It's hard to believe that, when the Toyota 4Runner made its U.S. debut, Americans Carl Lewis and Mary Lou Retton were winning gold medals at the 1984 summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Yes, it's been 26 years. Nearly three decades and five generations later, the all-new 2010 4Runner-Toyota cites that of the 1.8 million sold since '84, about 1.3 million are still on the road today-soldiers on with body-on-frame construction and a live rear axle. And we couldn't be more pleased.
Frankly, with the Highlander, RAV4, and Venza crossovers in its lineup, Toyota doesn't need another car-based sport/ute. Thus, sticking with a rugged, heritage-rich offering seems wise to us, especially when the number of truck-based 4Runner competitors, i.e., Borrego, Explorer, H3, and Pathfinder, can be counted on one hand.
Based on the Land Cruiser Prado sold in other world markets, the made-in-Japan 4Runner wears bolder and boxier-retro, if you will-sheetmetal that more closely resembles that of the FJ Cruiser. Head- and taillamp lenses protrude from the body, the grille is gutsy and in your face, and the overall appearance just looks bigger, despite only modest gains in length (plus 0.7 inch), width (plus 0.6), and height (plus 0.8); the wheelbase, at 109.8 inches, remains the same.
The 4Runner is available in three trims for 2010: the four-wheel-drive, Rubicon-friendly $36,500 Trail Edition (see sidebar), which comes with only two rows of seating and a revised 4.0-liter, 270-horsepower, 278-pound-foot V-6 mated to a five-speed automatic; the entry-level RWD $28,300 SR5 with the Tacoma's 2.7-liter 157-horse, 178-pound-foot four-cylinder and four-speed auto; the $29,975 two- or $31,715 four-wheel-drive SR5 with the V-6/five-speed auto; or the luxury-oriented $38,565 Limited, which comes exclusively with the 4.0-liter and five-speed and adds 20-inch wheels, leather, X-REAS sport suspension, and, for $2035, a full-time 4WD system with a three-mode center-console-mounted switch. Why offer a four-cylinder and not a V-8? The four improves Toyota's CAFE numbers and gives customers a more fuel-efficient option should gas prices skyrocket again. That said, the four's EPA city/highway numbers (18/23 mpg) aren't much better than the V-6's (17/23 with 2WD), and its $1675 discount doesn't exactly warrant the 113-horsepower penalty, either. Our advice? Stick with the six.
Inside the 2010 4Runner, the FJ similarities continue, due to oversized knobs and buttons, a more upright windshield, and sporty seat fabric (which is water-resistant on Trail). Our pre-production SR5 4WD, which Toyota predicts will be the volume seller, was fitted with shiny plastics, but production models will get grained, matte-finished trim. Some editors found the interior a bit overwrought, but none could argue it wasn't extremely functional, roomy, and easy to use.