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2018 Toyota 4Runner: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader January 2018

For better or worse, they don't make'em like the 2018 Toyota 4Runner anymore. This iconic 4-door off-roader is effectively the last of its kind, blending family friendly midsize dimensions with a go-anywhere, rough-and-ready truck-based platform. It has huge ground clearance and serious off-road capability, yet it also has a giant cargo area for stowing all your stuff (or the family dog) and a surprisingly comfortable ride that won't make the kids yack in the back. Best of both worlds? In a way, sure.

Of course, there's a reason why other carmakers don't make 'em like the 4Runner anymore. It's less efficient than a crossover, less comfortable and its antiquated cabin is missing some modern features. You're making sacrifices for its character and capability, so if the most rugged place you'll ever go is a trailhead parking lot, the 4Runner doesn't make much sense. Perhaps the still-capable but more refined Jeep Grand Cherokee would be a better choice, or perhaps it's best to just accept you won't need any sort of off-road capability and opt for a midsize family crossover like Toyota's own Highlander instead.

So although it's easy to fall in love with the 4Runner, it's important to take a long test drive of it and its competitors to see if you can live with its compromises (or if it really is the just-right SUV that does it all for you).

What's New for 2018?

The 4Runner gains a pair of new option packages for 2018. The Wilderness package, available on most trim levels, includes roof rack crossbars, all-weather floor mats and a cargo tray. The TRD Enhancement package, available on the TRD trim levels, adds special 17-inch matte gray alloy wheels and a special skidplate with "TRD" stamped into it.

What We Like

Go-anywhere capability; large and highly useful cargo area; more comfortable and less cumbersome than other truck-based SUVs; renowned Toyota reliability; easy-to-use controls; optional third-row seat

What We Don't

Poor fuel economy; so-so handling on paved roads; dated interior lacks the features and luxury touches of competitors; less passenger and cargo space than a crossover; no accident avoidance features available

How Much?

$34,600-$45,000

Fuel Economy

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 4-wheel drive, the 4Runner returns 17 miles per gallon in the city, 20 mpg on the highway and 18 mpg combined. Sticking with rear-wheel drive only nets you an extra one mpg in highway driving.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Toyota 4Runner is offered in SR5, SR5 Premium, TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, TRD Pro and Limited.

The base SR5 ($34,600) 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, one 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 ($37,800) 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 ($36,400) and TRD Off-Road Premium ($39,700) 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 ($42,900) 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 ($43,000) is the luxury-oriented poseur of the group. It has a more on-road-friendly suspension dubbed X-REAS, 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.

All but the TRD Pro and Limited can be equipped with the Wilderness package, which adds roof rack crossbars, all-weather floor mats and an all-weather cargo tray. The TRD Enhancement package, available on the TRD trims, adds special 17-in matte gray wheels and a skidplate.

Other 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. The TRD Off-Road trims can be equipped with the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, which is made up of disconnecting sway-bars that increase wheel articulation off-road.

Note that the availability of options can depend on the region in which you buy a 4Runner.

Safety

The 4Runner includes eight airbags: Front, side, full-length side curtains and front-knee airbags. A backup camera is also standard. However, there are no accident-avoidance tech features like blind spot monitoring, lane-departure or forward-collision warning systems available. Only 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.

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, but the same features that are a boon in the bushes -- such as the slow-ratio steering and tough-as-nails body-on-frame construction -- make the 4Runner a bit of a handful on paved roads. The TRD's optional KDSS suspension actually improves handling on-road even though it's primarily intended for off-road wheel articulation, but in any 4Runner, 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 or harshness one expects from this dwindling class.

In our interior evaluation, we found that while the 4Runner's front seats are comfy, some drivers report finding it difficult to find an ideal position. Others had no complaints at all. The second-row seat bottom doesn't offer family crossover levels of space, but as long as you skip the headroom-sapping sunroof, it feels quite spacious back there. And although the optional third-row seat is inhospitable to adults, kids will climb back there without complaint. Plus, when lowered (or not present at all), the 4Runner's cargo area is not only huge, but boxy as well, making it especially well-suited to hauling large items or big dogs.

In terms of design and feature content, the 4Runner looks its age. Everything is very blocky and utilitarian, and there's too much hard plastic in comparison to the more luxurious Jeep Grand Cherokee (and when you consider the 4Runner's price point). Controls are simple, but the touchscreen is quite small and there are a number of features missing throughout much of the range.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 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 an available V8, but the 4Runner is more spacious and rugged.

2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (JL) -- The new, more refined Wrangler is now a more viable daily driver, and therefore, more of a viable 4Runner competitor. It's still pretty rough-and-tumble, and despite its four doors, not really suited to family use.

2018 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.

Autotrader's Advice

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.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Toyota 4Runner: New Car Review - Autotrader