Quick. What adjectives come to mind when you think of the Toyota 4Runner? Rugged, invincible, even sensible, perhaps? Toyota's 21st-century redesign of the 4Runner marks the fifth generation of the model. Unlike car-based SUVs, which have captured much of the urban SUV market, the 4Runner in 4X4 trim is one of the most athletic off-road vehicles you can buy.
If you think you might ever have to ford a creek or jump a stump, the 4Runner's locking rear differential and Crawl Control hill-climbing feature are ready to rumble. Capital Toyota sales representative Patrick Shadrick said the 4Runner's go-anywhere formula has resulted in a vehicle that holds its value better than almost any other on the road.
STYLING: The 2010 4Runner boasts several exterior styling updates which add up to a more aggressive look. A raised belt line - hints of the FJ Cruiser here - make the new 4Runner look taller than before. Let the crossovers have their soft, contoured lines; the new 4Runner exterior features more dramatic fender flares. Think of a bodybuilder flexing his "guns." Inside, the 4Runner's cabin is handsomely masculine. Our Limited-trim tester boasted a blend of rich leather seating surfaces and dark plastics. The center stack is a nest of modern electronics, with lots of brushed-metal framing. Analog gauges are easy to read through the telescoping steering wheel. New dimensions add headroom, which frankly had been a bit cramped for 6-footers in the earlier 4Runners.
DRIVING IMPRESSIONS: In base trim, the 4Runner is equipped with a 2.7-liter inline four-cylinder engine (157 horsepower). The feeling here is that most buyers will default to the 4.0-liter V-6 with 270 hp, which seems better matched to a vehicle of this mass. (A V-8 variant has been discontinued for 2010.) During our test drive on I-75 in mid-day traffic, steering was secure and wellbalanced. Stability control stands guard when the SUV is driven at its limits.
BOTTOM LINE: As long as fuel prices stay in check, the traditional SUV market will re-emerge. Vehicles with a pedigree like the 4Runner are positioned to capture market share. The 4Runner's legendary durability and solid resale value count for a lot.
TESTED MODEL: Toyota 4Runner Limited 4X4.
ENGINE: six-cylinder, 270 horsepower.
TRANSMISSION: five-speed automatic.
FUEL ECONOMY: 17 mpg city, 22 mpg highway.
BASE PRICE: $39,800.
PRICE AS TESTED: $45,037