157 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque, while all other 4Runners get a 4.0-liter V6 with 270 hp and 278 lb-ft. A four-speed automatic is paired with the inline-4, while a five-speed automatic is fitted to the V6. The SR5 and Limited can be had in either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive (part-time system on SR5, full-time system on the Limited), while the Trail comes only with part-time 4WD. The SR5 comes standard with Toyota 4Runner Accessories like alloy wheels, skid plates, foglights, air-conditioning, cruise control, full power accessories with a power rear window, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a CD/MP3 audio system.

The Trail (available only with 4WD and the V6) adds a hood scoop, a locking rear differential, Crawl Control (which automatically modulates throttle and brakes when ascending or descending hills), off-road tires, a back-up camera, water-resistant upholstery and Bluetooth. The luxurious Limited gets Toyota's X-REAS adaptive suspension dampers (for controlling body roll), keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control and an upgraded audio system. As with the fourth-generation 4Runner, a third-row seat and a navigation system are options. The current Toyota 4Runner is based on the same platform as the rugged FJ Cruiser, and it's taller, wider and longer than the previous model.

toyota 4runner headlightsAs ever, it has a trucklike solid rear axle for superior off-road performance. The available Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) can disconnect the front and rear stabilizer bars at speeds below 40 mph for greater wheel articulation over uneven terrain. On the outside, the 4Runner has an edgy look, with a blocky front grille and pronounced fender flares (read more about fender flares in this article In reviews, we've concluded that most 4Runner buyers will want the V6, as the four-cylinder is hardly better on gas and has a serious power shortage. While the previous 4Runner's smooth and torquey V8 is no longer offered, we think the V6 is strong enough for most applications.

Like previous 4Runners, this one excels off the beaten path, particularly with KDSS. It's also a useful suburban runabout thanks to its available third-row seat and 90 cubic feet of maximum cargo space. Just don't expect it to drive like a car-based crossover -- this is a traditional SUV with serious off-road capabilities. The fourth-generation 4Runner was produced from 2003-'09. The standard engine was a 4.0-liter V6 rated at 245 hp, and it originally came with a four-speed automatic. There was also an optional V8 that produced just 235 hp but a healthy 320 lb-ft of torque (vs. 282 lb-ft for the V6); a five-speed automatic was mandatory here.