We spend a week in Toyota's old school, off-road capable, body-on-frame midsize SUV.

2016 Toyota 4Runner front 3/4 view



All season capability



Highway ride

Steering response

Interior materials

2016 Toyota 4Runner rear 3/4 view

2016 Toyota 4Runner

The Toyota 4Runner has been around since 1984 when it nearly single-handedly created the sport utility segment. The current generation was introduced back in 2009 as a 2010 model. And while Toyota typically updates its passenger cars every 4 to 5 years, truck-based models are on a different schedule – generally waiting 7 years or more for major changes. In 2014, the 4Runner received a few cosmetic changes, but for 2016 it soldiers on unchanged.

The 4Runner currently shares its basic platform architecture with just one other model from the Japanese manufacturer – the more luxurious Lexus GX 460. A second platform-mate, the FJ Cruiser, was phased out here in the U.S. at the end of its 2014 model year.

2016 Toyota 4Runner front fascia


Up front, the 2016 refresh brought a new fascia with an aggressive, jut-jawed grille set above a wide, silver-finished bumper, narrow, tapering headlamp enclosures and a pair of round fog light set into a pair of vertical, trapezoidal pods.

The hindquarters are far simpler, with a pair of vertical taillamp housings bracketing the wide rear hatch and a silver-trimmed lower diffuser that mimics the front bumper. Front and rear mud guards are standard as are roof rails for all trim levels.

2016 Toyota 4Runner rear fascia

All in all, the consensus here was a preference for the old grille treatment although we have to admit that, lately, off-road vehicle manufacturers have found it a challenge to create a rugged-looking front end while, at the same time, maximizing a vehicle's approach angle (in a nod to both the 4Runner and the Jeep Cherokee).

2016 Toyota 4Runner dashboard


Inside, the current 4Runner is starting to show its age. While the dashboard and center stack were both part of the refresh, most of the plastic surfaces are hard and some of the trim pieces look cheap. It's not really up to current Toyota standards and looks out of place even on an SUV – especially considering its $40,000-plus sticker price.

Aside from that, the gauges and knobs are large, easy to read and intuitive to use. An especially nice feature is the new instrumentation with a speedometer and tachometer and a center screen you can scroll through with features ranging from outside temperature to average fuel consumption.

2016 Toyota 4Runner front seats

The Trail Premium model comes standard with Toyota's Entune infotainment system that includes a 6.1-inch touch-screen and such features as Bluetooth, iPod connectivity, voice recognition and text-to-voice. Once you get used to the way it works – picking navigation or any other feature requires hitting the “app” button first – it's easy to use.

Getting into a 4Runner can be something of a challenge as it's always had something of an odd seating position. Unlike car-based crossovers, your legs are at about a 45 degree angle instead of positioned 90 degrees in front of you. Once seated, however, there's plenty of leg, shoulder and head room for two adults up front and three in the middle seat. The steering wheel both tilts and telescopes and, on our Trail Premium, both the driver and passenger seats feature power adjustments. But the front seats could use more bolstering and only the driver's seat features a power lumbar adjustment.

2016 Toyota 4Runner rear seating

The 4Runner also has a fairly high beltline and comparatively low roofline, which makes the windows and the windshield seem narrow. Despite this design, the view out the front and sides is excellent. Even the rear three-quarters view is very good - especially with the rear headrests flipped forward - as there's a good-sized window between the C- and D-pillars. With the rear headrests up, the view still isn't bad and, keep in mind, a rear backup camera is standard and it's displayed on the large touch screen.

A nice touch, one that you rarely see anymore, is s power rear window. It's controlled from a switch on the center console and opening it, plus the sunroof, moves a lot of fresh air through the cabin without having to crack the windows. And speaking of the rear window, the rear wiper is stored up under the upper spoiler and away from accumulating snow and ice. Another high point is cargo capacity. The rear seatback splits 40/20/40 and folds flat – converting the 46.3 cubic feet of storage behind the rear seat to a voluminous 88.8 cubic feet.

2016 Toyota 4Runner steering wheel and instrumentation


The 4Runner's suspension consists of a double wishbone independent setup with coilover shocks and a stabilizer bar up front, while the solid rear axle is located by a four-link suspension with a lateral (Panhard) rod with coil springs and a stabilizer bar. Skid plates for the engine, transfer case (on 4x4 models) and fuel tank are standard. 17-inch seven-spoke alloy wheels are also standard and are wrapped in Bridgestone Dueler H/T 684II P265/70R17 all season tires.

The result is 7.87 inches of front and 9.1 inches of rear wheel travel. With standard 32-inch tires, ground clearance is 9.6 inches (8.7 inches for 4x2 models) while approach and departure angles are 33 degrees and 26 degrees, respectively. Maximum towing capacity for those so inclined and with the optional Class Four receiver hitch is 4,700 pounds.

2016 Toyota 4Runner all-aluminum 4.0-liter DOHC V6

Under the hood

The only engine offered is an all-aluminum 4.0-liter DOHC V6 generating 270 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 278 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission. Maximum towing capacity, for those so inclined, is 4,700 pounds (rated using SAE towing standard J2807) using a Class Four receiver hitch.

EPA mileage estimates for 4x2 models are 17/23/19 city/highway/combined, while 4x4 iterations (the Trail is only available as a 4x4) are rated at 17/22/19 city/highway/combined. Our observed fuel economy was 17.6 mpg in a combination of both city and freeway driving.

2016 Toyota 4Runner center console detail

On the road

With an overall height of 71.5 inches and, on the Trail model, with 9.6 inches of ground clearance and the concurrent high center of gravity, you'd expect a fair amount of body motion and quite a bit of body lean in corners – and there is. In addition, the ride, while unaffected by Michigan's rough road surfaces and ubiquitous potholes, tends to feel bouncy, especially at freeway speeds. But the 4Runner's handling ultimately feels secure, aided no doubt by its standard stability control.

The brakes are easy to modulate and provide excellent feedback through the brake pedal, although the 4Runner has a tendency to nosedive during hard braking. At the same time, there's very little feedback through the steering wheel, a condition that's especially apparent at freeway speeds.

2016 Toyota 4Runner 17-inch alloy wheel detail

On the other hand, even on the expressway, the 4Runner is not affected by crosswinds or pavement irregularities.

Other than some engine noise on hard acceleration, Toyota has also done a good job keeping sound levels low. We noticed very little wind, road or tire noise finding its way into the cabin.

2016 Toyota 4Runner maximum cargo area

2016 Toyota 4Runner prices and equipment

2016 4Runners are available in 6 trim levels (SR5, SR5 Premium, Trail, Trail Premium, TRD Pro and Limited) with 3 drive configurations (4x2, part-time 4WD with Active Traction Control or full-time 4WD with Active Traction Control).

Standard equipment, even on the base SR5 model, is fairly extensive and includes the requisite power features - windows, locks, mirrors (the windows are auto up/down with jam protection in all positions) - air conditioning, keyless entry, power rear liftglass, back-up camera, leather steering wheel and shift knob, variable wipers and an audio system with Bluetooth hands-free phone capability and ten cup and bottle holders.

2016 Toyota 4Runner vertical cargo space

The Trail Premium trim adds part-time 4WD with Active Traction Control, color-keyed front and rear bumpers, power moonroof, premium audio, Toyota's Entune App Suite, SofTex seat trim (heated and power-adjustable front seats) and an overhead console with Multi-terrain Select, Active Traction Control, VSC cutoff, locking rear differential and Crawl Control switches.

2016 4Runner pricing starts at $34,555, including delivery fees, for a base RWD SR5 and can top out at over $48,000 for one in Limited trim (4WD) with options and accessories.

2016 Toyota 4Runner rear spoiler and wiper

Our Nautical Blue Trail Premium 4x4 tester had a base price of $39,095. Adding $200 for all-weather floor and cargo mats, $155 for the retractable cargo cover, $49 for a cargo net, $499 for remote start plus $9000 for delivery, processing and handling, minus $750 in "Keep it Wild Savings" brought the total MSRP to $40,148.

2016 Toyota 4Runner headlamp detail

The Bottom Line

There's a lot to like about the 2016 Toyota 4Runner including a quiet interior with good driver visibility and plenty of room for five adults as well as good fuel economy for a vehicle of this type. It also comes standard with real off-road cred: a fully independent suspension, skid plates, tow hitch, a crawl mode and hill descent on 4x4 models and, on the Trail model, approach and departure angles of 33 and 26 degrees, respectively.

2016 Toyota 4Runner hood scoop detail

On the other hand, its on-road manners leave much to be desired. Not only does it have a tendency to lean in turns, pavement ripples cause the ride to get bouncy and keeping it pointed straight down the freeway requires a lot of attention.

But as far as genuine off-road sport utility vehicles go, the 2016 4Runner remains the real deal. So while most buyers would be better off owning a crossover, those looking for real off-road capability with the kind of quality and reliability Toyota is known for should put the 4Runner at or near the top of their lists.

2016 Toyota 4Runner hatch garnish detail