Recently I mentioned that Toyota offers the consumer a choice when shopping the midsize utility vehicle segment – Highlander and 4Runner. Now in its fifth generation, 4Runner has been a popular sport ute for more than 30 years here and our 2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road tester proves the model is still going strong.
While many automakers have chosen to remove the frame from underneath their midsize SUVs, Toyota takes a different approach by delivering two medium-bodied utility vehicles – one with a frame and one without. We’ve already looked at the latest unibody Highlander Hybrid so here is our take on the latest version of the Toyota 4Runner.
My recent week with the 4Runner solidified my first impressions of the sport ute – that is, this is a very nice rig and handles itself well both on-road and off. It can tackle just about any chore be it a run to the big-box store for supplies or quality time spent far, far away from civilization and pavement.
Toyota offers 4Runner in rear wheel 4×2 as well as part- or full-time 4WD. All 4Runner models are powered by a 270hp 4.0-liter V-6 that delivers 278 lb. ft. of torque. The engine is backed by a five-speed automatic transmission and 4×4 models feature a two-speed transfer case as well as Toyota’s multi-mode 4×4 system with locking center differential. The 4Runner can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
Our test model arrived in the new TRD Off-Road Premium 4×4 trim and I was very surprised to discover just how quiet and smooth the vehicle rides on pavement. There is still a little bounce to let you know it has full off-road capabilities but never was it undue or harsh, thanks in great part to the optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System that improves ride and handling both on-road and off.
While our recent week with the 4Runner did not see any severe duty, we had previously tested the off-road capabilities of this sport ute. During that launch program, Toyota literally dropped us into a giant mud pit and then had us crawl and claw our way out. No problem with the CRAWL Control system (standard on TRD models) that regulates engine speed and output to match the setting you’ve chosen in the Multi-Terrain Select system for the terrain underneath your tires. At times we were only making contact with mother earth via two tires and we never found ourselves lacking momentum or control.
Inside the Toyota 4Runner we find quality materials and the latest technology including a bright Optitron instrument panel as well as my least favorite new feature in any vehicle – Eco monitoring feedback system. We should all know by now, foot heavy on gas pedal…bad, foot light on gas pedal…good. Other interior highlights include a high-resolution color touchscreen for infotainment systems, remote engine start, power rear window, power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade, and third-row seating is optional in some models.
Pricing for the 2017 Toyota begins at $34,410 with this loaded TRD Off-Road Premium tester coming in at $43,932. Fuel economy is rated at 17 mpg city and 20 mpg highway.
I like the body proportions of the 4Runner, very trapezoidal, but then I was a geometry geek in school. Having recently tested both midsize utility vehicles in the Toyota showroom, I prefer the 4Runner while my wife leans toward the Highlander. If you want to go places, the Toyota Highlander will certainly take you there. The 4Runner will take you there and beyond.