The 2018 Toyota 4Runner is an SUV in the traditional way, with a body-on-frame construction and a solid rear axle like a pickup truck. It is one of the last SUVs built this way, offering it the rugged capability that made this type of car attractive in the first place.
While serviceable as a daily driver, the 4Runner is home on adverse terrain. Off-road skills comes from its high ground clearance and available hardware such as a locking rear differential, low-range gearing and Toyota’s trick Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS). The latter comprise of special stabilizer bars that automatically adjust to make way for greater wheel travel (and therefore traction) in off-road driving situations.
The presence of a third-row expands seating capacity to seven at the expense of some cargo space and versatility. But really, don’t get a 4Runner if all you want is a mall crawler or family taxi. In that case, there are better choices, including Toyota’s Highlander. But the 4Runner is one of the few cars left from the traditional SUV mold, and that’s something to appreciate if you need a vehicle for frequent off-road weekend excursions.
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The 2018 Toyota 4Runner has a few different featured packages, but otherwise carries over from last year unchanged.
Since the value of the 4Runner lies predominantly in its off-road capabilities, we recommend the TRD Off-Road Premium. This trim gives access to important hardware including the locking rear differential and KDSS, the latter of which improves all areas of the 4Runner’s skill set. The Premium part of that name means it has comfort features, including heated front seats, easy-clean vinyl upholstery, heated power outside mirrors and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
trim levels & features
The 2018 Toyota 4Runner is a midsize SUV offered in six trim levels: SR5, SR5 Premium, TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, TRD Pro and Limited. All share the same 4.0-liter V6 (270 horsepower, 278 pound-feet of torque), five-speed automatic transmission and 5,000-pound tow rating. SR5 and Limited models are offered in rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive configurations and two- or three-row seating configurations. The remaining trim levels are 4WD-only and seat five. A low-range transfer case lands on 4WD versions of the SR5, TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro trim levels.
The SR5 is the base model but it’s not bare-bones. Standard features inclusive of skid plates, foglights, a rearview camera, a power liftgate (includes a power rear window), 17-inch wheels, keyless entry, power-adjustable front seats, 40/20/40-split reclining and folding second-row seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a 120-volt power outlet in the rear cargo area. The standard infotainment system boasts a 6.1-inch touchscreen, eight speakers, a USB port and satellite radio.
Stepping up to TRD Off-Road includes a locking rear differential, 17-inch wheels that are 0.5 inch wider than the SR5’s, and a crawl control function. The interior wears additional TRD badging, and the overhead console has switches for controlling off-road settings. The KDSS feature is optional.
Premium variants of the SR5 and TRD Off-Road get power-adjustable and heated outside mirrors, simulated leather upholstery, heated front seats, navigation, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Serious off-roaders should consider the TRD Pro, which begins with the TRD Off-Road Premium and adds revised front springs, Bilstein dampers with rear remote reservoirs, special all-terrain tires and a front skid plate.
Limited models top the 4Runner range and are more luxury oriented. These models get a Torsen locking center differential (4×4 models only), a separate suspension system Toyota calls X-REAS that’s produced to reduce roll without adversely affecting ride quality, plus a host of features to make it better suited to on-pavement use: 20-inch wheels, a sunroof, dual-zone climate control, parking sensors, leather seat upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, and a 15-speaker JBL audio system. Power-deploying running boards are optional.
Each car typically comes in multiple versions, although trim levels share many aspects. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2014 Toyota 4Runner Trail (4.0L V6 | 5-speed automatic | 4WD).
The 4Runner Trail’s off-road nature dominates the way it performs. The traditional body-on-frame construction offers it ruggedness and clearance but adds weight that results in modest cornering, braking and acceleration limits. The off-road performance that 4Runner buyers seek is excellent.
The 4.0-liter V6 gets the 4Runner up to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds, which translates to easy freeway merging and decent climbing power up long grades. It’s not the most powerful engine in the class, but it does the job.
The 4Runner’s brakes have plenty of stopping power, especially in terms of initial bite. But this comes with it a notable amount of nosedive. Panic stops need a few extra feet compared to more modern crossovers.
The steering is a bit slow to respond but predictable, and it gives reasonable feel in corners. Straight-ahead driving, on the other hand, feels murky, and we sometimes found it necessary to make sizable corrections in response to road imperfections and side winds.
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It’s stable in corners but doesn’t like to be rushed becaused of its weight and high center of gravity. The optional KDSS auto-disconnect stabilizer bars are larger and repel body lean better than the standard setup.
Throttle’s answer is smooth and progressive, and the five-speed automatic transmission shifts seamlessly. It would be better with another gear to choose from.
The 4Runner Trail has part-time four-wheel drive, crawl control, active traction control and a rear locking differential. The real gem is the optional KDSS system that automatically disconnects both stabilizer bars when maximum articulation is required. A top performer in this class.
A 4Runner offers a reasonable mix of comfort that isn’t out of line with its overall mission or its truck-based roots. Not as comfy as the typical crossover, but no one looking for this kind of rugged capability should be surprised by that.
The seats have a decent shape and range of adjustment, but the padding could stand to be more generous and the seat bottoms are short. Overall comfort is good but stops well short of what we’d call excellent.
The ride is not very firm, but there is a fair bit of trucklike shake and body movement. Instead of crashing over bumps, our 4Runner tended to jostle about lazily in response to road imperfections.
noise & vibration
There’s good isolation of road noise most of the time, but the squarish shape isn’t particularly adept at quelling wind noise.
Nicely laid-out dash and instrument panel. The large cargo hold is quite functional, and the seating area is sufficiently roomy. Easy to climb in and out if you can deal with the step-up height.
ease of use
Switchgear is logical and easy to use, but the Entune navigation screen seems small. The overhead off-road controls are a good use of space.
getting in/getting out
An extra 3 inches of step-up height relative to crossovers goes with the territory with an off-road-biased SUV such as this. Front and rear access are similar; the optional side step covers both. The doors open nice and wide.
There’s plenty of front head- and legroom for tall folks, though we should note the Trail does not have a sunroof. The rear seats give similar headroom. There a bit less legroom back there, but 6-footers still fit.
Easy to see over the hood and find the front corners. Rear visibility is surprisingly good straight out the back and is further enhanced by a backup camera, but the rear quarters have the usual SUV blind spots.
The new 4Runner gets tight gaps outside and an attractive interior. The fabric seats are grippy, easy to clean and good-looking.
Great cargo area versatility mostly with the optional sliding cargo tray, plus a variety of storage options in the cabin.
Plenty of little nooks in dash plus a decent console bin, glovebox and door pockets.
The rear seatbacks fold flat, and it’s easy to pack the sizable cargo hold because of its squarish shape. One staffer actually tossed a sleeping bag back there and spent the night.
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The 4Runner has a 5,000-pound towing capacity, which is enough to handle most boats and small camping trailers.