Pros— Excels off-road. Roomy. Easy controls. Fairly fast. Suite of driver features. Part-time four-wheel drive. Toyota reliability.
Cons—Marginal gas mileage. Can feel bumps. Not as sporty as it looks.
Bottom Line—Among few truly rugged, genuine Sport Utility Vehicles
The 2022 Toyota 4Runner
4x4 is the real deal.
With rugged body on frame construction and such things as high ground clearance and rugged underpinnings, this mid-size SUV is essentially an old-school SUV that’s superior in tough terrain to more modern unibody SUVs with greater refinement but cosmetic SUV features such as fake skid plates and gray plastic trim.
My test high, boxy 4Runner 4x4 TRD Sport had items including a TRD Sport hood scoop, color-keyed front bumper and spoiler, sport badging and dark grey metallic accent 20-inch wheels. It also had interior touches such as TRD embroidered headrests and sport carpet floor mats.
But this 4Runner isn’t as sporty as it looks, although it has a ”sport enhancement” “X-RES” cross-linked relative absorber system suspension that enhances on-road handling. The 4Runner has been around a long time and there’s no question about its off-road prowess, but I also found that it handles on-off expressway ramps at above-posted speeds with little body lean. And, despite its boxy shape and .36 drag coefficient, it cruises quietly at 80 m.p.h. with virtually no wind noise, even with its standard black roof rails. The r.p.m. level is only 2,000 at 70 m.p.h. and just a few more r.p.m. at 80 m.p.h.
Steering is firm but surprisingly quick for such a tall, heavy vehicle, and the brake pedal has a reassuringly firm feel with little travel required. However, occupants can feel the bumps and potholes because the 4Runner has a truck-like ride. This is not a city-based runabout.
The 4Runner easily seats four all adults, or five in a pinch if the rear center armrest with cupholders isn’t lowered. Front doors open widely but rear door openings are rather narrow.
The 4Runner comes in a variety of trim levels with prices ranging approximately from $37,305 to $52,120. My test 4Runner 4x4 TRD Sport had especially supportive front seats, with a power driver’s seat. There’s a black SofTex interior with gray stitching and hard, but easy-to-clean plastic surfaces. Also standard are a pushbutton start and power sliding rear widow. The rear seats manually recline.
Gauges can be read quickly, and there’s a set of easily used physical buttons and switches, with rotary volume and tuning knobs for the radio. There’s good cabin storage areas and a modern 8-inch infotainment system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard. You even get a full-size spare tire.
The 4Runner is 71.5 inches high, so extra effort is needed to climb in, although no more so than with a full-size pickup truck. One helpful option is $1,500 automatic running boards that are wide enough to handle large-size shoes. They slide out and in at the touch of a dashboard switch and make getting in and out much easier. But I disliked the $350 sliding rear cargo deck. While it’s said to make loading heavy objects easier, it eats up cargo space when rear seas are in their upright position, and I found it clumsy to operate.
Cargo room is 47.2 cubic feet with the rear seats in place and 89.7 cubic feet with rear seats folded. The rear hatch and engine hood smoothly raise on hydraulic struts, but there is no power fold-down feature for the hatch—just a strap. Towing capacity is 5,000 pounds, and there’s a two hitch receiver and connector..
All 4Runners have a stout, low-maintenance 4-liter, dual-overhead-camshaft 24-valve V-6 with dual independent variable valve timing. I generates 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. The 0-60 m.p.h. time is a respectable 7.6 seconds, although the engine roars during hard acceleration.
The 4Runner 4x4 TRD Sport is heavy at 4,600-plus pounds and only has a five-speed automatic transmission, whereas rivals have extra-speed automatics. However, the automatic is responsive and can be manually shifted via the console transmission lever.
Estimated fuel economy thus is only 16 miles per gallon in the city and 19 on highways. However, just 87-octane fuel is need to fill the 23-gallon tank.
Safety features include a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane-departure alert and automatic high beams.
My test 4Runner’s options and $1,215 freight charge brought its bottom-line price to $48,297. The extras included some expensive items such as a $1,585 eight-speaker premium audio system and $1,310 technology package, not to mention the nifty above-mentioned automatic running boards.
The 4Runner has a reputation for running just about forever if given prescribed oil changes and routine maintenance. It’s easily good for many off-road adventures.