The Toyota 4Runner is an oldie but goodie. And I’m talking about the new one.
The 2020 4Runner is the latest edition of a model that dates back to 2010. It’s received several upgrades along the way, but the basics are pretty much the same: Body-on-frame construction, a 270 hp 4.0-liter V6 engine, a five-speed automatic transmission and a part-time four-by-four drivetrain.
Oh, it also has a tailgate window that rolls down. That’s about as old-school as it gets.
Along with the new Jeep Wrangler, the 4Runner is the only mainstream midsize SUV you can buy that sticklers would consider a “truck,” although the rebooted Ford Bronco will be joining them later this year.
Unlike the Wrangler, the 4Runner’s roof can’t be removed and its front suspension is independent. Both of those attributes contribute to a more refined on-road ride. All things considered, it kind of splits the difference between the Wrangler and Jeep Grand Cherokee.
4Runner prices start at $37,240 for an entry-level two-wheel-drive SR5 and top out with the $50,985 TRD Pro. All models get standard automatic emergency brakes and adaptive cruise control for 2020, plus an infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Alexa, just like them fancy modern cars have. There’s even an optional dashcam that can be used to capture moments, including accidents and break-ins, or record and map longer journeys. In evolutionary terms, the 4Runner is a shark with frickin' lasers on it.
The TRD Pro comes loaded with off-road gear that includes high-performance Fox shock absorbers that can handle long rides on rough roads without overheating, a one-inch front suspension lift, an aluminum front skid plate, a throaty TRD exhaust, 17-inch wheels with meaty all-terrain tires and a basket-style roof rack to augment its already huge cargo bay. Easy clean Softex-upholstered seats and all-weather floor mats complement all of the above.
The TRD Pro also gets an electronic locking rear differential, Toyota’s low-speed Crawl Control for pedal-free rock crawling and a Multi-Terrain Select traction management system with settings for a variety of surfaces from mud to moguls.
With just 9.6-inches of ground clearance, that front suspension and open front differential, a stock TRD Pro can’t handle the most extreme terrain out there, but you’ll literally have to go out of your way to get it stuck. It scurries up rock-strewn trails with ease and rips through ruts without being a pain in the butt.
It also maintains its composure on road, thanks in part to Toyota’s clever Kinetic Dynamic Suspension system, which uses hydraulic mounts on its roll bars to control body movement on pavement without restricting its articulation during slow, off-road maneuvers. It won’t fool you into thinking it’s a Toyota Rav4 on the street, but is much smoother and quieter than the Toyota Tacoma pickup.
Unfortunately, while most of the 4Runner’s attributes have improved with age, its fuel economy rating is from another era at a dismal 16 mpg city and 19 mpg highway. Another gear or five in the transmission probably wouldn’t hurt, but people appear to be willing to pay the price at the pump, because Toyota sold 130,000 4runners last year. That's about three times as many as it sold in 2010. Perhaps more impressive is that the 4Runner is J.D. Power's most dependable midsize SUV and holds its value better than anything but the retro Wrangler and Toyota's over-the-hill pickups.
Old school-style trucks clearly still hold a lot of appeal.
2020 Toyota 4Runner
Base price: $40,960
As tested: $50,985
Type: 4-door, 5-passenger 4x4 SUV
Engine: 4.0-liter V6
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Power: 270 hp, 278 lb-ft
MPG: 16 city/19 hwy