Tech, Autos, & Gear in Layman's Terms Since 2006


April 9, 2010 • Autos, Reviews

2010 Toyota 4Runner the “Miley Cyrus” of SUVs

Photos courtesy of Toyota

The State Fair of Texas hosted the world debut of the fifth-generation 4Runner midsize SUV this past fall. The event marked the 25th anniversary for 4Runner, and celebrating more than 1.5 million units sold since launch.

“Backed by a quarter-century of heritage combined with the integration of the latest comfort, convenience and performance technologies, the all-new 4Runner has evolved into one of the most advanced mid-sized truck-based SUV’s on the market while at the same time staying true to its roots as a rugged and durable off-roader,” said Bob Carter, group vice president and general manager of Toyota Division.

The 2010 Toyota 4Runner gets major design upgrades inside and out with resemblance to the brand’s fullsize truck and SUV lineup. Three trim levels are available on 4Runner: SR5, Limited and a sturdy Trail grade for those who require maximum offroad capability. And, a fold-flat third-row seat is now available.

This new 4Runner is taller, wider and longer and sports new powertrain options. At first look I almost mistook it for a Sequoia. In fact, a recent trip to the home improvement center just happened to find a first-generation Sequoia parked next to this fifth-gen 4Runner. Aside from overall length, the 4Runner appeared to dominate over the other truck and basically looked like it could kick its butt.

My good friend Terry Box of the Dallas Morning News recently published his take on the new rig (found here). I could not agree more with his findings. Most of it anyway.

First (and foremost for curious folks like me) was the “Party Mode” switch on the dash panel.

“What in the name of Miley Cyrus does this do?” I wondered aloud.

While it doesn’t point you in the direction of the closest “kegger” and it stops short of dropping a disco ball from the headliner, enabling party mode is akin to hitting the nitrous button for your sound system. (As Terry noted, the vehicle already has plenty of “roll,” so Party Mode just adds the requisite “rock” to complete the package.)

Next, I do not fully agree with his assessment of the steering radius. I kept finding myself wanting for just a bit more, perhaps only a quarter turn or so but still feeling as if the 2010 4Runner was a bit limited. I may just be getting too spoiled with the maneuverability offered by the herd of crossovers out there. 4Runner is still frame-on and rear- or four-wheel-drive.

Behind the wheel the vehicle feels large, as big as the Sequoia or LandCruiser, and in 4×4 SR5 trim is just a tad too bouncy for my urban driving tastes. 4Runner yearns for wide open spaces and unpaved surfaces. It does perform well on long stretches of highway though.

Powertrain choices are broken down this way: 4Runner is available with choice of 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a four-speed automatic transmission or 270hp 4.0-liter V-6 backed by a five-speed automatic gearbox. Gone is the option of a V-8 but this new six generates more horsepower than that eight, (but lower torque for that less than one percent of you who are going to take this truck out for some serious off-roading). All 4×4 models will be equipped with the six while 4×2 trucks can be configured with either engine. I, for one, am not a fan of the reaction to urban driving by this five-speed auto gearbox. The transmission always seemed to be hunting for a different gear and was slow to recover after turning corners.

And a side note to Toyota engineers: Thanks for giving me the ability to turn off the “Eco” nanny light, which I am sure was the gleeful brainchild of some tree-hugger from out west. Hey, I know if I am driving “California-friendly” or not – it’s called a fuel gauge.

“In 1984 the first 4Runner helped cultivate and foster the up-and-coming SUV market, said Carter. “When the new 4Runner launches later this fall it will continue to be a perfect fit for young, and young-at-heart, outdoor and off-road enthusiasts.”

The 2010 4Runner is all that it is cracked up to be. It is more rugged and roomy than a Highlander yet more family-friendly than an FJ Cruiser. I am calling it the Miley Cyrus of SUVs as 4Runner is still about “The Climb” while now hosting a “Party in the USA.”

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