The Toyota 4Runner is one of the toughest, most reliable SUVs of all time. What do you need to know before you buy a Toyota 4Runner? Don’t worry, we’ll tell you everything right here in the Ultimate Buyer’s Guide.
The Toyota 4Runner is unkillable. We even got our own 4Runner, and the thing just wouldn’t die. This reputation for robustness is what keeps 4Runner buyers returning to the Toyota showroom once they get bored. Granted, it takes boredom to get 4Runner buyers back into a showroom, because their old 4Runners are probably still running like tops.
The new 4Runner is no different since it’s actually really similar to its predecessors. It’s got the same basic suspension setup, it’s still body-on-frame, and the 4.0-liter V6 has been around for over a decade.
It’s a vehicle for people who want reliability and off-road capability, but don’t want to deal with all the NVH compromises of the Jeep Wrangler.
The 4Runner is one of the last cool, off-road capable SUVs on the road. That’s to say it drives more like a truck (albeit a great one) than the generally spineless vehicles in this category. Sure, it doesn’t have all the refinement of those crossovers, either. Nor does it have the space.
It does have a reasonable V6 with a decent five-speed transmission that’ll provide needed grunt when off-road and reasonable performance on-road. You can’t race it for pinks, but you can climb hills in it.
It’s also got the ability to go places you’d never want to go with a modern Pathfinder. Plus, it just looks tougher than just about anything in this class. If the Grand Cherokee is a Range Rover you can afford, the 4Runner is a Land Rover on a budget.
The fifth generation 4Runner debuted in 2009 for the 2010 model year offering more space than the outgoing model. The latest generation 4Runner was meant to provide better on-road manners than the fourth generation model, while maintaining legendary 4Runner off-road capability.
This meant an all new interior, a revised exterior, a 2.7-liter I4, and a 4.0-liter V6. The I4 was mated to a 4-speed auto, while the 4.0-liter was mated to a 5-speed auto.
There have been steady revisions since 2010, though. In 2011, Toyota ditched the anemic 2.7-liter four pot. 2012 brought some changes to the audio system, 2013 got rid of the transfer case lever on the SR5 trim in favor of an electric button, and 2014 got a new fascia and revised interior.
New Premium trim levels were added for the 2015 SR5 and Trail, and TRD pro also made its debut the same year, doubling the trim level count to six. Toyota hasn’t made many changes for 2016.
You want options? You can’t handle the options. Hence, Toyota is giving you exactly zero powertrain options. As Henry Ford would probably say: “You can have any powertrain as long as it’s a 270 horsepower V6 mated to a 5-speed automatic.” We guess.
That engine and trans sends power to either the rear wheels or through two available two-speed transfer cases: a full-time and a part-time unit. The full-time system is available on the Limited trim, and comes with a limited-slip center differential with a locking feature. The part-time system can be had with an electric dial (on SR5 trims) or an old-school lever (on Trail and TRD trims). The Trail and TRD trims get a locking rear differential as standard equipment.
2016 Toyota 4Runner Engine Options
Engine Max Horsepower (hp) Max Torque (lb-ft) 4.0L V6 270 @ 5600 rpm 278 @ 4400 rpm
Fuel economy is not the 4Runners forte. It can’t even break 20 MPG combined— not hugely surprising for a big, heavy truck like the 4Runner that comes with a naturally aspirated V6 and only a 5-speed automatic.
You can bet the next update will bring more gears to that slushbox and ultimately get those MPG numbers up a few ticks.
2016 Toyota 4Runner Fuel Economy Ratings (City/Hwy/Combined)
_ 4.0L V6 5-Speed Auto 17/22/19 [2wd]
4runners are old-school. Their bodies are bolted to ladder frames, power steering is hydraulic, the rear suspension is a solid axle with coil springs and a 4-link setup. The front suspension brings us into the 20th century with a coil-sprung independent double-wishbone configuration. Brakes are vented discs front and rear, with the fronts at 13.3 inches and the rear at 12.3.
4Runners come in six trims: SR5, SR5 Premium, Trail, Trail Premium, Limited, and TRD Pro.
- SR5: Starts at $33,510. Notable standard features: 4.0-liter V6, 5-speed automatic transmission, 2-wheel drive, projector beam headlights, skid plates, 17” alloy wheels, air conditioning, backup camera, cloth seats with power driver seat, keyless entry, power windows, power rear liftgate window, leather-trimmed tilt/telescoping steering wheel, multi-information display in cluster, 6.1-inch display for in-car communication system, front and side airbags, automatic limited slip differential, tow hitch, hill start assist. Notable options: Part-time foul-wheel drive ($1,875); Fabric-trimmed 50/50 Split Fold-Flat with options package: Premium Audio with Navigation, third row bench seat ($650).
- SR5 Premium: Starts at $36,190. Notable standard features over SR5: Power moonroof with sunshade, unique exterior trim, synthetic leather trimmed seats, heated power front seats, premium audio with navigation and 8-speakers. Notable options: part-time four-wheel drive with Active Traction Control ($1,875); SofTex-trimmed 50/50 Split Fold-Flat with options package #1: Split folding rear bench ($335); SofTex-trimmed 50/50 Split Fold-Flat with options package #2: Rigid running boards, split folding rear bench ($680).
- Trail: Starts at $36,415. Notable standard features over SR5: part-time four-wheel drive with Active Traction Control, Multi-terrain Select and Crawl Control, locking rear differential, unique 17” alloy wheels, unique exterior trim, hood scoop. Notable options: Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System with options: Premium audio with Navigation and 8-speakers, Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System ($1,655).
- Trail Premium: Starts at $39,095. Notable standard features over Trail: Unique exterior trim, power tilt/sliding moonroof with sunshade, synthetic leather trimmed seats, power front seats, premium audio with navigation and 8-speakers. Notable options: Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System ($1,000).
- TRD Pro: Starts at $41,355. Notable standard features over Trail Premium: Automatic headlights, TRD stamped aluminum front skid plate, unique 17” wheels with all-terrain tires, unique exterior trim and fascia, synthetic leather seats, heated power front seats, premium audio with navigation and 8-speakers. Notable options: sliding rear cargo deck with options package: rigid running boards, sliding rear cargo deck ($695).
- Limited: Starts at $41,825. Notable standard features over SR5: Sport X-REAS suspension, 20” alloy wheels, unique exterior trim, power mirrors, power tilt/sliding moonroof with sunshade, dual zone automatic climate control, perforated leather seats, heated and ventilated power front seats, premium JBL audio with navigation, JBL speakers with subwoofer, front and rear park sensors. Notable options: full-time four-wheel drive system with Torsen lockable center differential ($2,035); Leather-Trimmed 50/50 Split Fold-Flat with options package: Split folding rear bench ($365); Automatic Running Boards with options package: automatic running boards ($500); Automatic Running Boards with options package #2: sliding rear cargo deck, automatic running boards ($850); Automatic Running Boards with options package #3: Automatic running boards, 50/50 split folding rear bench ($1,865).
Of all the trim levels, the 4Runner Trail trim would take our money. It gets a locking rear differential, multi-terrain select, skid plates, Crawl Control, and 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 265mm-wide tires. Sure, we don’t get the fancy audio system, or the electronic push-button transfer case (we prefer the manual lever anyhow), or heated leather seats, but we get tons of off-road capability and legendary 4Runner reliability all for $37,315.
The Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) is tempting, as we like the idea of getting more flex from disconnecting our sway bars, but is it worth $1,655 on a vehicle with independent front suspension? We haven’t driven a KDSS-equipped one off-road, so we can’t say for sure, but rest assured, even without it, the 4Runner is excellent in the rough stuff.
MSRP: $33,510-$41,825 Max Advertised Towing Capability: 5,000 pounds
MPG: 17 city/ 22 hwy / 19 combined [2wd] Engines: 4.0L V6
Curb Weight: 4,400-4,805 pounds IIHS Rating: Not a Top Safety Pick
Transmissions: 5-speed Automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front engine, RWD/4WD
Photo credit: Toyota