New Car Review
2017 Toyota 4Runner: New Car Review
SUVs like the 2017 Toyota 4Runner are an endangered species, and at this size and price point, Toyota's now-iconic 4-door off-roader is effectively the last of its kind. Its midsize dimensions make it reasonably family friendly, while its stout body-on-frame platform, ample ground clearance, available dual-range 4-wheel drive (4WD) and collection of off-roading features make it the obvious choice for anyone needing actual go-anywhere capability from their SUV.
Once upon a time, the 4Runner competed with SUVs like the Nissan Pathfinder and Ford Explorer, but those have long since morphed into car-based family crossovers. Smaller SUVs like the Nissan Xterra and the 4Runner's FJ Cruiser sibling have been discontinued. Really, the Jeep Grand Cherokee is the only thing that comes remotely close at this price range to offering the 4Runner's degree of off-road capability -- although by comparison, it has a smaller but more premium cabin.
Of course, there's a reason why other carmakers don't make 'em like the 4Runner any more. It's less efficient than a crossover, less comfortable and its available third row is cramped. If the most rugged place you'll ever go is a trailhead parking lot, the 4Runner probably doesn't make much sense. The fact that Toyota also sells the Highlander family crossover has saved the 4Runner from a similar fate as its old rivals. So as such, it certainly won't be for everyone, but for those who'll benefit from its unique talents, the 2017 4Runner will be a phenomenal do-almost-everything choice.
What's New for 2017?
The 4Runner gains a pair of new trim levels for 2017. The TRD Off-Road and TRD Off-Road Premium effectively replace the previous Trail and Trail Premium trims.
What We Like
Go-anywhere capability; large passenger and cargo space for a truck-based SUV; optional third-row seat; easy-to-use control; renowned Toyota reliability
What We Don't
Poor fuel economy; so-so handling on paved roads; plasticky interior; less passenger and cargo space than a crossover; no accident avoidance features available
The 4Runner offers just one engine: a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque. The only transmission is a 5-speed automatic. With optional 4WD, the 4Runner returns 17 miles per gallon in the city, 20 mpg on the highway and 18 mpg combined. Stick with rear-wheel drive only nets you an extra 1 mpg in highway driving.
Standard Features & Options
The 2017 Toyota 4Runner is offered in SR5, SR5 Premium, TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, TRD Pro and Limited.
The base SR5 ($34,200) comes standard with 17-in alloy wheels, skid plates, a full-size spare, fog lights, heated mirrors, a windshield wiper de-icer, rear privacy glass, a power rear liftgate window, a backup camera, an 8-way power driver seat, 40/20/40-split reclining and folding second-row seat, cloth upholstery, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, 5 auxiliary power outlets and one household-style power outlet, a USB port, Bluetooth, the 6.1-in Entune touchscreen interface, a smartphone-based navigation app, and an 8-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack and HD radio.
The TRD Off-Road ($37,300) comes only with 4WD and builds onto the standard SR5 equipment special black-painted 17-in wheels, special styling elements, enhanced braking, a locking rear differential, the Multi-Terrain Select system, Crawl Control (essentially a low-speed cruise control for off-roading) and a special fabric upholstery.
The SR5 Premium and TRD Off-Road Premium add heated front seats, power driver lumbar adjustment, a 4-way power passenger seat, SofTex vinyl upholstery, an auto-dimming mirror and a navigation system.
The TRD Pro ($42,400) is also 4WD only and includes all of the TRD Off-Road Premium equipment. It also gets distinctive styling, matte-black 17-in wheels, all-terrain tires, an upgraded front skidplate and automatic headlights.
The Limited ($42,500) would be the way to go if you're not that interested in off-roading and would prefer a more premium appearance. It can be had with rear- or four-wheel drive -- the latter includes a limited-slip center differential with a locking feature. Also included is a more on-road-friendly suspension dubbed X-REAS, plus 20-in wheels, chrome exterior accents, front and rear parking sensors, a sunroof (optional on Premium trims), dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, driver memory functions, leather upholstery, Safety Connect emergency communications and a 15-speaker JBL sound system.
Options include a sliding rear cargo deck and under-floor storage box on all trim levels. A 50/50-split third-row seat can be added to the SR5 and Limited trims. The Limited can be equipped with automatic running boards. And the TRD Off-Road trims can be equipped with the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, which is essentially disconnecting sway-bars that increase wheel articulation off-road.
The 4Runner comes standard with stability control and eight airbags, including front, side, full-length side curtains and front knee airbags. The driver and front passenger also get active head restraints. A backup camera is standard.
The Limited comes standard with the Safety Connect telematics system, which adds automatic collision notification, a stolen-vehicle locator, an SOS button and roadside assistance. A 1-year subscription is included. There are no accident-avoidance tech features like blind-spot, lane-departure or forward-collision warning systems available.
In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration crash tests, the 4Runner scored four stars out of five overall, including four stars for front impacts, five stars for side impacts and three stars for rollover resistance. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 4Runner its top rating of Good in every category except the small-overlap front test, where the rating was Marginal.
Behind the Wheel
The 4Runner comes up aces off-road, no doubt about it. It's in the running with the Jeep Grand Cherokee for the "most capable midsize SUV" award. However, the same features that are a boon in the bushes -- such as the slow-ratio steering and tough-as-nails suspension -- make the 4Runner a bit of a handful on paved roads. The Limited model's X-REAS underpinnings noticeably tighten up the 4Runner's handling in civilization, but even so, you'll never forget that this is a tall, narrow SUV. We do think Toyota has done a nice job tuning the ride, however, as there's little of the truck-like jitteriness that plagued previous 4Runners.
In our interior evaluation, we found that while the 4Runner's front seats provide little in the way of lateral support, they're mounted high, so you get a commanding view of your surroundings. The second-row seat bottom is rather low, however, so taller riders may feel as though they're sitting on the floor. Although the optional third-row seat is inhospitable to adults, kids will climb back there without complaint, so the 4Runner is a viable 3-row family vehicle. You can't say that about any other off-road-ready vehicles at this price range.
The 4Runner SR5's gauges are pretty standard, but other trims get crisp Optitron gauges that take a page out of Lexus' playbook. We're less enthused about the 4Runner's chunky, hard-plastic dashboard, which should age well but looks and feels a bit cheap for a $30,000-$40,000 vehicle. Ergonomics are good, thanks to big knobs and clearly labeled buttons, but the dashboard's flat, upright design puts some controls at an uncomfortable reach for the driver.
Other Cars to Consider
2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee -- Want a midsize SUV that can go off-road? Well, your choices are pretty much the 4Runner or the Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Jeep has a more premium vibe, more on-road refinement and available V8 or diesel power, but the 4Runner is more spacious and a bit more rugged.
2017 Dodge Durango -- The Durango is mechanically related to the Grand Cherokee and effectively trades some of its off-roading cred for additional row of seats and more cargo room. Think of it as the best alternative for the 4Runner Limited.
2017 Toyota Highlander -- No, the Highlander isn't as cool as the 4Runner and certainly can't venture off to the same rugged places. But it's also more spacious, comfortable and refined, while its fuel economy is significantly better.
Used Toyota Land Cruiser -- If you're interested in a family friendly off-roader, the Land Cruiser is a great choice, as it features all the capabilities of the 4Runner, and more luxury. Prices are high, though, so you'll probably want to consider a used model.
Forget the Limited. It doesn't have the same off-roading credentials as the other models, and without that, you might as well get a more family friendly and efficient crossover like the Highlander. As such, we would recommend the TRD Off-Road. It doesn't have quite as much hardware as the TRD Pro, but you probably won't need it. It has all the capability and off-road toys you'll likely need, it looks pretty cool and comes with a compelling amount of equipment in standard or Premium guise.