2009 4Runner New Car Test Drive
The Toyota 4Runner is a rugged SUV with impressive off-road capability. A full-framed truck with a solid rear axle, plus the latest in off-road electronics, the 4Runner delivers everything it promises. It's the cowboy without the rhinestones, the genuine article in a market saturated with station wagons posing as off-road adventurers.
The 4Runner can go anywhere a truck can go, and slog through the worst mess you can imagine. Its traditional design gives it an advantage in long-term durability especially over rugged terrain. Properly equipped, it can seat seven people and tow 7300 pounds behind them.
Yet the 4Runner is no rough rider. It's quite comfortable around town and on the highway, with a nice ride quality, almost luxurious. An optional linked shock-absorber system called X-REAS further improves handling in sweeping, high-speed turns.
For 2008, the 4Runner adds roll-sensing side curtain airbags to its list of standard equipment, complementing an impressive array of active safety technology that includes ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, traction control, and electronic stability control.
The 4Runner brings electronic sophistication off-road as well. In fact, you can't truly appreciate the 4Runner until you drive one over rugged terrain. This is a truly amazing vehicle in the muck. With Toyota's Downhill Assist Control, the 4Runner can walk you down a steep, muddy incline with both feet off the pedals, the system selectively applying the brakes to individual wheels as needed. This is an impressive display of technology and engineering. And with Hill-start Assist Control, the 4Runner is just as impressive climbing back up, as it maximizes any available traction. Both full- and part-time four-wheel drive are available, but even the full-time system comes with a locking function for when the going gets sloppy.
Both the V6 and the optional V8 offer responsive performance. We recommend the V8 for drivers who tow. Those who don't tow, or tow only light trailers, such as an ATV, should be more than happy with the V6, which provides excellent performance. Both engines benefit from a sophisticated variable-valve setup and drive-by-wire throttle, delivering strong, responsive acceleration out on the highway. Both come mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy is an EPA-rated City/Highway 17/21 mpg for a 4Runner 4WD V6, 15/19 mpg for a V8 4WD.
Inside, the 4Runner is roomy and comfortable. An optional third-row seat expands passenger capacity to seven, but can be folded or removed to gain additional cargo space. The optional voice-activated GPS navigation system includes a rear-mounted video camera that lets the driver back to within an inch of the vehicle behind when parallel parking. It can also help the driver spot a small child before backing up. Bluetooth is available, as is a factory-installed rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
The 4Runner is noted for its quality construction, durability and reliability. If your weekend involves driving over rugged, punishing terrain, yet you want a vehicle that won't punish you in everyday use, the Toyota 4Runner is an excellent choice.
The 2008 Toyota 4Runner comes in three trim levels: SR5, Sport Edition, and Limited. Each is available with the V6 or V8, with two-wheel drive (2WD) or four-wheel drive (4WD). A Class III receiver hitch with a seven-pin connector is standard on V8 models and optional on V6s; it mounts directly to the rear frame crossmember.
The SR5 V6 2WD ($28,015) and 4WD ($30,290) come standard with cloth upholstery, automatic climate control; cruise control; power door locks and windows; six-speaker AM/FM//CD stereo with auxiliary input and MP3/WMA capability; remote keyless entry; skid plates to protect the underbody; integrated fog lamps; and 16-inch alloy wheels. The SR5 V8 2WD ($30,030) and V8 4WD ($32,305) models are similarly equipped but add power-adjustable front seats.
The Sport Edition V6 2WD ($30,325) and 4WD ($32,600) are upgraded with high-contrast cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-telescope steering wheel with integrated audio and cruise controls, a leather-wrapped shift knob, power heated outside mirrors, cargo cover, X-REAS Sport Enhancement Suspension, bigger brake rotors, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The Sport Edition V8 2WD ($31,705) and 4WD $33,980) are similarly equipped.
The Limited V6 2WD ($34,700) and 4WD ($36,975) are upgraded with leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats with memory functions, black woodgrain interior trim, premium stereo with 6CD changer, HomeLink universal garage door opener, auto-dimming inside mirror, engine immobilizer, automatic headlamps, a cargo management system, and 18-inch aluminum wheels. Limited V8 2WD ($36,460) and 4WD ($38,735) list the same standard equipment. Limited models ride on the standard suspension, but can be ordered with the X-REAS suspension ($450). Additionally, V8 4WD models can be ordered with X-REAS plus rear auto-leveling air suspension ($950).
The incongruously named Urban Runner package ($1760) became available in February for Sport Edition V6 4WD only; it combines 18-inch wheels with unique colors, trim and badging. Inside, Urban Runners feature two-tone-gray Alcantara seats with power adjustment, black woodgrain trim, Bluetooth, and an integrated Tom Tom personal navigation device. The package will be released for Sport Edition V6 2WD in April.
A third-row seat is available on SR5 ($805) and Limited ($1175), but not Sport Edition. Options available for all models include DVD navigation with Bluetooth and a rearview video camera ($2420-2840, depending on model), power moonroof ($900), and a rear-seat DVD player ($1580) with wireless headphones. Several satellite-ready stereo upgrades are also available, and many Limited-level luxuries are offered as stand-alone options for SR5 and Sport Edition.
Safety features that come standard on all models include Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), traction control, anti-lock brakes (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. All models come with Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), while 4WD units add Downhill Assist Control (DAC).
Front seat-mounted side-impact airbags and curtain-style head protection airbags for front and rear passengers are now standard on all 4Runners, and are equipped with a rollover sensor and a cutoff switch. Other standard passive safety features include dual-stage front airbags; and three-point seat belts at all positions, with pretensioners and force limiters to reduce the chance of belt-related injuries. Seat belts are your first line of defense in a crash so be sure to wear them. All models come with a tire pressure monitor.