The 4Runner suspension uses a live axle in the rear, located by a long-travel four-link arrangement, with independent control arms in front and rather stiff Bilstein shocks at both ends. Ride quality is not stellar. The suspension shrugs off impacts, like speed bumps and potholes -- in fact, the harder they hit, the better it feels. But it rides very firmly at low speeds on a rugged dirt road, where the stiff damping allows vibrations to come through. On pavement, the brakes are strong enough and certain, but hard braking yields an unusual amount of front-end dive. In the corners, there's enough body roll to require the driver to concentrate on selecting consistent lines and allowing time for the chassis take a set and return to neutral. Such are the tradeoffs that come with a long-travel off-road suspension. We got used to it, but during our testing most of us chose to take downhill sections of challenging mountain roads at lower speeds in the Trail Edition.

The 4Runner's 4.0-literV-6 actually makes 10 horsepower more than the V-8 that was available in the prior model, allowing Toyota to drop the V-8 option altogether, as well as the four-cylinder engine for the 4Runner. Towing capacity is now limited to 5000 pounds, but otherwise the new V-6 is an entirely satisfactory powerplant, more than adequate to drive around town and an easy highway cruiser. We got 7.6 seconds, 0-to-60, and 15.8 in the quarter mile, good numbers for any V-6, and not all that far behind the V-8s in this test. The Toyota is EPA rated at 17/22 city/highway mpg. Our actual mileage numbers for this test are far lower across the board, because we spent so much time on the trail, operating in 4-Lo, with the air-conditioning blasting. In the 4Runner, we averaged 14.3 mpg overall; your mileage would probably be better.

As an everyday commuter and grocery getter, the Trail Edition 4Runner is less at home in suburban sprawl than out on a rocky trail, where it becomes a thing of beauty and a tool of rare strength.