The fifth generation Toyota 4Runner was unveiled, for the first time, back at the 2009 State Fair of Texas. What better state to do it? We where there to bring you the details of this unveiling, along with some other great new cars at the State Fair. Now, we have had the chance to drive the new 4Runner and let you know how it stacks up.
Styling of the new 4Runner is borrowed from vehicles like the FJ Cruiser and Highlander, with a mix of traditional 4Runner thrown in the mix. The headlights and taillights are extra large, poking out from the body of the car, similar to the FJ. The front mouth of this SUV is big and aggressive and with this Trail Pack that we were testing, you get the traditional 4Runner hood scoop. The styling is dead on for the young and adventurous audience being targeted.
The new 4Runner dropped the option of a V8, which seemed like a bad idea to us at first, but the new V6 produces 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque. This engine never felt let down on power and actually has a 0-60 time faster than some family sedans, even though this car weighs in over 4700 pounds. The V6 also affords you decent fuel economy for an off-road machine. The spec sheet states a 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway economy rating. In reality, we struggled to stay around 17 mpg average driving. You also now get the option of a four cylinder engine that gets 23 mpg, but I’m not sure if I’d spend my money on a off-roading – mountain climbing – mudding machine and then settle for a 4 cylinder.
So I know what your asking, how did it drive? Did you get it off road? Is it worth the hefty $36k price tag?
When you first climb into the drivers seat, and you do have to climb, you instantly know that your not climbing into just another crossover SUV. This is different. In a time where car companies are manufacturing SUV’s to drive more like cars, you can tell this thing feels more like a truck. It feels big and simplistic, that is until you start looking at all the buttons and levers and toys. We’ll get to those toys in a minute, but just hoisting yourself into the drivers seat and going – this car is simplistic. Big buttons and dials easily laid out throughout the dash make it easy to find what you need when you need it. As soon as you smash your foot down, this 4Runner growls and rears up ready to go. You instantly get the impression that it wants to be scaling something. The steering has a truck feel and the body has lots of roll while taking the corners hard, although you dont get the sensation that your going to roll it. These characteristics are not only expected, but also encouraged. Taking a test car off road is always a sketchy feeling. You dont want to damage anything as it’s not your car. Toyota was adamant though, that we try out the off-roading capabilities of its new 4Runner. Well twist our arms then.
We took the 4Runner out to climb some hills and ride some trails on some back country roads here in Texas. Driving on the highway, you get the feeling that this isn’t the way this 4Runner wants to be driven. As soon as you get on the dirt road though, you can almost feel this SUV start to smile and you just can’t stop it from hitting the hills. Climbing hills, finding paths in between the ruts of other 4×4 cars that have been here before, was made easy without even messing with any of the electronic goodies. While creeping down these hills we used the new Crawl Control that keeps the vehicle moving at a consistent speed to you can concentrate on your driving and breaking. I’d say it works good enough as it didn’t kill us. We messed with the 4-Low and 4-High settings driving through some mud left over from a rain storm the day before. We also decided to take the 4Runner through a notorious mud-pit in the area that has conquered many 4×4 vehicles that we know. We were prepared with a big 4×4 F250 ready to pull us out if things got ugly. We reared back and picked our path through the pit, and gunned it! Hurtling toward the mud all I could do is hope that this 4Runner was as good as Toyota had claimed…. Watch the video to see how it did.
So now we are left with the question of price. Is the 4Runner worth the sticker? Let me start out by saying that this trail package is the way to go, if your getting the 4Runner. Or test vehicle topped out just over $36k making this one of the most expensive 4Runners ever. We all sat around debating that fact when it hit me. We drove the Chevrolet Equinox AWD just a few months earlier, which tipped the scales at about the same sticker price. SUV’s and all cars are getting more expensive, and with everything that this 4Runner can do, I think it’s worth the money. If you are looking for a daily commuter vehicle that will get 98% highway driving, don’t bother buying the 4Runner. Your better off with something like the Equinox. If you are looking for a fun vehicle that can take you wherever you need to go that is packed with gadgets like “Party Mode” where the 4Runner sends most of the music toward the rear of the vehicle when the lift-gate is open, then the 4Runner is for you.