The 2009 Toyota 4Runner has a supple ride and good handling for such a capable off-roader. 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.
The 4.7-liter i-Force V-8 turns the Toyota 4Runner into 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.” Displacing 4.0 liters and equipped with variable valve timing, the V-6 engine produces 236 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of readily accessible torque. Automobile Magazine remarks that it gives “an ambitious charge when you leg the throttle,” and ConsumerGuide attests “the V6 is more than adequate for most needs.” The base V-6 feels more enthusiastic than some SUVs' optional V-8 engines.
ConsumerGuide also considers the five-speed automatic transmission a “smooth, responsive transmission,” and Car and Driver reports that it “shifted smoothly and elegantly in every situation.” Both engines utilize this transmission that provides well-spaced ratios and smooth shifting.
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.” 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.
X-REAS, a system that diagonally ties front and rear shock absorption on opposing sides of the vehicle with a center nitrogen damper, is an option that helps reduce pitch and body roll, and it's a good choice for those who need their 4Runner for both off-roading and highway use. Standard on the mid-level sport trim and optional on the Limited, the X-REAS system improves the road manners of the already responsive platform, impressing most reviewers.