2018 Toyota 4Runner Review and Compare | Colorado Springs, CO

2018 Toyota 4Runner Review and Comparison in Colorado Springs, CO

"Don't go changin" : the battle cry and personal mantra of the Toyota 4Runner

"Don't go changing to try and please me--You never let me down before." Billy Joel likely did not write these lyrics about the Toyota 4Runner, but they fit incredibly well. This is a truck-based SUV that looks, feels, and drives a lot like it did when it first jumped onto the scene in the 90s.

But, it's also a large 4WD SUV that conquers rocky ground, powers through underbrush, and dominates snow and sleet just as well as it did when it came out in the 90s. And in an age where it seems like every SUV, crossover, and pickup truck is getting cushier and softer inside and out, there's something comforting about an old-school approach to engineering, capability, and buff muscle.

So, if you're looking for a quick-changing and plush-riding crossover that's keeping up with the Joneses, you may need to look elsewhere. If you're looking for a powerful, super-capable, and TRD-tuned SUV that wouldn't dream of compromising on engineering, strength, or vitality in the name of modernity--then the 4Runner is going to be your best bet.

Body building: how a capped truck became a top 4WD SUV

In the early 1980's, Toyota released something called a "Trekker": a small-bodied pickup truck with a hard-plastic cap. It stuck around for a few years, but it didn't truly become the "4Runner" until 1984, when the first name-branded vehicle was produced. By the time the third generation came out in 1996, the newly formed 4Runner was starting to look a lot more like the classic body-on-frame truck-based SUVs that America was going for.

Fast forward all the way up to 2009, when the fifth (and current) generation first came out. In a time of fuel conservancy and tight city streets, automakers were rushing to fulfill a heightening demand for lighter SUVs, smaller SUVs, more fuel-efficient SUVs, more carlike SUVs. The world of sport utility vehicles was changing--but, not for the 4Runner. Stoically, steadily, stubbornly, it retained its body-on-frame build and its iconic design.

And it hasn't changed much up to today, either. The current-gen 4Runner is available in six unique trim levels:

  • SR5
  • SR5 Premium
  • Limited
  • TRD Off-Road
  • TRD Off-Road Premium
  • TRD Pro

Engine power and an old-school transmission

Remember, first, that the 4Runner is not a Mercedes-Benz G-Class: it's not a ground-eating rock crawler that's almost meant to blast down the highway. It's really meant more for the first thing, and for providing capable and confident travel for families who live a little off the beaten path and want an easy mode of transportation no matter what the road outside looks like.

With that in mind... the newest generation of the Toyota 4Runner offers 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque from a standard 4.0-liter V6 engine, paired to a five-speed automatic. Yes, in the age of twin-turbos, ten-speed autos and CVTs, and 300+ HP for tiny hatchbacks, the 4Runner remains steadfast in its powertrain commitment.

But what the V6 and the 5-speed may lack in modern agility and breathtaking acceleration, they make up for in charm, practicality, and durability--if you had to guess, which SUV needs more trips to the mechanic, a 4Runner or a Mercedes? (Hint: you probably don't even need to guess.) This handy powertrain is also a versatile and helpful addition to active lives: you won't really be pressed back in your seat, but you can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

And if you're buying a 4Runner, you're a lot more likely to need towing power than a want to overcompensate through engine revs.

4WD capability and TRD technology

Multi-terrain Select modes

Mud & Sand, Loose Rock, Mogul, and Rock

The 4Runner also offers a huge list of off-road-ready tech features that help you maintain control on just about any surface and any angle:

  • Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC)
  • Downhill Assist Control (DAC)
  • Active Traction Control (A-TRAC)
  • Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS)
  • Crawl Control

If you opt for the incredible, top-of-the-line Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro, you'll get all of the goodness of the classic model, with a laundry list of Toyota Racing Development-tuned and -branded options, components, and gear, including a TRD-stamped aluminum front skid plate, TRD alloy wheels, a TRD-tuned suspension, TRD Bilstein shocks in the front and rear, with TRD-tuned springs, and even TRD Pro carpet floor mats and a TRD-specific shift knob.

You definitely won't forget which model you bought, that's for sure--especially when you take it off-road where it belongs.

Storage and cargo

It's not just a heavyduty workhorse on and off the road, though--the 4Runner is one of the most convenient and versatile options in the entire Toyota lineup, matching the Highlander for interior flexibility. Since the 4Runner wasn't quite designed to be a large-family vehicle, it's able to utilize the entire rear hatch space behind the second-row seat. That means you get up to 47.2 cubic feet of storage area behind the rear seat (with an included 120V AC outlet for charging and running devices, radios, fans, or other electronic or battery-operated equipment) and up to a massive 89.7 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seat folded down flat. That's more than any other comparable capability vehicle on the market, and even more than some three-row SUVs in the size class.

The 4Runner also adds heavy-duty roof rails, a power-sliding rear glass window, and an available sliding rear cargo deck (that can hold about 400 pounds) for convenience, to let you store and access cargo in a whole new way. It's a standout option among 4WD SUVs that doesn't have any big plans for change. But, that's why you have to love it.

Compare the Toyota 4Runner vs the Competition

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