If you’re a sportsman who goes off-road to get to your fishing/hunting spot, you may need more than the usual AWD crossover. If that’s the case, there is one of two rugged, durable, true off-road capable SUVs remaining in a crowded price class. But unlike most others, it holds its resale value of 54.2 percent after five years of ownership.
What we speak of is Toyota’s 5-passenger, body-on-frame 4Runner SUV. Aside from Jeep’s Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, the other true off-roader, 4Runner differs from the Jeep in that its ride is better, has more cargo space and has a tow rating of up to an impressive 5,000 pounds.
Offered in TRD Off-road (tested) SR5, SR5 Premium, TRD Off-Road Premium and Limited, the differences are the amount of standard features, safety items and trim.
4Runners’ exterior hasn’t changed much over the past few years. The new model has a distinctive burly front end and massive bumper shroud that combined with a roll pan that adds to the vehicles’ short front overhang, allows a 33-degree approach angle to better negotiate acute off-road gullies. The back also has a short 26-degree departure angle. All good specs for serious off-roading that also comes with a high 9.6-inch undercarriage clearance for traversing rocky, brushy, mud-slicked back roads.
Another feature 4Runner has that has become absent on new mid-size SUVs is a separate opening, powered rear hatch window. It comes in handy when carrying long items like wooden molding, one-piece saltwater fishing rods even a surf board. However, the entire hatch itself is manually operated.
Interior décor is simple but comfy. After a 23-inch step-in bypassing the step rail, long-wearing fabric front bucket seats are soft and supportive. The back seat offers room for three with an ample amount of leg and headroom.
The vertical stack contains large easy to use HVAC controls that can be operated with gloves on. Atop those, are a 6.1-inch touchscreen display that comes with rearview camera and several apps including weather, navigation, traffic, audio and maintenance. And a delight to avid off-roaders is 4Runner’s mechanically linked 4WD shifter instead of an automated system as found on most SUVs today. This tried-and-true system is preferred by off-road fans for its simplicity, ruggedness and quick engagement as the driver manually shifts into 2H, 4H and 4L gearing with a stubby shifter that resides next to the taller transmission gearshift.
There are three off-road assist modes in addition to being able to lock the rear wheels. One is the Hill-Start Assist Control that provides control when accelerating from a standing stop on a steep incline. It holds the vehicle while the driver transitions from brake to accelerator.
The Crawl Control feature helps maintain a constant speed when driving up and over off-road obstacles. It controls engine speed and braking force to propel the vehicle forward or reverse with one of five driver selectable low speed settings. This allows the driver to focus on steering over obstacles without having to modulate the throttle and brake.
Then there’s the Multi-Terrain Select system that is used to select the mode that matches prevailing terrain conditions. It adjusts wheel slip accordingly and allows wheel spin to work in the vehicles’ favor. Within it, a Mogul setting is for extremely uneven terrain such as V-ditches, slopes and ridges be it uphill or downhill. It works similar to a limited-slip differential.
Nasty terrain is helped by Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System that allows extended wheel travel at slow speeds for better off-road capability and stability, and on-pavement it reduces body lean when cornering.
With these systems in place, and because 4Runner is based on a truck platform, the ride is firm on Bridgestone Dueler 17-inch tires. Road imperfections can be felt but on smooth roadways, the ride is civil.
4Runner is powered by a 4.0-liter, 270-hp V6 that generates 278 lb/ft of torque. When coupled to the standard 5-speed automatic transmission, EPA estimated fuel economy is 17 city, 20-highway mpg. Not great but consider it’s carrying around 4,750 pounds of curb weight that comes with an impressive GVWR of 6,300 pounds. Truck numbers if you will.
Cargo area is especially spacious after a 30-inch lift height. As a third row seat is optional, our tester came without it. As such, and with the second row seats up there’s 47.2 cubic of cargo space. That translates into an area measuring 39.5 inches deep, 48.5 wide and 35.5 high. Flip the 40/20/40 second row and capacity expands to 89.7 cubic feet for 65 inches of cargo depth. That could be five inches greater as the second row seat bottoms must first be flipped forward behind the front rows, after which the seatbacks can then be flipped down behind them. A two-step operation.
With a long list of standard safety features and amenities, 4Runner came with but three optional items. The Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System ($1750), Entune Premium audio that included such niceties as satellite radio, Bluetooth and more, and Running Boards ($345) that brought the base price of $37,335 to $40, 235 with a $960 delivery charge.
4Runner also received a four out of five overall government safety score; four for driver frontal crash, three for passenger; five front/rear seat side crash; and three for rollover which is understandable with its high stance.
If you’re old-school like me and appreciate a truly capable off-roader, take a 4Runner for a run. It’ll easily handle any deep snow we get here in the Snowbelt.
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