2018 Toyota 4Runner Review & Compare in Lemon Grove, CA

The iconic Toyota 4Runner is comfortable in its own skin--and it's not changing for anyone

In a world where new iPhone generations are populating faster than you can get used to the new home screens, sometimes it's nice to find something that doesn't change too much. And if you're looking in the realm of big SUVs--the 4Runner welcomes you to its domain.

It's common for cars and SUVs these days to be caught up in a mad dash for bigger, sharper, crazier, or more futuristic designs and features. And if your end goal is to get a vehicle with not just some but all of the bells and whistles, that makes sense. The Toyota 4Runner, though, is not that vehicle. And it was never meant to be. That's why the "4-Wheel-Drive Off-Road Runner" (you can see why they shortened it--that wouldn't have fit very well on the back of even this hefty five-seater SUV--still starts under $35,000 when many of its competitors are scraping the $40K mark, and why it's still one of the most capable utility vehicles that you're going to find.

Trim levels include the 4Runner SR5, SR5 Premium, and 4Runner Limited, and Toyota's ultra-capable options like the 4Runner TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, and TRD Pro.

The history and design of the 4Runner

  • Early 80s: the Toyota Trekker arrives, as a mini-pickup with a hard cap
  • 1984: the 4Runner nameplate first comes out, worn on a similar body-on-frame truck with a removable cap
  • 1990: a second generation of 4Runners step onto the scene, looking more like an SUV and including a quirky two-door cab option
  • 1996: we welcome the third-gen 4Runner--unsurprisingly, the two-door Sport Utility Truck Coupe is not in it
  • 2009: the fifth, and current, generation 4Runner smooths out some of the rough edges
  • 2018: not much has changed, but the 4Runner has adopted some nice modern features

The fifth-generation 4Runner has been in production for almost 10 years at this point, and while it has upgraded some key interior options, features, and materials, it's roughly the same SUV that it was nearly a decade ago. Most modern SUVs have shifted quietly to a unibody crossover platform--one which smooths out ride quality and can help with efficiency, but also one which compromises off-road integrity and lowers towing power. The 4Runner remains as a body-on-frame build, which doesn't put it on the leader board for great SUV fuel economy, but does make it one of the top large off-roading 4-wheel-drive SUVs that you can buy in this price range.

Current Toyota 4Runner color options include Nautical Blue, Super White, Blizzard Pearl, Classic Silver, Magnetic Gray, Midnight Gray, Barcelona Red, and Calvary Blue.

Cargo space and storage options

The interior of the Toyota 4Runner is surprisingly soft, supportive, and swanky for its solid stature--but it's not just a comfortable cabin. It's one of the most versatile and configurable interiors in the entire Toyota model lineup, offering up to 88.8 cubic feet of cargo space. It gives you more total storage area than the Highlander, and it's bested in total cargo area only by the extra-large Toyota Sequoia SUV. For convenience, there's even a 120V AC outlet installed in the back of the cargo hold, so you can easily charge up or run radios, lights, fans, devices, and more.

Along with being flexible in its size, the 4Runner's cargo capabilities are flexible in function, too, giving you a variety of ways to store and access your gear. A power sliding rear glass window offers an easy way to reach in and grab a bag or towel, and gives you more available ventilation options when traveling in warmer weather. A sliding rear cargo deck lets you bring the gear out to you. Even if you overpacked, don't worry--the sliding deck can hold over 400 pounds.

Engine, transmission, and towing capacity

Every new Toyota 4Runner comes equipped with a 4.0-liter V6 engine, good for 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque, paired to a five-speed automatic. Those numbers may seem low--and when compared to select other SUVs in this size category, they are. But other SUVs were designed for the highway sprint, the faux-sports-car  feel, the midlife crisis. The 4Runner doesn't care about any of that; because the 4Runner was made to do what the 4-Wheel-Drive Off-Road Runner does best: work.

That's why it can tow up to 5,000 pounds, it can handle school drop-off just as well as a cross-country adventure, and why it's consistently chosen as a top adventure vehicle.

4WD and off-roading capability

No surprise--the Toyota 4Runner has a lot of technology and equipment geared toward off-road excellence. It starts with 9.6 inches of ground clearance, and ends with an alphabet soup of performance-gear acronyms, like HAC and DAC, A-TRAC and KDSS.

Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC) work to give the 4Runner a bit of extra grabbing power when rolling into a start up a hill, and to provide added stability and balance when picking its way down a steep grade. Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) and Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) and Crawl Control all feature class-leading smarts and capability to make even the roughest roads seem like a walk in the park

There are two main four-wheel-drive systems available within the Toyota 4Runner lineup:

  • 4Runner SR5, SR5 Premium: Part-time 4WD with Active Traction Control (A-TRAC)
  • 4Runner TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, TRD Pro: Part-time 4WD with Active Traction Control (A-TRAC)
  • 4Runner Limited: Full-time 4WD with Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) and Torsen® limited-slip center differential with locking feature

The 4Runner isn't changing much--but it's why people love it

The 4Runner isn't going to change to suit the fleeting fancies of an ever-changing market--because it doesn't have to. When the 4Runner adopts a new powertrain, or a different body build, or a new interior set of materials, it'll be because that product or part is the best fit for the job. It's why the unchanging 4Runner can wear its iconic styling so easily, and it's why people will always love it.

Compare the Toyota 4Runner vs the Competition