2018 Toyota 4Runner Limited

2018 Toyota 4Runner Limited

This brawny SUV is balanced by unexpected elegance.

By Cherise Threewitt, Contributor, Car-ED.com | May 2018

What is this vehicle?

The Toyota 4Runner is one of the few traditional, body-on-frame midsize SUVs that remains on the market. Early SUVs were little more than a pickup with a built-in cap, though today’s 4Runner is also comfortable and elegant. As automakers continue to move toward more efficient crossovers to serve the midsize SUV market (Toyota’s own Highlander is an excellent example), truck-based models such as the 4Runner are becoming a relic of sorts. The Toyota 4Runner is an extremely capable vehicle, but its main downfall is that it is actually more capable than most potential buyers actually need or will use.

Who is this vehicle for?

The 4Runner is really an SUV for people who want truck-like abilities with the added benefit of extra seating, and are willing to pay for it, both up front and as the years go by. If you need towing capacity of up to 5,000 pounds, or would actually use the 4Runner’s off-road-specific features and options, you’re on the right track.

Why is this vehicle important to you, the buyer?

Though the 4Runner should not be confused with the car-based crossovers that make up most of the midsize SUV class, it does serve a niche. True 4Runner customers are out there, and Toyota understands them very well. They should; after all, Toyota has been selling this vehicle in North American for well over 30 years. This is a sturdy SUV that is capable of all-terrain driving from the base model on up, and can be outfitted with specific hardware that makes it even tougher. It has a good tow capacity for a midsize SUV. And it performs these feats with style.

Interesting facts about this vehicle!

Toyota claims that 90 percent of 4Runners sold in the last 10 years are still on the road, which supports the high level of build quality experienced in our test vehicle.

The 4Runner in TRD Pro trim is one of the most off-road-ready vehicles in its class.

Toyota offers the 4Runner in six trim levels, which gives the buyer a lot of choices. The 4Runner tested in this review was a fully loaded top-end Limited model, with a sticker price of $44,670.

What Impressed Us / Top Likes:

The 4Runner is a great-looking SUV inside and out. Our tester featured the elegant Blizzard Pearl finish, which costs an extra $395 but provides a nice visual contrast to the rugged exterior styling.

Two rows of seating come standard, but you can opt for a third row, which raises seating capacity from five to seven.

Even though the 4Runner is optimized for off-road travel, its highway manners are better than expected. It accelerates smoothly and quickly, transmits little road noise, and is generally pleasant to drive.

Items to Make Better (Least Favorite Things):

The 4Runner is a thirsty vehicle, and that is primarily why we do not recommend it for potential buyers who won’t be towing, hauling, or driving off pavement. Rear-wheel drive models are rated for 17 mpg city and 21 mpg highway, and four-wheel drive models are rated for the same city mileage and 20 mpg highway. Those ratings are among the worst in the class, and furthermore, during a week of mostly city driving, they seemed pretty optimistic.

The 4Runner is also pretty expensive for a midsize SUV. Yes, it has near-luxury build and materials quality, but no, it is not a luxury SUV.

We tested our 4Runner primarily in and around Chicago. As noted earlier in this review, the 4Runner isn’t well suited to the urban environment, and some day-to-day driving scenarios, such as squeezing through narrow alleys, left little margin for error. To be totally fair, this isn’t the 4Runner’s fault, but it’s definitely worth keeping in mind.

The 4Runner is one of the oldest models in Toyota’s portfolio, so it doesn’t come with (or even offer) most of the brand’s high tech active safety features. A rearview camera comes standard, and parking sensors are the only option. Frankly, that’s not enough, unless most of your driving is on a trail where features like blind spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking aren’t really of any benefit.

Segment and Competitors:

The 4Runner could conceivably compete in a few different categories. There are so few body-on-frame SUVs available that buyers might find it worthwhile to consider large SUVs as well as medium SUVs. Options in both of these categories include:

  • Jeep Cherokee or Grand Cherokee
  • Ford Expedition
  • Land Rover Discovery or Range Rover
  • Chevrolet Tahoe or Suburban
  • GMC Yukon

If you like the look and feel of the 4Runner but don’t need all of its capability, take a look at midsize crossovers such as:

  • Toyota Highlander
  • Honda Pilot
  • Volkswagen Atlas
  • Ford Edge
  • Chevrolet Traverse
  • Kia Sorento
  • Hyundai Santa Fe

If you like the look, feel, and performance of the 4Runner but don’t need all of the seating capacity, check out pickup trucks such as:

  • Toyota Tacoma or Tundra
  • Chevrolet Colorado or Silverado
  • GMC Canyon or Sierra
  • Nissan Frontier or Titan
  • Ford F-150
  • Ram 1500

Unique Specifications:

  • The 4Runner can tow up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped, which is a good rating for the class.
  • Every 4Runner model has impressive all-terrain performance and is fitted with skid plates to protect the vehicle’s underbody from obstacles on the trail.
  • The 4Runner’s off-road abilities can be improved thanks to available suspension upgrades and other components.

Pricing and Availability:

MSRP starts at $34,610 for the base 4Runner SR5. The fully loaded 4Runner Limited tested for this review has an MSRP of $44,670 and includes leather seating, heated and ventilated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, front and rear parking sensors, and Toyota’s Entune app suite, which provides easy-to-use smartphone integration. The 2018 Toyota 4Runner is available now.