Sports utility vehicles were initially designed to deliver performance. Somewhere along the way that got a bit lost as the sector became the go-to for soccer mom and others began looking for versatile, stylish, and spacious vehicles. While that’s fine, the Toyota 4Runner remains dedicated to the original mission of SUVs: to provide sports utility and durability.
The 4Runner is known for its great off-road capabilities. Although rear-wheel drive is standard, all trims are available with true four-wheel drive and a drivetrain tuned for off-roading. The 4Runner’s performance Toyota Racing Development (TDR) trims give even greater performance, drawing on innovations from Toyota’s racing team.
While the 4Runner is designed for off-roading, it also has features that make it a good everyday driver. Toyota’s outstanding predictability contributes to the 4Runner’s outstanding reliability. Seating for up to seven people and an impressive 47 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row mean make the 4Runner a great SUV for people who need ample space.
Here’s everything you should know if you’re considering buying a Toyota 4Runner:
Price and Value: The 2020 Toyota 4Runner starts at $36,020. That’s expensive for a mid-sized SUV, even one that is in the niche of great off-road vehicles. A 4Runner with four-wheel drive will cost at least $37,895 and a top-of-the-line 4Runner will cost at least $50,000 new.
The high price is in part because Toyotas are generally considered a good buy. They hold their value well over time in part because of their high reliability rating.
Buyers who want a 4Runner but are trying to avoid sticker shock should opt for a used Toyota 4Runner. The 2019 4Runner, for example, is available used for much cheaper. Because the 4Runner hasn’t been redesigned since 2009, older model years still look current and have similar features. However, drivers interested in the TRD Off-Road or TRD Off-Road Premium trims should note that those were not introduced until the 2017 model year.
Size, Seating and Cargo Capabilities: The Toyota 4Runner comes standard with seating for five people. The rear legroom is just shy of 33 inches, which is smaller that most other mid-sized SUVs. The 4Runner offers an optional two-person third-row seat in the SR5, SR5 Premium, and Limited trims levels. The third row has 29.3 inches of leg room. The TDR trims do not offer third-row seating.
The 4Runner is known for having lots of cargo space. It has more than 46 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row. However, if the third row is up, the 4Runner has just nine cubic feet of cargo space. The 4Runner comes standard with roof rails for added storage.
In addition, the 4Runner has a max towing capacity of 5,000 pounds at all trim levels. That’s enough to easily move a boat or trailer, and more than many other mid-sized SUVs.
Off-Road Capabilities: The 4Runner comes with many features that are designed to help it get off the beaten path. Drivers can choose from two four-wheel drive systems. Part-time 4WD with Active Traction Control is optional on the SR5 and SR5 Premium trims, and standard on the TRD Off-Road, TDR Off-Road Premium, and TRD Pro trims. Full-time 4WD with Active Traction Control and a limited-slip center differential with a locking feature is optional on the Limited trim. The 4Runner comes standard with a reinforced body-on-frame construction for more durability, and at least nine inches of ground clearance to get over any bumps or boulders.
Fuel Economy and Engine: The 4Runner has one engine option: a 270-horsepower V6. That engine was introduced in 2010 and has been standard on all trims since. The 2019 4Runner has an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 18 mpg combined in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive. That’s a lower fuel economy than many other mid-sized SUVs, which often come with a smaller and less powerful engine.
Trims: The 4Runner is available in six trims: SR5, SR5 Premium, TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, TRD Pro and Limited. Here’s what you can expect from each:
- SR5: Cloth seats; push-button start; Bluetooth® connectivity; standard rear-wheel drive, with part-time four-wheel drive an available option.
- SR5 Premium: Synthetic leather seats; heated front seats; navigation; high-definition and satellite radio; optional moonroof.
- TRD Off-Road: Cloth seats; standard part-time four-wheel drive system; electronic locking rear differential; TRD interior and exterior styling touches.
- TRD Off-Road Premium: Synthetic leather seats; navigation; high-resolution touch screen display (6 inches); heated exterior mirrors; optional moonroof
- TRD Pro: High-performance shocks; unique grille; roof racks; standard moonroof
- Limited: Leather-trimmed heated and ventilated front seats; 20-inch wheels; rear parking sensors; standard rear-wheel drive, with optional full-time four-wheel drive available.
Reliability: The Toyota 4Runner is a very reliable vehicle. J.D. Power and Associates gives the 2019 Toyota 4Runner a “great” reliability rating of 85 out of 100. That contributes to its “best” resale rating of 90 out of 100. There are currently two recalls on the 2019 Toyota 4Runner. Both relate to a sticker with misinformation about the load that the 4Runner can carry. This led to a recall because an overloaded vehicle can increase the chances of a crash. However, this isn’t related to the mechanics of the vehicle.
Safety: The 4Runner has a 4 out of 5 crash test rating, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, most models of the 4Runner come with few advanced safety features, with only a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors available. That’s changing for the 2020 model, which will come standard with the Toyota Safety Sense package. This will give the 4Runner standard forward collision braking, lake departure warning, adaptive cruise control and more.
The Takeaway: The Toyota 4Runner is a rugged SUV built and tuned for off-road performance. Few other mid-sized SUVs come with so many options for suspension and drivetrains that will help you get down any trail.
Although the 4Runner is great off-road, it has some drawbacks that limit its appeal as a daily driver. The second row is fairly cramped, and the third row is down-right small. Taller passengers and rear-facing car seats might benefit from more legroom. In addition, the 4Runner’s powerful V6 guzzles gas, and will be costly at the pump. It also has very few standard safety features or modern technologies.
The Toyota 4Runner is an expensive SUV, but it’s a great choice for drivers who are thinking long term. That’s because the 4Runner is super reliable and holds its value well over time. The fact that it hasn’t been redesigned in a decade makes the 4Runner appealing to budget shoppers, since older used models still look current.