I’m a tough customer when it comes to SUVs, and you should be, too. Practically every manufacturer and their brother boasts a big guy in their fleet, and all claim superiority.
Toyota’s 4Runner turned me into a pre-donut Homer Simpson on sight, though. Maybe it was the acres of black metal on my tester; I can’t remember the last time a manufacturer provided me with a black car, and I was totally down with the gangsta thing. Maybe it was because I had just returned from France, where things are small, and I was in the mood for a big experience, or because I’d been traveling for a total of 18 hours and I wanted to be in the driver’s seat for a change.
Whatever the reason, it was instant bromance between me and the 4Runner, cruising down an empty highway on a smooth-riding V6 with 270 horses, a full-time four-wheel drive system, a 5-speed automatic transmission with speed-sensing power steering, and 20-inch alloy wheels. The inside was equally impressive, with high-quality components, a solid-feeling steering wheel, and road responses that matched my acceleration, braking and turning desires with no questions asked. True, its V6 isn’t a monster, but that helps the vehicle achieve approximately 17 miles per gallon in city driving, 21 on the highway. That’s far from Prius territory, of course, but you’re not going to get third-row seating in a Prius, nor the 4Runner’s interior acreage. With seats folded down, you’ve got 90 cubic feet of cargo space.
The 4Runner shares its chassis with the Toyota Tacoma pickup truck, meaning the ride wasn’t meant to be limo-smooth from the get-go. But Toyota’s made adjustments for this year and I had no problem with the ride even when smacking potholes. You’ve also got up-to-the-second computer technology inside as well as a reverse camera, though every vehicle in this segment has those accessories. Some sweet options include automatic running boards ($1500) and leather-trimmed 50/50 split fold-flat third row seating ($1365.)
The best SUVs walk a fine line between great looks while avoiding an overdose of McGaudy, and the 4Runner succeeds. For more information, click on Toyota4Runner.