2009 Toyota 4Runner Review

Consumer Reviews
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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
July 4, 2009

The 2009 Toyota 4Runner isn’t as roomy or as efficient as newer crossover designs, but if you need towing or off-road capabilities, it’s a good, safe choice.

TheCarConnection.com's editors have driven the Toyota 4Runner on- and off-road in order to give you an expert opinion. Then, to bring you the most useful shopping advice, TheCarConnection.com read through a range of reviews from other sources and included the most useful highlights.

The 2009 Toyota 4Runner, a perennially popular off-roader, is offered in both two- and four-wheel-drive layouts, as well as SR5, Sport, or Limited trim levels.

With its upright profile and prominently flared wheel wells bearing off-road styling cues, the Toyota 4Runner holds up well. Its last major redesign came in 2003, and since then it's been awarded minor annual upgrades. Although the 2009 Toyota 4Runner lacks the ride quality of modern carlike crossover designs, it has responsive steering and handles well for such a tall vehicle, and the interior is relatively quiet.

The 2009 Toyota 4Runner comes standard with a 236-horsepower 4.0-liter V-6 engine with variable valve timing (VVTi). The optional engine is a 260-horsepower 4.7-liter V-8, also equipped with VVTi. Both engines are mated to a five-speed automatic gearbox, and both deliver satisfying acceleration, though the V-6 is a bit noisier than the especially smooth, refined V-8. Beware that fuel economy is significantly lower with the V-8; it’s rated at 14 mpg city, 17 mpg highway with 4WD.

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4Runners with four-wheel drive come with a series of electronic aids that help off-road performance, including Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), for moving from a standstill on a slippery slope, and Down-hill Assist Control (DAC), for moderating speed in downhill off-road situations.

The interior of 2009 4Runners is clean and simple, but some of the materials feel cheap for a vehicle whose price can exceed $40,000. A third-row seat is available throughout the 2009 Toyota 4Runner line, but as one of the smallest designs, it doesn’t leave much room for cargo or stow away neatly. Otherwise, seating in the first and second rows is adequate, but the interior feels tighter than its outside dimensions might suggest.

With four stars in the federal frontal test and a commendable five stars for side impact, the 2009 Toyota 4Runner scores well in crash tests. The typically tougher insurance-affiliated IIHS tests award top "good" results in both frontal and side impact, though the 4Runner gets "poor" results in the IIHS rear-impact test. The 2000 Toyota 4Runner’s list of standard safety equipment includes an automatic limited slip differential (on 2WD models) for improved traction in slippery conditions, anti-lock brakes with brake assist, electronic brake force distribution, hill descent control, vehicle skid control, and traction control. Other standard safety equipment includes anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control.

Standard interior features on the Urban Runner package include an AM/FM/CD audio system with six speakers and a detachable TomTom personal navigation unit. The system offers WMA/MP3 CD capability, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, satellite radio capability, and available iPod connectivity. The package’s exterior cues include 18-inch six-spoke aluminum alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, a color-keyed grille, Urban Runner badging, XREAS Sport Enhanced Suspension badging, a chrome exhaust tip, black-painted tubular side steps, and a tubular roof rack with crossbars.

Top Limited models focus on adding interior conveniences, such as leather heated seats, dual-zone climate control, a premium sound system, and a 115-volt AC power outlet. Top options include a 10-speaker JBL sound system, a navigation system, a Bluetooth hands-free interface, a power moonroof, and a variety of Toyota Racing Development (TRD) performance accessories.

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2009 Toyota 4Runner

Styling

The 2009 Toyota 4Runner has masculine styling that most reviewers find purposeful, but a few see as overdone.

A couple of interior and exterior niggles aside, the rugged styling of the 2009 Toyota 4Runner serves it well in the body-on-frame SUV segment.

Automobile Magazine is critical of the 4Runner’s styling, labeling some of the 4Runner exterior elements a bit overdone: the “sport model's phony hood scoop and high-contrast cladding, and the Buick Rendezvous-esque roof pillars used on all models, give us pause.” However, most reviewers like the 4Runner's macho, rugged looks, finding them appropriate to its mission as a capable off-roader. Says Kelley Blue Book, “the 2009 Toyota 4Runner uses a compilation of bulging fender flares, blocky front and rear bumpers and a wide-slat grille to convey its message of stylish off-road capability.” MyRide calls it “big and burly,” and Car and Driver praises its “rugged looks.”

“The overall design of the interior,” comments Edmunds, “is aesthetically pleasing and functional, with most controls easy to find and use.” They cite “the climate controls, which look like intuitive dials but work more like joysticks” as their only major ergonomic complaint. The interior receives praise for its typical Toyota-like quality and ergonomics, but certain details are troublesome. “Convenient controls work with precision, but their markings may be too small for some eyes,” says ConsumerGuide, which also notes that “interiors are nicely appointed with a good mix of textured plastics and soft-touch surfaces.”

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2009 Toyota 4Runner

Performance

Enthusiastic engines and an extremely versatile suspension make the 2009 Toyota 4Runner an endearing performer both off-road and on.

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.

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2009 Toyota 4Runner

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Toyota 4Runner is not as versatile or as roomy as the best car-based crossovers, but it ranks high compared to its full-framed peers.

The 2009 Toyota 4Runner doesn’t carry people as well as the best crossovers, but its interior is well trimmed.

Being a full-frame, off-road-capable vehicle means the 4Runner is a bit tougher to climb into than a car-based SUV or a crossover; families should consider this point before buying.

Regarding the third row, optional on SR5 and Limited models, Edmunds calls it an “afterthought,” claiming “it provides minimal legroom even for kids and it doesn't fold flat into the floor.” MyRide.com remarks that “getting into the back seats is a little more challenging than in a sedan.” “The 2nd-row bench is nicely contoured but low, allowing good headroom but forcing adults to sit knees-up,” comments ConsumerGuide, who also warn that “it's a squeeze for three.”

Some editors “noted that the 4Runner's rather shallow floorpan makes you feel as if you're sitting too close to the floor.” ConsumerGuide considers the front seats “comfortable but fairly low to the floor,” an issue Motor Trend also explores.

Kelley Blue Book deems the 4Runner's interior “handsome, functional and assembled of the finest materials with the tightest tolerances.” Ergonomics and controls, aside from deeply set gauges and non-intuitive, gimmicky HVAC controls, are judged “aesthetically pleasing and functional, with most controls easy to find and use,” says Edmunds.

“Wind rush and tire roar evident at highway speeds, but neither is severe,” asserts ConsumerGuide, adding that the 4Runner is “among the quieter SUVs of this type.”

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2009 Toyota 4Runner

Safety

Solid crash-test ratings and a host of electronic active safety systems make the 2009 Toyota 4Runner a good choice.

Respectable crash-test results and superlative active safety features make the 2009 Toyota 4Runner an easy recommendation.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) graced the Toyota 4Runner with the highest crash-test rating, “good,” for frontal offset and side impact collisions. The 4Runner received perfect five stars for side impacts and four stars for frontal impact, but only thee stars for rollover resistance and rollover crashes by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In addition to the requisite airbags and anti-lock braking systems, the 4Runner’s comprehensive electronic safety gear includes downhill assist control, hill assist control, and vehicle stability control. The first is more useful for serious off-roading and comes standard on four-wheel-drive 4Runners, but the last two, HAC and VSC, are standard across the board and useful on any road, where they help the 4Runner remain easy to launch and provide excellent accident avoidance.

Standard on the 2009 Toyota 4Runner, according to Car and Driver, are “roll-sensing curtain airbags that inflate if the vehicle tips over or goes wheels up.” Edmunds explains that these side curtain airbags serve “the first and second rows of seating” and mentions that anti-lock disc brakes with brake assist, stability control, and front seat side airbags come standard on the 4Runner.

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2009 Toyota 4Runner

Features

The 2009 Toyota 4Runner comes with a laudable list of standard features, but uplevel models and optional items add to the bottom line quickly.

Thoughtful, well-designed features abound on the 2009 Toyota 4Runner, but selecting too many of them quickly inflates the base price.

Kelley Blue Book warns that “budget-conscious buyers will probably suffer sticker shock, as even the most basic 4Runner model starts around $29,000.”

With a retail price of $30,000 for the base SR5 model, the 4Runner should come well equipped, and it does. Edmunds mentions a variety of standard features, including automatic climate control with rear vents; remote keyless entry; cruise control; and full power accessories, such as a power rear window, tilt steering wheel, power front seats (V-8 models), a trip computer, and a CD/MP3 player with an auxiliary audio jack. Automobile Magazine also cites the standard “miniature inside mirrors mounted on the rearmost roof pillars” that “are handy for spotting tricycles while backing up.”

The midlevel Sport trim adds a telescoping leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, special seat fabric, power front seats (V-6 models), color-keyed exterior mirrors, 17-inch wheels, and the X-REAS system. Nearly everyone is wowed by the X-REAS system, which Car and Driver likens to “the diagonal jacking systems found in CART race cars” and says helps the 4Runner steer “into bends with a discernible lack of roll motions.”

Moving up to the highest trim level, the Limited, the list of standard features grows to include satellite radio, a six-CD changer, heated front seats, leather upholstery, a 115-volt power outlet, dual-zone automatic climate control, illuminated running boards, and 18-inch wheels. “X-REAS can be coupled with an optional rear air suspension (available only on V-8 Limited 4Runners) that replaces the steel coils with reinforced air bladders,” mentions Car and Driver.

A premium 360-watt JBL Synthesis setup with 10 speakers, a third-row seat, four-wheel drive with a limited slip center differential, and a rear backup camera are on the list of notable options available individually. Further stand-alone options include a navigation system, which features a touch-screen monitor, voice guidance, and Bluetooth capability, named “among the best, intuitive and relatively easy to use” by MyRide.com.

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November 20, 2016
2009 Toyota 4Runner RWD 4-Door V6 Limited (Natl)

Fixture issues on the 2009 but I love 4Runners!

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My 2009 4Runner is my second 4Runner. This model year had some fixture issues, the caps on the roof rack are not right and the side driver's seat came apart but beyond that 4Runner is simply great. I live... + More »
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