May 22, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 25 August 2011 11:07
Buying a car is a numbers game — horsepower, sticker price, cargo room and so forth. But you really need to know only one number when contemplating the Toyota 4Runner: 9.6 inches.
That’s the ground clearance on this rugged sport-utility vehicle. It’s got more than attitude; it’s got altitude. To put the ground-clearance number in perspective, the Range Rover, king of the off-road SUVs, leaves just 9.1 inches between ground and undercarriage.The result isn’t all good. Access and egress are a challenge for short and tall people alike — the former because of the high sill; the latter because of the low roofline. But the body-on-frame 4Runner comports itself reasonably well on pavement. Its 270-horsepower V-6 engine, the only power plant available across the 4Runner line, is strong and fairly composed under a light foot. A heavy foot brings out a hint of coarseness.
The whole point of the 4Runner is I can go anywhere in this car. For those who dare to scuff up this $41,139 SUV, the message is more meaty: I can go anywhere in this car — and I do.
The lowest-priced 4Runner, the rear-drive SR5, also available in 4x4 trim, can be had for $30,305. The top-of-the-line Limited, with full-time all-wheel drive, starts at $38,400.
Among competitors, the Jeep Grand Cherokee probably comes closest to equaling the 4Runner’s combination of ruggedness, tolerable behavior on pavement, and affordability. The Nissan Xterra is cheaper and similarly capable off road, but harder to live with in the civilized world. The rest cost more or can’t be relied upon to negotiate rough terrain. So for people who actually intend to hit the back country, a test drive in a 4Runner is almost mandatory.
Standard features include part-time four-wheel drive, locking rear differential with a multi-terrain select control, crawl control, hill-start-assist control, and front and rear vented disc brakes. Vehicle stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes with Smart Stop Technology — a system that stops the car even if the driver mistakenly holds down the accelerator pedal while trying to brake — round out the package. Our Shoreline Blue Pearl 2011 4Runner Trail 4x4 was equipped with a Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, a $1,750 option, plus a navigation system and audio upgrade, $2,420.
The 4Runner is rated at 17 mpg city, 22 highway, and uses regular gasoline.
4Runners have done well in Consumer Reports magazine reliability surveys. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests resulted in mostly “Good” scores, the institute’s top ranking, with a single “Acceptable” for roof strength.
The 4Runner is serviceable on pavement, and no one can deny its prowess off road. Those who expect to keep their car’s wheels on paved roads will be better served by one of the many unibody SUVs and minivans that cost less up front, deliver a smoother and quieter ride, carry just as many passengers and have as much or more cargo capacity.
Engine: 4.0-liter V-6, 270 horsepower, 278 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 5-speed shiftable automatic
Drive: Part-time 4x4
Weight: 4,750 lb.
Suspension: Double wishbone front, solid live axle rear
Ground clearance: 9.6 inches
Wheels: 17-inch by 7.5-inch alloy
Tires: P265/70R17 all-season
Seating capacity: 5
Luggage capacity: 46.3 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 89 cu. ft.
Maximum towing capacity: 5,000 lb.
Fuel capacity: 24 gallons
Fuel economy: 17 mpg city, 22 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular unleaded
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