The Toyota 4Runner lives up to its SUV look, with every bit of off-road capability factored into its suspension and drivetrain. We think it's fairly competent on the street too, though other reviews find it a poor substitute for a crossover.
The 4Runner is a large, heavy SUV, though nowhere near as bulky as Toyota's own Sequoia. It's offered with a sole drivetrain, one that pairs a 4.0-liter V-6 engine, making 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque, with a five-speed automatic transmission. The combination is strong enough to deliver competitive acceleration, whether taking off from a stoplight, climbing a steep trail or driveway, or passing at highway speeds. The quick-shifting automatic always seems to be on its game, though it's at least one cog behind the state of the art, if not three.
No matter which model you choose, the 4Runner has the fundamentals to handle off-road obstacles with ease. There also are some differences, across models, in how the 4Runner delivers its power to the pavement--or lack thereof. V-6 SR5 models are offered either with rear-wheel drive or a part-time four-wheel-drive system, while Trail models are only offered with that 4WD system.In Trail grade (the off-road model), the 4Runner includes a host of electronics and systems meant to complement the sturdy off-road hardware. Crawl Control uses electronics to maintain a slow, steady speed when in low range, while a Multi-Terrain Select system allows driver-selectable levels of electronically allowed wheel slip for terrains ranging from soft sand or snow to solid rock. The Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) that's optional in the Trail model uses hydraulics to reduce motions on-road or increase off-road traction and riding comfort, with more wheel travel in that situation.
Limited models get a separate full-time four-wheel-drive system that's more road-oriented. It's a so-called X-REAS system with electronically adjusting dampers, geared for flatter cornering and pavement surfaces.
It's on pavement where the 4Runner does better than we'd expect for such a specialist, though our opinions aren't too widely shared. Steering feel and maneuverability are unexpected delights in the 4Runner; at low speeds especially, the 4Runner handles with better precision and control than you might expect from such a big, heavy model, and visibility isn't bad. But you'll be reminded you're in a tall vehicle with soft sidewalls and a safe suspension calibration if you attack corners too quickly. It's all about expectations: if you're hoping for carlike maneuverability and visibility, you'll be disappointed, but as an updated version of the SUV circa 1990, the 4Runner feels advanced for its kind.