Critics say the Toyota 4Runner is an antique design, and there is some truth to that claim. It still uses that old 4.0-liter V6 that was dropped from the Tacoma truck line years ago. While automatic transmissions with six to 10 gears are now common, we get a dated five-speed here.
Most 4x4 SUVs have electronic transfer cases that operate at the touch of a button. Not here, as the 4Runner requires manipulation of an old-fashioned shift lever that takes a strong arm to pull.
So if this rig is so dated, why do so many consumers line up at the dealer buying them? The first reason is reliability. These things just keep on running without repairs. Secondly, the performance is still here, and even more so if the TRD Pro package is ordered. With raised frame height, huge tires, heavy-duty shocks, crawl control and other goodies, this vehicle loves to be driven on rugged Arizona trails.
On the street, acceleration of this heavy vehicle is sluggish. Fuel economy of 15/18 mpg isn’t very economical. But the ride is smooth enough, and the firm shocks and big tires provide good cornering ability. It is when going off road where the TRD Pro shines.
The base price starts at $35K for the 2WD version, but a loaded-up TRD Pro like this will max out at $48K. Have more money to spend? Then how about $89K for the larger Toyota Land Cruiser? This too is a bit dated, being introduced back in 2008, but like its smaller brother, it provides great off-road ability as well.
For going off road, this has it all. There is a strong V8 with 381 horsepower, 4x4 high and low gears, locking differentials, crawl control, a super strong frame and proven record of reliability so you don’t get stranded. On the street, we get all the luxury items, leather, video entertainment, power everything and a comfortable ride. A Land Cruiser will fit right in at the country club parking lot.
The big drawback, aside from the high admission fee, is fuel economy. A 3-ton rig like this requires lots of fuel to run, so 13/18 mpg is the claim; 11/16 is what we saw. Unless you need seating for seven passengers, it might be better to go with that 4Runner!
Chad Haire, of Phoenix, test-drives vehicles for this feature.