While many SUVs are rugged only in appearance, the 4Runner has the chops to back it up. It remains one of the most capable SUVs off road and has over three decades of experience. Don’t expect the latest in technology, features, or any of the refinement of a car-based SUV. This thing is old school. It still rocks a body and frame pickup design and is the only midsize SUV that still does. The 4Runner may be a dinosaur but its renowned reliability and impressive capability still attract many consumers.
If there’s an SUV that defines value, it’s probably the 4Runner. Look around online for a used 4Runner and you’ll understand immediately. The 4Runner retains its value better than almost any other vehicle. Why? Bulletproof reliability. These things just keep trucking. The upside to having outdated tech like hydraulic power steering and a rear solid axle with coil springs is they always work! No electronic gremlins to worry about. The 4Runner is Toyota’s version of Occam’s Razor: The simplest SUV is the most functional!
The 4Runner has a performance profile unlike any other midsize SUV on the market. It’s never gonna win a drag race or set a hot lap time at your local track. But that’s not what it is designed for either! The sole engine option is a 4.0 Liter Dual Overhead Cam 24 valve V6 with port fuel injection that makes 270 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 279 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. Those are respectable numbers, but they’re only available at relatively high revs. This means you’ll get rather poor fuel economy when driving with any sort of zest. With the soft, almost bouncy suspension, it’s not like you’ll want to drive vigorously. There’s quite a bit of body motion when turning, braking, or driving over any kind of bump. However, these same characteristics make this SUV shine off road. The 4Runner can scale steep rocky trails without any fuss.
The 4Runner will take you places most other vehicles can’t! Especially when equipped with Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System that will handle the toughest terrain by electronically disconnecting the anti-roll bars to allow insane angles. Despite its unrefined road manners, the cabin is surprisingly quiet, making this SUV a comfortable cruiser on the road, as long as you aren’t in a hurry to get anywhere. If you don’t plan on taking advantage of this SUV’s off road capability, you can do much better. If you’re an adrenaline junkie that lives for the weekend, there isn’t a better SUV out there!
Climb inside the 4Runner, most will literally have to, and you’ll find a functional interior. There are no bells or whistles, no luxurious materials. Just everything you need and nothing you don’t. Not what you might expect for an SUV that retails well over $30,000 dollars. This SUV wasn’t designed to coddle, it’s designed to get you to those crazy places you want to go without worrying a whole lot about your comfort. As such, there’s plenty of hard plastic and somewhat supportive seats that won’t win any awards anytime soon.
Fortunately, the standard driver’s seat is power adjustable with lumbar support. The rear seats recline and have plenty of room to accommodate adults. Of course, there’s 40/20/40 split capability to fit snowboards, kayaks, tents, or whatever outdoor activity you choose this week. There’s an optional third row that we imagine few will go without since it’s only really useable for small children.
Toyota’s Entune infotainment system is well-loved by many reviewers for its simplicity and the stock audio system it’s paired with does not disappoint. Cargo capacity is in line with much of the midsize competition at just under 90 cubic feet overall, 47.2 cubic feet behind the second row, and just 9 cubic feet behind the third row, if equipped. If there’s no third row, a sliding cargo deck makes loading and unloading this SUV a breeze. Especially useful for getting your surfboard out without dinging it. The rear window is also retractable, allowing you to carry much longer items than most SUVs with the additional benefit of better ventilation. The interior is nowhere near the best in the class, but it may just be the most functional.
Depending on which trim you select, the exterior ranges from mild to wild. We like the TRD models’ front end best, with its giant intake and minimal grille. It makes the 4Runner look as tough as it is. Looking at the side, the truck heritage is obvious. The 4Runner sits high off the ground and wears alloy wheels with all season tires. The TRD Pro trim receives stunning matte black wheels wrapped in Nitto Terra Grappler tires. If you’re gonna go 4Runner, you might as well go all out with this model. At the rear, there’s black tinted, clear-ish tail lamps that look euro spec.
They’re not bad looking. Below there’s a single exhaust outlet on the right side, like many trucks. Like many SUVs, there’s also a roof spoiler. On top, there are standard roof rails which may change various component colors depending on which trim you choose. The 4Runner is a unique looking SUV that’s as sure to catch many eyes on and off-road, though the former will most likely be non-human as few SUVs can take you where the 4Runner will.
The 4Runner received a 4-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It received 4 stars in the frontal crash test and 5 stars in the side crash test. In the rollover test, the 2017 model received just 3 stars despite being unchanged since the 2014 model, which received 4 stars. We couldn’t find a definitive reason for this discrepancy anywhere in the NHTSA’s literature, it seems arbitrary. The 4Runner does have one of the highest ground clearances on the market at 9 inches, so it’s understandable that there’s a higher risk of rollover than other SUVs.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety offers “GOOD” ratings from crash tests in all but the “Small Overlap Front Test,” where the 4Runner receives a “MARGINAL” rating. Unlike other SUVs that fail this difficult crash test, the dummy’s head was well protected. It was actually the frame structure and safety cage that caused the poor rating. The parking brake and steering column were pushed several centimeters toward the driver. The greatest intrusion was 48cm (19inches) at the lower hinge pillar. This means a driver could sustain substantial injuries to the lower extremities in a collision of this type. However, the rest of the body was well protected. There are still no advanced safety features available in the 4Runner. We’d rate the 4Runner as average in the safety category. There are safer SUVs, but the 4Runner should perform well in the event of a collision.
We’re not sure why, but JD power offers just a 3 out of 5 predicted reliability rating for the 2017 4Runner, down from 5 out of 5 in 2010. The NHTSA has issued two recalls for the 2017 model for rather minor issues. The first affects 1019 4Runners equipped with the TFORCE accessory package, the roof rack fasteners were improperly tightened and may detach.
Any Toyota dealer will inspect and tighten the fasteners, if necessary, at no cost to the owner. The second affects 409 Toyota vehicles that may have an improperly inflated spare tire. The dealer will fix this problem free of charge, or you can just inflate the spare to the proper pressure if your vehicle is affected. Beware that many of the previous model year 4Runners are affected by the huge Takata airbag recall. Run the VIN of the 4Runner you own or are considering purchasing to ensure the affected airbags or inflator modules have been replaced. If not, any Toyota dealer will replace them, free of charge. Consumer Reports awards the 4Runner a 5 out of 5 predicted reliability for the last several years, which we believe is more accurate than the JD Power rating. 4Runners are legendary for their reliability, it’s one of the reasons why the 4Runner has one of the best resale values of any SUV. There are 10+-year-old 4Runners on the used market with well over 150,000 miles fetching several thousand dollars still.
If the 4Runner doesn’t deserve perfect reliability ratings, we don’t know what SUV should. That being said, there are still some known issues our research turned up. While they may seem like a lot, remember the 4runner has been in production over thirty years and the sheer volume owned means there’s a lot more information available that other SUVs. There’s a known issue with front brake rotors that wear premature and cause pulsation when braking. Toyota corrected the problem with the 2014 refresh. Other than that, there are several minor issues reported on used 4Runners with an average of 180,000 miles on the clock. Considering most vehicles don’t last that long, those issues are largely irrelevant. There are several reports of owners getting 200k+ miles out of their 4runners and a handful with 400k or more. We don’t know of any other SUV that has this level of long term durability, so we’d highly recommend the 4Runner for the reliability concerned.
The most direct competitor to the 4Runner is the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It’s much more refined on the road but requires an expensive trim or serious upgrades to compete with the 4Runner off road. The Grand Cherokee Trailhawk is a superior vehicle off road but costs nearly $10,000 dollars more than a top trim 4Runner at $53,515. However, all the Grand Cherokee models have nicer interiors than the 4Runner. There are soft touch materials and a much more modern design. The seats are more comfortable, though no third row is available. Not that most will miss it.
The Grand Cherokee has several more engine options including a diesel V6 and 360 horsepower 5.7 Liter V8. The base 295 horsepower V6 is still no slouch and the 8 speed ZF automatic transmission is much smoother than the 4Runner’s 5-speed. This combination is good for a respectable 7.1 second 0-60 mph time, half a second quicker than the 4Runner. The Trailhawk model posts the exact same time as the 4Runner. However, the Grand Cherokee features many more sophisticated components that earn it a much lower reliability rating. For a vehicle that’s designed to go off road, it’s a huge downside to have parts that are prone to failure if you plan on driving where there’s no one else around. However, the Grand Cherokee’s superior driving dynamics make it a better choice for most drivers who do most of their driving on road. If you’re looking for exceptional reliability and want to save some money on an off road capable SUV, the 4Runner is your best bet.
The SR5 4Runner has a starting price of $34,210 and comes standard with projector-beam headlights with smoked trim, LED taillights with smoked sport trim, integrated fog lights, color-keyed front and rear bumpers, color- keyed door handles, color-keyed heated power outside mirrors, color keyed rear spoiler, silver painted roof rails with silver end caps, 6-spoke 17 inch alloy wheels with all season tires, aerodynamic variable intermittent windshield wipers with mist cycle, windshield wiper de-icer, rear privacy glass, LED center high-mount stop light, integrated concealed rear wiper with mist cycle, skid plate beneath engine and front suspension, skid plate beneath fuel tank and transfer case (if 4WD), front and rear mudguards, air conditioning with air filter and second-row vents, Entune Audio plus with Connected Navigation App, 6.1 inch high resolution touchscreen, 8 speakers, auxiliary audio jack, USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity, advanced voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, Bluetooth streaming audio, Siri Eyes Free, Gracenote album cover art, HD Radio, integrated backup camera with projected path, driver multi information display with outside temperature and average fuel economy, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support, 4-way adjustable front passenger seat, fabric trimmed seating, 40/20/40 split reclining and fold-flat second row seat, cruise control, leather-trimmed tilt and telescopic steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth controls, Optitron instrumentation with ECO Driving Indicator, in key remote keyless entry system, power windows with auto up/down and jam protection in all positions, power rear liftgate window defogger with timer and UV protection, overhead console with sunglasses storage, gated shift lever with sequential shift mode, 5 12V DC auxiliary power outlets, one cargo area 120V 100W/400W AC power outlet, glare-resistant mechanical inside rearview mirror, dual sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors, foot pedal parking brake, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, Smart Stop Technology, driver and front passenger advanced airbag system, driver and front passenger TAP (thorax abdomen pelvis) seat mounted airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, and all-row roll-sensing side curtain airbags, driver and front passenger active headrests, daytime running lights with manual on/off feature, anti-theft with engine immobilizer, ToyotaCare with no cost maintenance with roadside assistance, 4.0 Liter V6 Dual Overhead Cam 24-valve with dual independent variable valve timing, 5-speed electronically controlled transmission with intelligence and sequential shift mode, rear-wheel drive with automatic limited-slip differential, coil-spring independent double wishbone front suspension with stabilizer bar, coil spring 4-link with lateral rod rear suspension with stabilizer bar, and engine speed-sensing Variable Flow Control power-assisted rack and pinion steering. Part time 4WD with Active Traction Control is available for $1,875. A third row is available for $305. A third row and Entune Premium Audio with Integrated Navigation costs $650.
The $36,040 SR5 Premium adds heated power outside mirrors with turn signal indicators and puddle lights, Entune Premium Audio with Integrated Navigation, SiriusXM radio, SiriusXM Traffic, SofTex trimmed heated front seats, SofTex trimmed 40/20/20 split reclining fold-flat second row seat, HomeLink universal transceiver, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and optional third row 50/50 fold-flat seat. Part time 4WD with Active Traction Control can be equipped for an additional $1,875. A power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade can be added for just $100. A SofTex trimmed 50/50 split fold flat third-row seat runs $335. Power tilt/slide moonroof and running boards can be installed for $445. Power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade and SofTex third row seat are provided for $1,185. Running boards, power tilt/slide moonroof, and SofTex third row can be added for $1,530.
The TRD Off-Road trim has an MSRP of $37,335 and includes silver accented body trim, hood scoop, silver-painted roof rails with black endcaps, “TRD Off-Road’ external hard badges, 17 inch 7 spoke alloy wheels with all season tires and black painted accents, Entune Audio Plus with Connected Navigation App, Fabric trimmed front and rear seats, Overhead console with multi-terrain select, active traction control, VSC cutoff, locking rear differential and Crawl control switches, Carbon fiber looking center console with storage compartments, TRD shift knob, TRD Off-Road floor mats, glare-resistant inside rearview mirror, Part time 4WD, and electronically controlled locking differential. A Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System is available for $1,250.
The $39,295 TRD Off-Road Premium installs body color heated power outside mirrors with signal indicators and puddle lights, Entune Premium Audio with Integrated Navigation, Sirius XM radio, HD Radio predictive traffic and Doppler weather overlay, Entune App suite, SofTex trimmed heated front seats, SofTex trimmed 40/20/40 split reclining and fold-flat second-row seat, “TRD” red lettering on front headrests, HomeLink universal transceiver, and auto-dimming rearview mirror. A Power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade costs just $100. The Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System can be equipped for an additional $1,000.
The TRD PRO trim starts at $42,400 and adds TRD Pro Floor Mats, TRD 17 inch Matte Black alloy wheels with All Terrain Terra Grappler Nitto tires, unique “TOYOTA” front grille, TRD stamped aluminum front skid plate, and TRD Bilstein high-performance shocks and uniquely tuned front springs. A sliding rear cargo deck with under-floor storage compartment is available for $350.
The Limited trim includes Entune Premium JBL audio with Integrated Navigation and app suite, power adjustable passenger seat, perforated leather trimmed seats, heated and ventilated front seats, dual zone climate control, power tilt/slide moonroof, Smart Key System with push button start, parking assist sonar, HomeLink universal transceiver, and 20 inch alloy wheels for $42,525. Full time 4WD with locking center differential can be installed for $1,035. A leather trimmed third row costs $365 and automatic running boards cost $500.