2018 Toyota 4Runner Limited Review

A beast of burden that's still kicking


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: One of the few mid-size body-on-frame SUVs left, serious off-road chops, Limited trim adds some nice refinement to the exterior, large cargo hold.
Negatives: Ponderous driving dynamics, not enough engine for this beast, Jurassic period interior tech and ergonomics.
Bottom Line: If you want a rugged midsize SUV that's not shy to take on rough terrain, there are only few left, and the 4Runner is one of them. It's dated in terms of ergonomics and looks, but it's still very capable. A third row option makes it more attractive for families, but this thing does need an update.
 View Our 2018 Toyota 4Runner Overview
In its current form, the Toyota 4Runner midsize SUV has been around since back in 2009. That makes it a full decade old this year, and that's Methusela-like in today's market. But the 4Runner has a cult following because it eschews modernity and embraces ruggedness like the Jeep Wrangler does (well, did, since the redesigned Wrangler has been seriously improved). The 4Runner soldiers on for another year with no redesign in the works, as far as we know. But the 4Runner is still popular, and we had the chance to test the more refined Limited trim for a week. Read on for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

5.7

 

When it comes to driving dynamics, the 4Runner ranks pretty low in terms of precision, handling, and acceleration. But it's not designed primarily for on-road driving. Its real strength is off-road, and that's where the 4Runner shines.

Ride Quality: The ride is comfortable for a body-on-frame SUV. It absorbs bumps well but there's a disconnected feeling on-road, which is no surprise.

Acceleration: Throttle response is good, but downshifting in the 5-speed automatic is slow. The V6 engine feels like it's working hard to move the 4Runner. 0-60 comes in the mid-sevens, which is just okay.

Braking: Brakes are on the poor side since it requires a lot of effort and long distances. It's at the back of the pack for 4x4s.

Steering: Almost no feedback and vagueness means it's anything but precise.

Handling: Roadholding numbers are only satisfactory with the 4Runner getting 0.76 g on the skidpad. There's a fair amount of body lean, as well, but no one will try push the 4Runner into the curves.

Technology

6.2

 

The Entune system here isn't any different from other Toyota's (except for the new Camry and Avalon). That being said, it works just fine. Just don't expect a good-looking or quick responding infotainment screen.

Infotainment System: The 6.1-inch screen is awfully small for an SUV that can hold eight. The system looks dated and responsiveness is pretty slow.

Controls: We actually really like the giant audio and climate control knobs. They make it easy to adjust temp and music while driving.

Styling

8.3

 

The 4Runner is an interesting conglomeration of smooth lines and dramatic angles, but it's at least distinct from the rest of the SUV crowd. It looks aggressive and ready for business, but no one will call it handsome.

Front: The fascia is its most disjointed angle, but it body-colored and chrome Limited trim, the angles get downplayed a bit. We could do without the giant chrome bar that joins the foglight housings.

Rear: Though the back is tall, the shapes are kept simple and crisp.

Profile: The 4Runner's best view with excellent body color trim, and a nice boxy shape that's true to its off-road leanings.

Cabin: Though things work fine inside, it's a mish-mash of bulky controls and nice leather. The silver painted center stack is dated, and the large chunky faux wood dash trim is just plain weird.

Comfort

7.3

 

The 4Runner is pretty comfortable in both rows even though the figures aren't that impressive compared to the rest of the herd. Families of five will do just fine. The optional third row is likely only good for small kids, as most others in this segment are.

Front Seats: Good bolstering and support and a good driving position make front occupants good for longer drives.

Rear Seats: Even the middle position isn't bad (the seat back is a bit flat) thanks to the flat floor all the way across.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The build quality is good, and the 4Runner feels solid. We didn't hear any squeaks or rattles. There a little road noise at higher speeds, but it's not overhwleming.

Visibility: The hood is tall, but the seating position provides good sightlines. The C and D pillars are thick, so rearward views aren't the best.

Climate: The climate system works well, despite the fact that there's no automated feature. We got plenty of cold air on some hot summer days.

Safety

6.2

 

For a body-on-frame SUV, the 4Runner actually does decently in crash tests despite the fact that it didn't get top scores. It does come standard with the Toyota Star Safety system, though.

IIHS Rating: It scored "marginal" in the driver's side small front overlap test and "good" in just about every other test. The headlights get "poor", and the LATCH system is "marginal", which we can attest to since they're covered up by patches of leather that make them hard to access.

NHTSA Rating: The 4Runner gets 4 stars out of 5 in government crash tests.

Standard Tech: The 4Runner doesn't benefit from any accident avoidance tech, but the Toyota Star Safety System comes with features like Brake Assist, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Smart Stop Technology (stops the vehicle when the gas and brake are accidentally stepped on simultaneously), and Vehicle Stability Control.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

7.7

 

Without the optional third row, there's a lot of space in the back. The cabin does have some easily accessible spaces for gear stowage, especially in the center stack, but the console could use more.

Storage Space: A small cubby in the center stack can hold smaller items, but the center console only has two cupholders and a shallow slot.

Cargo Room: There's 47 cubic feet behind the second row, a solid amount of everyday space, and a whopping 90 with both rows folded. The load floor is flat but a bit high, making heavier items harder to lift into the cargo hold.

Fuel Economy

5.3

 

The 5-speed transmission doesn't help matters, nor does the 4,500+ lb curb weight when it comes to fuel economy. At least it has a big 23-gallon fuel tank.

Observed: 16.8 mpg

Distance Driven: 147 miles

Driving Factors: We drove mostly on local roads during our test period.

Audio

7.3

 

The 15-speaker system works just fine, but we weren't blown away since we've heard 8-speaker systems that are better. It does come standard on the Limited, at least, and won't cost you anything extra.



Final Thoughts

It's time the 4Runner got a full redesign, along with the brother Tundra pickup truck. That being said, the 4Runner is purposeful and remains as one of the few truly rugged SUVs on the planet. It's pretty no-nonsense, even in Limited trim, but it works the way it was intended. Comfortable, decent on road, and capacious, it's no show pony, but it's a workhorse that's reliable and sensible.
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