Toyota's long-serving 4Runner body-on-frame SUV is back with only detail changes compared to last year's model. Entering its 28th year of production, the SUV can be had with a third-row seat that makes it a seven-seater and either as a rear-wheel drive truck or with a part-time 4x4 system and a full-time, multi-mode 4x4 system with a locking center differential.
The 4Runner's sole motivator remains to be the 4.0-liter V6 that's plenty powerful to move the big truck around with authority. And despite its 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque, the engine returns 22 mpg on the highway (along with 17 in the city). Maximum towing capacity is 5,000 pounds and all 4Runners get a standard integrated hitch receiver and wiring harness. All get a five-speed ECT-i automatic.
The SUV is available in three variations: the top-of-the-line Limited, the base SR5, and the off-road-oriented Trail grade. The SR5 and Trail 4x4 models get a new push-button controller for the transfer case instead of the lever in the older models. Only the Limited gets the full-time, four-wheel-drive system with a locking center differential and employs a three-mode, center console-mounted switch.
For improved on-road performance, the Limited grade comes standard with an X-REAS suspension system that automatically adjusts the damping force of shocks when driving over bumpy surfaces, or when cornering.
To enhance grip, the A-TRAC system is now standard equipment on all 4x4 models. The system can distribute driving force to any one wheel in contact with the ground, making terrain irregularities and slippery patches transparent to the driver.
The Trail package offers Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) as an option. KDSS improves terrain-following ability by disconnecting stabilizer bars to allow for more axle travel, and better suspension articulation in slow and uneven terrain.
Toyota's Crawl Control (CRAWL) feature is standard on the Trail grade. CRAWL is an adjustable electro-mechanical system that can be tuned to match the terrain by selecting any of five speed levels. The Trail grade also features a Multi-Terrain Select system which allows the 4x4 operator to dial in wheel slip control to match the terrain.
All 4x4 models are standard-equipped with Downhill Assist Control (DAC), which is designed to augment the low-speed ascending ability of low-range by holding the vehicle to a target speed with no driver intervention.
All models come standard with Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), which provides additional control for off-road driving by helping to keep the vehicle stationary while starting on a steep incline or slippery surface.
The cabin has been redesign with better materials and improved aesthetics. Both leather and cloth upholstery are available. More cargo space is available due to the fold-flat second-row rear seats, which do not require removal of the headrest for rearrangement. For models with three rows of seats, the third row seats are split 50/50, and they fold flat to allow the seatback to become the floor of the luggage compartment. Another convenience feature is an available pull-out cargo deck that is capable of carrying up to 440 pounds of weight. The cargo deck slides out to make loading heavy items easier.
Leather is standard on the Limited and optional on the SR5. The Trail versions get water-resistant fabric seats in Graphite and Sand Beige. SR5s and Limiteds can be had with automatically-retractable running boards for the first time as well.
A Party Mode button will shift the balance of the audio system rearward and boost bass response for tailgate parties.
The SR5 and Trail trims get 17-inch wheels, with Limited running on 20s. The Trail alone gets a hood scoop, black side mirrors (the others get body colored ones with integrated turn signals and puddle lamps), front and rear bumper guards, and smoked head- and taillamps.
The 4Runners get VSC, TRAC, and ABS systems, along with EBD, Brake Assist, and Smart Stop Technology. 4x2 models get a limited slip differential to optimized traction. There are eight standard airbags, including curtains. A new addition for the latest model year includes active headrests for driver and front-seat passenger, while three-point seat belts are found at all seating positions.
The Limited offers the Safety Connect system that requires a subscription but includes a one-year trial when ordered. It can be had with or without the navigation system, it offers Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Emergency Assistance Button (SOS), and Roadside Assistance features.
The SR5s have a rear-view backup sonar system while Limited and Trail trims get a rear view camera. It can be ordered on the SR5 as an upgrade, however. If there is no navigation system ordered, the display is located in the rear view mirror.
The Toyota 4Runner is one of the last body-on-frame SUVs remaining in its segment, designed with off-roading in mind as well as daily driving duty. As such, it primarily competes with the Jeep Wrangler (in four-door configuration). Other rivals include the unibody Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer, and Nissan Pathfinder SUVs (which are technically crossovers now).