Enthusiastic engines and an extremely versatile suspension make the 2008 Toyota 4Runner an endearing performer both off-road and on.
The base V-6 feels more enthusiastic than some SUVs' optional V-8 engines. Displacing 4.0 liters and equipped with variable valve timing, it produces 236 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of readily accessible torque. Automobile remarks that it gives “an ambitious charge when you leg the throttle,” and ConsumerGuide attests “the V6 is more than adequate for most needs.” Moving up to the 4.7-liter i-Force V-8 brings you to a powerful vehicle that won’t break a sweat while towing. This engine, recently enhanced by Toyota’s variable valve timing, nets 260 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque. ConsumerGuide praises the V8’s “ample, ready power.”
Both engines are backed by a five-speed automatic transmission that provides well-spaced ratios and smooth shifting. ConsumerGuide considers it a “smooth, responsive transmission,” and Car and Driver reports that it “shifted smoothly and elegantly in every situation.”
Beware that fuel economy is significantly lower with the V-8; it’s rated at 14 mpg city, 17 mpg highway with 4WD; the V-6 with 2WD rates 16/21 mpg for thriftier off-road fans.
Brake feel is criticized by a few, and some find that simply replacing the factory pads on mechanically similar Tacoma pickups dramatically increases pedal feel. But the handling and agility of this SUV are universally praised, as it delivers a nimbleness and responsiveness very unusual for a truck-based body-on-frame SUV. “This largish SUV steers precisely,” says Car and Driver. “Handling around turns is surprisingly tight and responsive,” reports Edmunds, and Motor Trend is “impressed with the vehicle's overall athletic nimbleness that makes it easier to hustle down the road.”
Of note is the X-REAS system, which diagonally ties front and rear shock absorption on opposing sides of the vehicle with a center nitrogen damper, helping to reduce pitch and body roll. Standard on the mid-level sport trim and optional on the Limited, this feature improves the road manners of the already responsive platform, impressing most reviewers.
Hill Assist Control (HAC), Downhill Assist Control (DAC), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), and even a limited slip center differential on 4WD models help give the 4Runner “true off-road capability of a stout, no-nonsense sport-utility vehicle,” according to Edmunds. However, the inability to completely defeat some systems such as VSC seriously limits the fun that can be had with the extremely capable chassis.