The Toyota 4Runner is Leading the Pack When It Comes to REAL SUVs

By Andy Lightbody; AmmoLand Auto Editor
The Toyota 4Runner is big, it is brawny and it loves the dirt!

Toyota 4Runner
Toyota 4Runner: While the 4Runner is generally well-mannered on the pavement, it is happiest when traveling off road. The 4WD is just the beginning, and numerous controls let the driver tailor the vehicle for everything from steep trail-grades to rock/boulder climbing.
Andy Lightbody
Andy Lightbody

Grand Junction, Co. –-(  In today’s world of itty-bitty, small, medium and dozens of “crossover SUVs,” many companies in the auto maker world have all but abandoned the full-size SUV marketplace.

Many feel that this segment is going the way of the dinosaur and extinction.

Drive, test, climb, rut and thrash the Toyota 4Runner… and you can instantly see how wrong that philosophy is or should be! If you like the dirt, the back country trails and enjoy getting serious with your outdoor hunting, fishing and camping adventures, the 4Runner is one of those distinct vehicles that will get you to where you want to go and back. And in a style and comfort level that is going to please and surprise.

To begin with, it is one of the few remaining SUVs today that utilizes “body-on-frame” construction. Without getting technical, it translates to a design for some serious off road travels and capabilities. And while it won’t give you the ride comfort of a car-based crossover SUV when on the pavement, the 4Runner does not pretend to be a mini-van for the soccer Mom!

Regardless of model (SR5, Trail, Limited or TRD Pro), all sport the same 4.0 liter V6 engine that kicks out 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. The tranny is a five-speed automatic, and all can be ordered with 4WD.

Why anyone would want an SRT or Limited with just rear-wheel drive is beyond our comprehension!

Part time or full time 4WD is available depending on model, and on the Trail and TRD Pro lines, there’s a locking rear differential for better approach and departure angles (33 and 26 degrees).

The 4Runners also have both a “hill-start” and “downhill assist” systems. The downhill assist control is great when going down slippery/wet/muddy/snowy hills and automatically keeps the vehicle at a low speed so that the driver can focus on and keep their attention on steering. On the flip-side, the hill-start control helps keep the vehicle from rolling backwards when starting up an incline.

Toyota’s A-Trac is an active traction control system that distributes needed torque to any wheel that has the most traction. As an option, you can add the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) which will automatically disconnect the vehicle’s stabilizer bars in low-speed offroading conditions when traveling though deep ruts, and over rocks and boulders. In plain English, it smoothes the ride when you are extreme trail blazing!

Toyota 4Runner Towing
The vehicle is rated to tow outdoor toys and trailers to 4700 pounds, The engine has plenty of pulling power, but an updated transmission with more gears would make it a lot smoother and more efficient.

Throw in a ¼” steel front skid-plate to protect the driving components up front, and 9-9.6 inches of ground clearance, and the 4Runner is up for most all off road challenges. If you are an experienced off road traveler, all the buttons, switches and gizmos in the vehicle will allow you to adjust everything to your “Baja-racing/driving” skills. If you are not familiar with all the “fine tuning options,” it may take a little getting used to and awhile to sort it all out.

When it’s time to get back on the road, simply flip the switches to put the vehicle back into the standard rear-wheel drive mode, and its ready for pavement driving, where the 4Runner is rated to deliver 17mpg in the city and 21mpg on the highway. Both those mileage figures are pretty realistic for a vehicle that tips the scales at 4425 pounds.

With the trailer hitch/tow package, the 4Runner is rated to pull a travel trailer, boat or flat-bed with camping gear and ATV toys up to 4,700 pounds. We pulled a 3250 pound travel trailer, and while the 5-speed auto transmission is adequate for driving and towing, a more modern tranny with an additional gear or two would be a welcome addition.

Toyota 4Runner Front Dash
Interior of the 4Runner actually provides a lot of comfort and convenience. Driver/passenger seating is good, and the dashboard with all the whistles and bells are laid out nicely.

While the exterior of the 4Runner screams “dirt beast,” the interior actually is pretty tame and laid out well. Front and rear passenger seating rates as very good, and the materials are great quality and comfortable. Dials and gauges are centrally located and make sense for easy reading and function. Our test vehicle came with lots of whistles and bells— touchscreen audio, nav system, smart phone apps, backup camera, opening/tilt sunroof, and plenty of both 12volt and 120 volt power outlets.

Toyota 4Runner Rear Seat
Rear passenger seat folds flat to the floor and provides a full 89.7 cubic feet of outdoor-gear cargo room.
2014 Toyota 4Runner Rear Cargo Deck
It comes as an option with the 4Runner series, but the sliding, rear cargo deck is unique and makes it easy to slide your gear in and out when loading lots of outdoor equipment.

In the rear, was a sliding cargo deck that was a nice touch for aiding in loading and unloading our sporting goods goodies. The rear seat folds flat to the floor, so long gun cases and oversized gear (tent, sleeping bags, and canoe paddles) all fit into the roomy nearly 90 cubic feet of storage area. Up on top, a large roof rack handles the overflow, or area for a canoe or kayak.

If you plan on driving and spending most of the time on the road, there are better family vehicles to probably select from. The Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Dodge Durango are two, for consideration.

With the 4Runner now celebrating its 30th anniversary, it’s a vehicle that has not been compromised in the hardcore, go nearly anywhere department. And for us… that’s a good thing!

Toyota 4Runner
Toyota 4Runner: The 4Runner is happiest when it’s on the back-country trails and headed for outdoor adventures. It’s large and designed to be a vehicle for sportsmen.

Andy Lightbody is a TV/Video producer and host, as well as an outdoor writer/photographer. Lightbody is the former Managing Editor for Western Outdoors Magazine; Senior Editor at Petersen’s Hunting Magazine and Editor of the Guns & Ammo Book Division.

He remains an avid shooter, hunter and angler, as well as a regular contributor to the Sportsman’s Warehouse publication-Sportsman’s News Magazine. Visit Rocky Mountain Television/Productions :

Toyota 4Runner
Toyota 4Runner: Celebrating its 30th anniversary in production, the Toyota 4Runner remains one of the few full-sized SUVs that feature style, comfort and a lot more. Under the pretty face, it’s a rough, tough, go anywhere off roader.
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Frankly Dontcare

Drive your “ugly pregnant station wagon bishuv” and be proud it was an ‘muricuh auto maker. Then check the components and their origins. None of them are made here and built here. I bet the Honda Accord comes closer to having more American made parts built with American hands than does a Mayheecun Chevrolet.

Wild Bill

My pick up was assembled by my neighbor, a ninth generation Texan. He scrounged all the parts from guaranteed American vehicles produced in the 1950s and 60s. It runs pretty well on refined peanut oil. The parts are all from the various American manufacturers, but it is all American. We are not sure what to call it. I was thinking the Alamobile!


I’ve owned several Ford products over the years. Even with more mechanical issues than is acceptable I kept buying out of patriotism/loyalty. But when my trans went out in a 4 year old car at literally just over 60k miles and Ford told me the repair would be $5500, I was done. They don’t stand behind their products. I’ve since owned two American assembled Hondas and one Toyota and have not had ANY issues. Plus they hold their value for resale. That’s good for my personal economic environment. If American cars were as good as the Japanese cars their merit… Read more »

Clark Kent

Dave, Dave, Dave! It matters not where a vehicle is ASSEMBLED (not ‘made’). Lots of foreign parts are put into vehicles ASSEMBLED in the USA (and unfortunately, the same is true of domestic automakers). The funds sent to other countries by U.S. automakers originate from American banks. American stockholders own stock in USA businesses, which is a positive economic benefit for America. Buddy, the issue is not about patriotism but economics. You obviously fell asleep during Economics 101; but thanks for the laughs your posts provided anyway. I think you should stick to comedy…..

Clark Kent

Dave: Seems you failed your Economics 101 class (if you even know what ‘economics’ means). Do you not understand that when you spend money on a Japanese vehicle the PROFITS get sent back to Japan? Said PROFITS are then deposited in a JAPANESE bank. That means less money for Americans to borrow/invest/save. It matters not where the vehicle was assembled (not ‘made’, by the way). Sorry, buddy, but your lack of economics also extends to your lack of knowledge about engines. A V6 in a SUV? Fuggitaabboudddit. I think you have been posting after drinking too many German beers…….


Well said Mr Kent.

Clark Kent

5Spot: Except the profits all flow back to Japan. Dave: I think you meant ‘solid rock’ engine.


Afraid not, sir. It’s a great engine, and and a great SUV.

Next you’ll all be telling me not to drink German beer, as the profits head back to Germany.

Spare me the feigned outrage. It’s a global economy now. Vehicles are made all over the globe, regardless of manufacturer. Toyotas made in America, Chevrolets made in Korea, Dodge (an Italian company now, and don’t forget their involvement in WW2) made in Mexico, etc. Buy the vehicle you like.

John C

Dave it is good to know that you are a thinking person, although not a patriotic or conscionable one. Yes German beer is verboten and Jap is still Jap and German is still anti-American. Budweiser, Coors and many others are good enough. Be somebody who is is not so selfish as to rationalize away atrocities for convenience. Nothing feigned here.


Meanwhile the computer you’re typing on was probably made in China (or maybe even Japan), the clothes you wear were probably all made in places like Pakistan, Vietnam, or any number of deplorable countries overseas, and the gas you put in your “American” vehicle was likely produced by OPEC. Keep telling me about patriotism, please. Probably the only things we use here that are still made in America are our firearms. And Clark, if you think for a second that all of the profits turned by GM and Ford (the remaining ‘American’ manufacturers, Dodge is Italian now) remain in American… Read more »


P.S. Budweiser is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, who is a company headquartered in Belgium.


Nothing feigned here, and yes Michelob or Coors is great beer. You and other Americans have no pride.


Toyota has a plant in the US. So you can buy American and Toyota at the same time.


Informative article, well written with the exception of the departure and approach angle statement. However the Toyota 4Runner is still representative of the nice Japanese people who brought us Pearl Harbor and Midway and numerous other blood baths. It is completely un-American to buy Japanese products.

Scott H

Get over it 75 years geez


Thank you Scott, I just checked with V.A. and the thousands killed by the Japanese even after 75 years…. are still dead.

Mr. America

Hate to break it to you buddy, but 90% of any electronic equipment you own comes from Japan. More parts from Japan in your shitty American car than you’re clearly aware of. Take your bigotry somewhere else. One can only hope that in all your time on earth that you haven’t successfully reproduced

Steve H

You can’t buy American anymore, I just traded a 15 Silverado on a 16 4Runner , while the truck was nice you can tell the superior quality of the Toyota, and the all American Silverado is built in Mexico so GM American execs can save on labor and put more cash in their pocket that they aren’t going to share with you. Seems odd that the government bailed them out and they ship jobs out of the country. Maybe next time Mexico should bail them out. The Camry is built in Kentucky and has the highest content of American parts… Read more »


JohnC you dont know what you are talking about. A lot of American cars and parts are made in other countries now.


My FJ-40, does quite well. But if I were going the 4Runner route, I’d rather have a HiLux with Diesel Option instead…


That 4.0 V6 is a rock solid engine, Toyota did a really good job with it.


The author should stick to the city within a car.
A locking rear diff. has nothing to do with approach/departure angles.
Was the article proofread?

Clark Kent

IMHO a V6 engine screams ‘dirt weenie’.