CHATHAM, Mass. – Car-based crossovers dominate the mid-size sport-utility world, but defying conventional wisdom, the Toyota 4Runner keeps on truckin’ for the consumers who still want a rugged, body-on-frame traditional SUV.
SUVs were born by putting an enclosed rear cargo section and back seat onto pickup trucks to create passenger-oriented vehicles which could take more folks wherever they wanted to go, even if there were no roads to get there (and protect their gear from the elements while doing so).
Last year, Toyota enhanced the adventure qualities of the 4Runner SR5 versions by introducing the limited Trail Edition and the success of the 4,000-unit run convinced the Japanese giant to bring it back for 2022.
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We spent the week in a Lunar Rock (cannot quite describe this color which is shown in the lead image for this post) part-time four-wheel drive Trail Edition.
This is a traditional SUV, from the squared-off shapes on the exterior and interior, to the bold switchgear. Angles not smooth, flowing lines define the surfaces. Controls are substantial; no subtility in switches or buttons here.
The ride is a bit stiffer than car-based crossovers and you sit higher as well, with a more commanding view of the road and all that surround you. This is an in-your-face vehicle ready to tackle whatever the driver comes across in his/her journeys.
A platform for the ages with modern ADAS and technology
The first 4Runner came to this market in 1984, the period when the modern SUV market began to really take off (think introduction of the four-door Jeep Cherokee, two-door Chevrolet Blazer) with a pickup truck-based body-on-frame design, four-wheel drive (4WD) and engines with oomph.
The same type of architecture today starts with a 270-horsepower double overhead cam 4.0-liter V6 engine with 278 pounds-feet. of peak torque mated to a five-speed ECT-i automatic transmission that includes a sequential shift mode for manually shifting when more control is desired.
An array of technologies enhances the capability provided by the 4Runner’s high-strength chassis and available 4WD. Standard Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC) provides additional control when accelerating from a stop on a steep incline. The system helps to briefly hold the vehicle stationary while the driver transitions from the brake pedal to the accelerator.
The suspension and body design (with short overhangs front and rear) result in a 33º approach angle and 26º departure angle.
Like all 4Runner grades, the Trail Edition is equipped with a standard integrated tow-hitch receiver and wiring harness. All models can tow a maximum of 5,000 pounds, with a maximum 500-pound tongue weight.
The suspension is straightforward but works competently to provide a decent ride for a vehicle capable of off-road cavorting and clearing obstacles up to 9.6-inches high. Up front there is an independent double-wishbone setup with coil springs and a stabilizer bar; at the rear, a coil-spring four-link with lateral rod rear system with stabilizer bar.
Power-assisted four-wheel vented disc brakes (13.3-inches up front, 12.3 inches in the rear) with anti-lock (ABS) formulate the basis of the Star Safey System™ and the advance driver-assist system (ADAS) Toyota Safety Sense™P.
The elements of the Star Safety System™ are Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), ABS, Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA) and Smart Stop Technology (SST)®.
The Toyota Safety Sense™P brings the following ADAS Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beams and Dynamic Radar Cruiser Control. (Other versions of the 4Runner come with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert and Blind-Spot Warning.)
Safety equipment also includes eight airbags including the Advanced Airbag System; front seat-mounted side airbags; driver and front passenger knee airbags; and all-row, roll-sensing side curtain airbags.
Interior of technology in traditional package
The inside is a purpose-designed large space for up to five occupants. Again, the term straight forward fits – controls are large, easy to find and easy to understand. Three rotary knobs in the center of the dash (just below the eight-inch color display of the infotainment system) handle the climate-control functions.
The eight-way electrically adjustable (with power lumbar adjustment) driver’s seat and tilting/telescoping leather-covered steering wheel, allows finding the perfect driving position easy.
The windows are power operated, including the one in the rear liftgate. Speaking of which, the liftgate has a pair of spotlights to aid in outdoor evening activities.
Traditional but still modern, the 4Runner Trail Edition with Premium Audio package has today’s technology starting with the navigation-included infotainment system.
Power outlets, USB as well as 110-Volt ones, throughout the cabin allow for charging of mobile devices as well running standard electrical appliances and tools.
Also on the inside, the Trail Edition includes a custom-designed, removable 40-quart Yakima cooler strapped to the sliding rear cargo floor (which extends out from the cargo area to make loading/unloading/utilizing more convenient) as well as all-weather floor liners.
On the outside, the Yakima roof-mounted basket, 17-inch dark-gray alloy wheels and black badge overlays distinguish the Trail Edition.
An adventure SUV for any pocketbook.
All 4Runners share the same six-cylinder engine/five-speed transmission powertrain, so fuel efficiency ratings are similar. The 4WD Trail Edition in our driveway brought a federal Environmental Protection Agency rating of 16 miles per gallon city, 19 highway and 17 overall. We bettered that figure getting 18.6 mpg during our time in the truck.
The 4Runner family is large and diverse, allowing adventuresome SUV shoppers to tailor the vehicle to their needs and pocketbook. The two-wheel drive (2WD) SR5 anchors the range with an MSRP of $37,605 and from there an additional seven variants, 2WD and 4WD, with different levels of equipment through the TRD Pro at $52,420.
The well-equipped Trail Edition 4WD carried a $41,150 base price and an as tested price (including option packages and $1,215 delivery, processing and handling fee) of $45.142. And it comes with Toyota’s well-earned reputation for quality and durability.
All told, the 4Runner represents a very modern iteration of the traditional SUV, supplying buyers who want these rugged, truck-influenced qualities in their vehicle.