When we left off our road trip story, we had just handed over the keys to our ride, leaving us stranded in Georgia. Thankfully, we had a plan. Unfortunately, that meant some poor vehicle had the unenviable position of following a rather superb SUV. Our friends at Toyota were more than happy to give us a lift home. Enter the Toyota 4Runner. A six-cylinder midsize SUV some $70,000 less expensive than the six-cylinder midsize SUV we just climbed out of. You’d think we might be setting ourselves up for disappointment. As we found out, you’d be wrong.
This current generation, the 4Runner’s fifth, debuted in 2009. A facelift in 2014 brings us to the 4Runner we know today. Sharing its platform, 4.0L V6, and 5-speed automatic transmission with the now-defunct FJ Cruiser, the 4Runner remains one of two body-on-frame SUVs offered by Toyota. A sharp looking, off-road capable alternative to the Highlander, the 4Runner is a stocky traditionalist. For those that don’t need a cargo bed with their low-range gearbox, it’s also a better method to transport four people than the Tacoma Double Cab.
Now that we’d brought the Cayenne home, the 4Runner had to bring us home, a journey of nearly 1,200 miles. Along the way we’d be stopping to visit family in Winston Salem and New Bern North Carolina before finally making the long last leg to Albany. The Toyota had no trouble entertaining four adults with two suitcases and two golf bags stowed in the back. Around town, the 4Runner feels more car-like and refined than the FJ Cruiser, mostly due to the more normal seating position and improved visibility. An ideal tourist vehicle, it can be street parked or driven right out onto a sandy beach.
Our Toyota 4Runner Trail Premium came equipped with the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System. The confusingly named option utilizes a closed loop of hydraulic fluid between the front and rear stabilizer bars. Unlike most vehicles, KDSS-equipped models have stabilizer bars that are jointed, with the stiffness of the joints determined by the pressure of the hydraulic fluid. On the road, the system remains static, reducing body roll. In off-road settings, it gives the 4Runner more suspension articulation to increase grip by keeping the tires on the ground.
The 4Runner’s highway manner took us by surprise. The SUV was unfazed by the 70mph speed limits of the South, ushering us rapidly towards the Mason-Dixon Line. The highways of Pennsylvania, worn and rutted by semis, and the tattered turnpikes of New Jersey did little to upset the 4Runner’s composure. Even an unplanned emergency braking maneuver left us impressed with the truck’s handling at the limit. Inside, the cabin was quiet, the sound system was good, and the seats left no ill effects after the 12-hour ride. In most cases, we stopped for human needs instead of fuel or needing to stretch. That’s a testament to the 4Runner’s long-haul ability.
|2016 Toyota 4Runner Trail Premium
|Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) w/ options||$1,345|
|As Tested MSRP||$41,840|