Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Big and Bad, in good ways

Photo from Toyota.com
Rowdy, off-road ready truck based SUV's were once all the rage. However, shoppers soon discovered that bouncy rides and poor fuel economy were also part of that deal. That ushered in the era of the crossover, which look alot like SUV's, but lack the truck based toughness. There are only a hand full of traditional SUV's left these days, and the 2016 Toyota 4Runner stands proudly among them. Boasting available 3-row seating, a spacious cargo hold, and the Toyota reputation for reliability, the 4Runner stays true to its roots as a hairy-chested beast ready for almost anything.

      The 2016 Toyota 4Runner is a midsize SUV offered in 4 trim levels: SR5, Trail, TRD Pro, and Limited. The SR5 and Trail are divided into base and Premium sub trims. Five passenger seating is standard, but an optional 50/50 split third row seat is available on SR5 and Limited trims.

Photo from Toyota.com
      The SR5 comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, skid plates, mud guards, a tow hitch, hill start assist and hill descent control, a rear-view camera, fog lights, heated exterior mirrors, rear privacy glass, LED tail-lamps, roof rails, a power lift-gate window, windshield wiper de-icer, keyless entry, cruise control, a/c with second row vents, cloth upholstery, 6-way power driver seat, a leather wrapped tilt and telescoping steering wheel, and 40/20/40 split folding and reclining rear seats. Standard electronics include Bluetooth, and an 8-speaker sound system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen interface.

      The SR5 Premium adds a sunroof, upgraded exterior mirrors, leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, power front passenger seat, an auto dimming rear view mirror, and an upgraded version of Entune as well as a navigation system.

      Go with the 4WD only Trail trim and you will get the base SR5 equipment plus unique 17-inch alloy wheels, hood scoop, silver exterior trim accents, locking rear differential, selectable terrain modes and crawl control. The Trail Premium adds all of the SR5 Premium equipment.

      The TRD Pro comes with most of the Trail Premium's standard equipment, and adds matte black 17-inch wheels with special off road tires, automatic headlamps, TRD-stamped aluminium skid plate, Bilstein shocks, upgraded front springs, higher ride height, a unique black front grille and various TRD themed aesthetic upgrades.

Photo from Toyota.com
  The 4Runner Limited includes most of the Trail Premium's content but it lacks the mud guards, locking rear differential, terrain-mode select and crawl control. It's optional full time 4WD instead employs a locking center differential. Other highlights include 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive roll-reducing dampers, automatic headlamps, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and ignition, dual zone auto a/c, leather upholstery, ventilated front seats and a 15 speaker JBL sound system.

      The 2016 Toyota 4Runner uses a 4.0 liter V6 engine that makes 270 horsepower and 278 lb. ft of torque. Your only transmission is a 5-speed automatic. The SR5 and Limited models are either rear-wheel drive or 4WD, while Trail and TRD Pro are 4WD only. When properly equipped, you can tow up to 5,000 lbs with your 4Runner. In performance testing, a 4Runner Trail went from 0-60 mph in about 8 seconds, which is average in the class. EPA numbers come in at 19 mpg combined for rear-wheel drive models and 18 mpg combined for the 4WD equipped models.

      Standard safety features on the 2016 4Runner include anti-lock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front seat side airbags, full length side curtain airbags, front knee airbags and active front head rests. A rear-view camera is standard across all models, but front and rear parking sensors are only optional on the Limited trim.

      In brake testing, my 4Runner tester was able to come to a stop from 60 mph in about 132, which is on the long side for an SUV, but still not bad for something off-road oriented. Crash testing by the government earned the 4Runner 4-out of 5 stars for overall crash protection.
Photo from Toyota.com

      The interior of the 2016 Toyota 4Runner features instruments and controls that are well laid out and easy to use. Most owners will be satisfied with the quality of the cabin materials, which are geared more towards durability than looking good. If you want something more plush, a Jeep Grand Cherokee might be a better option.

      All 4Runner's come with a touchscreen audio interface mounted high up on the center stack. Depending on which trim level you opted for, you get various degrees of functionality from the Entune system. All trims except for the base SR5 and Trail include a navigation system.

      As for passenger accommodations, the 2016 4Runner's 5-passenger seating arrangement does include a 40/20/40 split folding and reclining second row. The optional third row might be a tempting option if you carpool, but it does have one of the tightest and smallest third rows of any offering in this class.

      In all actuality, the space in back is better suited for cargo than anything else. There is a enormous 47 cubic feet behind the second row of seats, and that number grows to 89.7 cubic feet with the seats folded down.

Photo from Toyota.com
      The 4Runner is designed to provide utility for when the pavement ends. It is at it's best when you are plugging along on off road trails, and the extra off road goodies on the Trail and TRD Pro trims only add to that fun. At the same time, it is refined enough for being a daily driver, though lots of bumps make it into the cabin, as with many other truck based vehicles. The 4Runner's steering feels a bit light in normal driving situations, but it is ideal for off roading.

The engine is strong for most uses, but there is no denying that you can get more power from the V8 equipped rivals. The 4Runner's 5-speed automatic transmission provides well-timed shifts, but another gear wouldn't hurt it either.

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