2013 Toyota 4Runner Review By Dan Poler
By Dan Poler
Rocky Mountain Bureau
The Auto Channel
Once a segment leader for SUV’s, today Toyota’s 4Runner is something of a curiosity. Where the rest of the world has shifted to unibody construction, the venerable 4Runner has stuck to body-on-frame construction with a host of features that stay true to its go-anywhere image. But is the market still looking for a vehicle like this?
Although the marque been around since 1990, the current-generation 4Runner debuted for the 2010 model year. 2013 brings us no significant changes to the vehicle; a mid-cycle refresh is on tap for the 2014 model year. Our tester came as a Limited trim model, which brings 20-inch wheels and offroad tires, an adaptive suspension system, automatic headlights, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, HD radio, and a touchscreen audio system.
On the outside, the 4Runner carries a distinguished, edgy, and aggressive look, courtesy of its high, blocky front grille and emphasized body-color fender flares. Its 9.6 inches of ground clearance have it sitting high off the ground, and the 20-inch wheels fitted with big 246/60R20 tires compliment the look. The downside to this look, however, is it brings with it the aerodynamic properties of, well, a shapely brick. A shapely brick on 20-inch wheels. At the back, the top-opening rear hatch has a power sliding window which can be opened either from the tailgate or by driver control, a nice and unique touch in the segment.
Inside the cabin, we find quite a fair bit of hard plastic, and much of it in matte silver. Displays and gauges are predominantly red segmented LCD’s. Although somewhat cheap-looking at first glance, in the 4Runner these materials come together nicely and feel at home – a contribution to the rough-and-tumble nature of the vehicle. Seating positions are high, and the tall dash and short front window provide a perception of piloting an airplane rather than an SUV. There are a number of unique features throughout, such as a button to activate “Party Mode” for the audio system – which tunes it to work better with the rear hatch open – and not one, but two AC outlets – one of which is good for a hefty 400 watts.
Driving the 4Runner on pavement is something of a lackluster affair. The 4-liter V6 puts out a respectable 270 horsepower, but for a vehicle with a curb weight just shy of two and a half tons, that’s not as much horsepower as it may seem. The 4Runner struggles to gain speed, struggles to overcome the resistance of its own weight. Upshifts from the 5-speed automatic are laggy and hesitant. It leans into the corners. Sure, there’s a Sport mode for the transmission, although it just seems to chop off the 5th gear. We averaged 20 MPG overall, a reasonable return for a vehicle of the 4Runner’s capabilities.
Offroad performance is where the 4Runner shines, through tried-and-true features like low-range gearing in four-wheel-drive, a proper solid live axle in the back, and the unique Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System – developed by an Australian company, KDSS can disengage stabilizer bars when it detects a wheel has dropped, enabling better traction with less roll over rocky terrain.
Despite shortcomings in its on-road performance, the overall comfort and off-road capabilities of the 4Runner really make it shine. More functional day-to-day than a Jeep Wrangler, and larger and more comfortable than a Nissan Xterra, its rugged looks, body-on-frame construction, proper low-range gearing, and substantial towing capability make the 4Runner an excellent choice for those spending a lot of time off the pavement. But as the market has moved in another direction, and by staying true to its roots, the 4Runner is unquestionably a vehicle in search of its driver.
2013 Toyota 4Runner Limited Base Price: $31,490.00 Price as Tested: $44,217.00 Engine Type: DOHC 24-Valve V6 Engine Size: 4.0-Liter Horsepower: 270 @ 5,600 RPM Torque (lb-ft): 278 @ 4,400 RPM Transmission: 5-Speed shiftable automatic Wheelbase / Length (in): 109.8 / 189.9 Curb Weight: 4,805 lb Pounds per HP: 17.8 Fuel Capacity (gal): 23 Fuel Requirement: Regular unleaded Tires: Bridgestone Dueler H/T 684 II; P245/60HR20 Brakes: Ventilated disc Suspension, front/rear: Double wishbone / solid live axle Ground clearance (in): 9.6 Drivetrain: Full-time 4WD w/ A-TRAC and locking center differential EPA Fuel Economy - MPG city / highway / observed: 17 / 21 / 20 Towing capacity (lb): 5,000 Base Trim Price: $41,030.00 Options and Charges Voice-activated touch screen w/ integrated backup camera display, JBL AM/FM 4-disc CD changer with MP3/WMA playback capability, 16 speakers including subwoofer, SiriusXM satellite radio with NavTraffic, auxiliary audio jack, USB with iPod connectivity, hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth: $1,155.00 Cargo cross bars: $185.00 Protection package: $403.00 (carpeted floor mats and cargo mat, mudguards, door edge guard) Running boards: $599.00 Delivery: $845.00 Price as tested: $44,217.00