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.
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.
The Bottom Line:
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.