The SUV marketplace is going through some changes and eco-friendliness and fuel conservation have made car-based SUV's and crossovers hot items.

So, can the 2012 Toyota 4Runner attract an audience with its traditional approach to the sport utility formula combining truck-like bravado with rock-crushing off-road skills?

We think so. The 4Runner does offer versatility thanks to its three trim levels: SR5, Trail if you spend some time off-roading, and upscale Limited, allowing you to tailor your 4Runner toward your own tastes.

A couple of other alternatives to the 4Runner include the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which boasts a new design, an available Hemi V8, and a ride that isn't quite as harsh.

Or compare it with the Nissan Pathfinder, a pretty close matchup, and like the Jeep, it offers a big V8. The 4Runner doesn't.

Inside the SR5 version, iPod, USB, and Bluetooth connectivity, a power lumbar support in the driver's seat, and a power rear window are all handy, as are the optional sunroof and third row seat.

Depending on the trim level you choose, the Entune mobile app interface is either standard or optional.

Once underway, the 4Runner reveals its brawny suspension and chassis stiffness, not to mention its slow steering ratio. It's as capable in the wilderness as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and that's saying a lot.

Off-roaders will dig the Trail level, with a part-time 4-wheel-drive system, Crawl Control, and Multi-Terrain Select System which allows you to choose the optimum traction control settings for whatever surface you're encountering.

Choosing an engine is easy because only one is available. A torque 4-liter V6 making 270 horsepower. The only transmission on the menu is a 5-speed automatic.

Fuel economy is just about what you'd expect in this class of SUV. It's not that impressive in the city but 20+ MPG on the highway.

The 4Runner offers a full array of standard and optional safety features, from stability control and eight airbags to active head restraints, rear parking sensors, and a rear-view camera.

Plan to spend around $33,000 for a loaded 4Runner in the SR5 trim level, but the price will climb to over $40,000 for the Limited edition. On the plus side, all 4Runners are covered by a 60-month, 60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

If you're more interested in beating the bushes than gliding down the interstate, the 2012 Toyota 4Runner ranks with the best in traditional SUV's. Go for the Limited trim level if driving comfort is more a priority but be prepared to write a bigger check for yours at the Toyota store.

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Scott Markle is an experienced automotive enthusiast and industry observer who is passionate about creating compelling content for car shoppers. He has fifteen years of experience building top-tier websites for the automotive industry and beyond, and was part of the team that launched AutoTrader.com.

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