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2020 Toyota 4Runner Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader September 2019

The iconic Toyota 4Runner offers a mix of off-road capability, generous interior dimensions and day-to-day livability that allows it to function as both an adventuremobile and a family vehicle, if only barely. Now entering its 10th model year of being sold, the 2020 Toyota 4Runner is comparatively ancient considering that most vehicles receive a full redesign every seven years. Still, the 4Runner is just as popular now as it's ever been and has achieved record-setting sales in the last few years. Given the popularity of SUVs for off-road enthusiasts at the moment, Toyota clearly has a winning formula on its hands and has been reluctant to mess with it over the years.

The downside here is that the 4Runner is less efficient, less comfortable and comes with fewer of the features that are offered on the car-based crossovers with which it's often cross-shopped. Driving a 4Runner requires sacrificing day-to-day comfort and livability for the vehicle's off-road capability and coolness factor, so if the most rugged place you'll ever go is a trailhead parking lot, the 4Runner doesn't make as much sense.

With its fun sporty aesthetic and two different off-road-oriented trim levels, it's easy to fall in love with the 4Runner. It's just as important, though, to drive it back-to-back with more modern crossover competitors to see if you can live with its compromises every day.

What's New for 2019?

The 4Runner gets some much-needed updates for 2020. Perhaps the most noteworthy change is the addition of a new standard 8-in infotainment system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa integration. Toyota's suite of active safety features now comes standard, meaning that every 2020 4Runner comes with automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and automatic high beams. These new features alone go a long way to bring the 4Runner closer to modern standards but we'd love to see blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert added to the mix. Finally, the 2020 4Runner gets a redesigned gauge cluster that now features a 4.2-in screen and two additional USB ports added for second-row occupants.

Two new colors have been added for the TRD Pro trim for 2020. Replacing the unique Voodoo Blue color offered for 2019 are Magnetic Gray Metallic and Army Green, which are certain to become favorites of enthusiasts. See the 2020 Toyota 4Runner models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Old-school appeal
  • Excellent off-road features
  • Large and highly useful cargo area
  • A more comfortable alternative to the Jeep Wrangler
  • Renowned Toyota reliability
  • Easy-to-use controls
  • Fun off-road trims

What We Don't

  • Ancient powertrain
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Top-of-the-line TRD Pro lacks KDSS
  • So-so handling on paved roads
  • Dated interior lacks refinement
  • Pretty compromised as a family vehicle

How Much?

$37,140-$50,885

Fuel Economy

The 4Runner's single engine choice is a 4.0-liter V6 that puts out 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque and is mated to an ancient 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 in combined driving. Sticking with rear-wheel drive nets you an additional 1 mpg in highway driving.

The 4Runner is rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Standard Features and Options

The 2020 Toyota 4Runner is offered in SR5, SR5 Premium, TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, Limited, Nightshade and TRD Pro trims.

Like the rest of the 4Runner lineup, the base SR5 ($37,140) gains Toyota Safety Sense and a new 8-in infotainment system complete with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa integration for 2020. Also included on the SR5 are 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, a 40/20/40-split reclining and folding second-row seat, cloth upholstery, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, five auxiliary power outlets and one household-style power outlet, an aux port, three USB ports, Bluetooth and an 8-speaker sound system.

The SR5 Premium ($39,215) adds heated front seats, power driver lumbar adjustment, a 4-way power passenger seat, SofTex vinyl upholstery, an auto-dimming mirror and a navigation system. A sunroof is optional.

The TRD Off-Road ($40,860) comes only with 4WD and builds on the standard SR5 equipment with trim-specific 17-in wheels and interior trim, unique styling elements like a hood scoop, a locking rear differential, and loads of off-road tech including hill start assist control, active traction control, multi-terrain select and crawl control, which is akin to off-road cruise control.

As with the SR5 Premium, the TRD Off-Road Premium ($43,590) trim sees the addition of heated front seats, power driver lumbar adjustment, a 4-way power passenger seat, SofTex vinyl upholstery, an auto-dimming mirror and a navigation system. A sunroof is optional on the TRD Off-Road Premium as well.

Among the few options offered on the TRD Off-Road and TRD Off-Road Premium trims is Toyota's unique Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, also known as KDSS, which can sense when the vehicle is traveling over uneven terrain and automatically disconnect the front and rear sway bars to allow for added wheel articulation, which helps when tackling obstacles. KDSS is available for $1,750 and is a unique feature for anyone looking to really get off-road with their 4Runner.

The Limited ($46,005) is the 4Runner's luxury-oriented offering, but frankly, in an era where the only real reason to buy a 4Runner is for going off-road, the Limited is made all but obsolete by more comfortable crossovers like the Honda Passport and Toyota's own RAV4 Adventure and Highlander. Either way, though, the Limited comes with a more on-road-friendly suspension, dubbed X-REAS and complete with adaptive dampers, 20-in wheels, a locking center differential (4WD only), chrome exterior accents, front and rear parking sensors, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, driver memory settings, leather upholstery, Safety Connect emergency communications and a JBL sound system.

The 4Runner Nightshade Edition ($49,780) is essentially a Limited with black interior trim instead of chrome.

The TRD Pro ($50,885) is also 4WD-only and includes all of the TRD Off-Road Premium equipment, along with distinctive styling including the much-loved Toyota wordmark grille, matte-black 17-in wheels, mild all-terrain tires, Fox-branded high-performance off-road shock absorbers, a basket-style roof rack, an upgraded front skid plate, automatic headlights, a sunroof and a 15-speaker JBL sound system. Oddly, the 4Runner TRD Pro is not offered with the KDSS feature available on the TRD Off-Road.

Other options available throughout the 4Runner range include a sliding rear cargo deck and under-floor storage box that are available on all trim levels. A 50/50-split third-row seat can be added to the SR5 and Limited trims. The Limited trims can be equipped with automatic running boards.

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

Safety

One of the 2020 Toyota 4Runner's most noteworthy additions is the inclusion of Toyota's suite of active safety features known as Toyota Safety Sense. On the 4Runner, this consists of automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and automatic high beams. Beyond this, the 4Runner comes with a backup camera (which is now required by the federal government) along with front, side, full-length side curtains and front-knee airbags.

In crash testing conducted by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 4Runner earns a rating of Good in every category except the small-overlap front crash test, where it carries a rather lackluster rating of Marginal.

Behind the Wheel

The 4Runner comes up aces off-road, but the same features that are a boon in the dirt, such as the slow-ratio steering and body-on-frame construction, make the 4Runner a bit of a handful on paved roads. The TRD Off-Road's optional KDSS suspension actually improves in 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, truck-based SUV. We do think Toyota has done a nice job tuning the ride, however, as there's little of the trucklike jitteriness or harshness one expects from this old-school segment.

Inside, some drivers may find it difficult to find an ideal seating position while others will have 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's actually quite spacious back there. Although the optional third-row seat is inhospitable to adults, kids will climb back there without complaint. In trims without the third row (or with it stowed), the 4Runner's huge, boxy cargo area is especially well-suited to hauling large items or for a dog to make themselves at home.

A couple of the 4Runner's party tricks are its power-retractable rear window and speakers located on the inside of the rear liftgate that are great for tailgating. Beyond this, though, the 4Runner is starting to show its age with blocky plastics throughout the interior that remind you that this vehicle was designed in the late 2000s. Compared to less-rugged alternatives like the new Honda Passport and Jeep Grand Cherokee (which is also starting to show its age) and despite some major updates for 2020, the 4Runner is still pretty low on modern features.

Other Cars to Consider

2020 Jeep Wrangler -- The new Wrangler is even more capable off-road than the 4Runner but is also more difficult to live with day to day. Still, the roof and doors come off, which is pretty cool.

2020 Honda Passport -- Honda's newest crossover is little more than a shortened Pilot. Its independent suspension and car-based platform mean that it isn't particularly capable off-road but, like the Pilot, it's pretty great in every other category.

2021 Ford Bronco -- The Bronco hasn't even been revealed to the public yet, but we're already confident that it's going to be one of the most exciting new off-roaders in years when it goes on sale, which will likely happen in the latter part of 2020. Expect it to offer the same off-road capability as the 4Runner with independent suspension up front, a solid axle in the rear, similar off-road features, and a removable roof and doors.

2020 Toyota Highlander -- If you're looking for a family vehicle, the Highlander is much easier to live with than the 4Runner and has been fully redesigned for 2020. Aside from maybe the coolness factor, expect it to be better than the 4Runner in every measurable way that doesn't involve driving off-road.

Used Toyota Land Cruiser -- If you're interested in a more family-friendly off-roader, the legendary Land Cruiser is a great choice. However, these behemoths cost close to $90,000 when new because of their world-class reliability and hold their value quite well. Buyers who have a 4Runner budget but are interested in a Land Cruiser will need to look to the used market.

Autotrader's Advice

Forget the street-oriented Limited and Nightshade trims. If you aren't looking to take your 4Runner off-road, you might as well get a more efficient and family-friendly crossover like the Toyota Highlander. Keeping that in mind, we would recommend the 4Runner TRD Off-Road. While it isn't as in-your-face as the TRD Pro, the TRD Off-Road offers all of the same off-road features as the Pro, but swaps out the fancy Fox-branded shock absorbers and offers Toyota's clever KDSS sway bar disconnect system as an option. The TRD Off-Road leverages all of the 4Runner's best qualities in a value-laden package for as much as $10,000 less than the TRD Pro. Find a Toyota 4Runner for sale

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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.
2020 Toyota 4Runner Review - Autotrader
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