First Test: 2010 Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition
Old school meets new school
"Easily the most capable vehicle to come along since the current-generation Wrangler, and there's much to be applauded in an off-roading legend that's remained true to itself," says editor at large Arthur St. Antoine of Toyota's all-new 2010 4Runner Trail Edition. Truck Trend editor Allyson Harwood adds, "This new 4Runner is an SUV that makes me want to go off-road. Those are getting harder to come by, and it's the only new sport/utility for 2010 that causes that kind of feeling."
As its name suggests (and as the previous comments intimate), the all-new fifth-generation 4Runner - Toyota cites that of the 1.8 million sold since 1984, 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 in its lineup, Toyota doesn't need another car-based sport/ute, so sticking with a rugged, heritage-rich offering seems wise, especially when the number of truck-based 4Runner competitors can be counted on one hand.
Based on the Land Cruiser Prado sold in other world markets, the made-in-Japan 4Runner wears boxier - retro, if you will - sheetmetal that more closely resembles that on the FJ Cruiser. Headlamp and taillamp lenses extrude from the body, the grille is bold and in your face, and the overall appearance just looks bigger, despite modest gains in length (+ 0.7 inch), width (+ 0.6), and height (+ 0.8); the wheelbase, at 109.8 inches, remains the same. Inside, the FJ similarities continue, due to oversized knobs and buttons, a more upright windshield, and water-resistant seats. Some editors found the interior a bit overwrought, but none could argue it wasn't extremely functional, roomy, and easy to use.
Not only does the 4Runner Trail offer body-on-frame construction, 9.6 inches of ground clearance, and a live rear axle, but it also boasts standard A-TRAC active traction control; 265/70R17 Bridgestone Dueler H/T tires (serious off-roaders will quickly swap those for A/T or M/T rubber); Crawl Control for navigating steep clines; an available Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), which, as in the Lexus GX, can disengage the anti-roll bars for increased wheel articulation and travel; and a new Multi-Terrain System that offers pre-programmed off-road settings similar to Land Rover's Terrain Response. Among today's car-based crossovers, most of which equate off-roading with rolling along light dirt roads or surviving a modest snowstorm, the 4Runner Trail is a mountain goat amidst lambs - a broad-shouldered, go-anywhere beast that relishes the unbeaten path.
Not that this fifth-gen Toyota doesn't enjoy the beaten path too. In fact, the 4Runner's commendable on-road behavior impressed (surprised, really) every editor. Sure, its body-on-frame build and live rear axle translated to a rather bouncy ride and some chassis shivers not associated with today's unibody offerings, but its steering was linear and responsive, its brakes stout and easy to modulate, and its balance, in light of its six-foot height, buttoned down. Further, with a revised 4.0-liter, 270-horsepower, 278-pound-foot DOHC V-6 paired with a five-speed automatic - the Tacoma's 2.7-liter, 157-horse, 178-pound-foot I-4 mated to a four-speed auto is available in base SR5 with rear drive - the 4Runner is competitively quick for a 4762-pound vehicle, delivering 0 to 60 in 7.8 seconds and the quarter mile in 15.9 at 87.3 mph. For comparison, a 4750-pound, 276-horse, 267-pound-foot Kia Borrego V-6 4WD hits 60 in 7.5 and the quarter mile in 15.9 at 87.2.
While the 4Runner is admirably brisk, given its 400-pound weight gain over its predecessor, we miss the '09's 4.7-liter V-8 option. Toyota is quick to point out that the tweaked 4.0-liter makes more horsepower than the old V-8 and that its fuel economy (17/22 for 4WD) is better than that of the 4.7 (14/17) as well as the previous 4.0 (16/20). Sure, but the new 4.0's torque is still down 28 pound-feet compared with the 4.7's. When overtaking slower vehicles on the highway, where the 4.0-liter strains through a downshift and some heavy breathing, Toyota's new 4.6-liter 310-horse 327-pound-foot V-8, which debuted in the 2010 Tundra, would have made a welcome option, especially for towing or carrying a full load.
Speaking of full loads, the new 4Runner can accommodate more than before - 89.7 cubic feet versus 75.1, with the rear seats folded; 47.2 versus 42.2, with the seats up - and its available third row, which boasts 5.2 more inches of legroom, now folds flat rather than up against the side windows. For better safety, the side-curtain airbags now extend to the third row, if that option box is checked, and there are standard knee bags for both the driver and front passenger. Pass on the third row (it's available only on SR5 and Limited trims, as Toyota figures Trail buyers aren't looking for seven-passenger capacity), and the 4Runner offers a sliding cargo deck that doubles as a tailgate tray - as the latter, it can support 440 pounds. Better yet, press the Party Mode button on the front dash, and the stereo tunes are concentrated to the tailgate and rear-cargo area for maximum enjoyment.
Thanks to a diverse lineup -- the 4WD Rubicon-friendly Trail seen here; the 2WD entry-level SR5 with a more fuel efficient four-cylinder; the 2WD or 4WD SR5 with the V-6; or the luxury-oriented Limited, which adds 20-inch wheels, leather, and a full-time 4WD system with a three-mode center console-mounted switch -- the 4Runner can be either a dirt-devouring, rock-crawling, sand-swallowing rig or just a rugged, roomy, everyday transporter. Or both. How many SUVs can make that claim?
|2010 Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition|
|Base price||$36,000 (est)|
|Price as tested||$39,000 (est)|
|Vehicle layout||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|Engine||4.0L/270-hp/278-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|Curb weight (f/r dist)||4762 lb (53/47%)|
|Length x width x height||189.9 x 75.8 x 71.5 in|
|0-60 mph||7.8 sec|
|Quarter mile||15.9 sec @ 87.3 mph|
|Braking, 60-0 mph||138 ft|
|Lateral acceleration||0.73 g (avg)|
|MT Figure Eight||29.5 sec @ 0.55 g (avg)|
|MT observed fuel economy||15.3 mpg|
|EPA city/hwy fuel econ||17/22 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||1.02 lb/mile|