Stepping into the 2018 Toyota 4Runner, it’s easy to forget what year it is. The design hasn’t changed in years, and there’s none of the modern tech you come to expect from modern vehicles. But for most fans of this off-road stalwart, that’s perfectly fine with them. Why fix something if it isn’t broken? Available in several different trim levels, we only got the chance to try out the ‘Limited’ version, which is the highest trim level available with the most supposed luxury. Here’s why we think that’s the worst choice if you’re buying a 4Runner.
First of all, it’s expensive. The starting price of the Limited is $45k, and that’s a lot of money for a small, body-on-frame SUV. What we mean by body-on-frame is that there’s a separate ladder frame that the body is bolted to. It’s an older way of building a vehicle, and usually means there’s less space inside. It does have advantages for off-road use, most notably with ground clearance. But shelling out that much money really doesn’t get you a better drivetrain, suspension or any more tech. It gets you leather seats, with heated and cooled options, as well as a tiny navigation/infotainment screen. But the attempts to ‘update’ the classic off-roader fail miserably.
All 4Runners come with the venerable 4.0-Liter V6 churning out 270 horsepower, which is a respectable amount. But when you consider that Toyota’s current Camry engine delivers over 300 horsepower with only 3.5 liters of displacement, you start getting the idea that this engine is a bit dated too. And it feels that way on the road, lacking in low-end torque and carrying a little more vibration than we’re used to with modern engines. You know what, though? It’s kind of charming. We actually like the slightly older feel of the engine, I guess it makes us nostalgic for a simpler time in motoring.
For Toyota to give us the fully loaded ‘Limited’ trim level really misses the mark of what this thing is all about. There are two different ‘TRD Pro’ trim levels available, starting at either $37k or $43k, and both are a better choice here. This thing is made to go off-road, with excellent ground clearance and approach/departure angles built in. For a small SUV, it has six-lug hubs for extra durability. It’s made for gobbling up unimproved terrain. So why get the luxury version with useless all-season tires? We want to the off-road tuned suspension and knobby tires of the TRD Pro version.
As far as interior space goes, there’s a decent amount given the dated construction. Body-on-frame vehicles typically lack headroom because their body literally sits on top of the frame as opposed to having the frame integrated into the body. In this case there’s plenty of headroom, and overall a decent amount of space inside for such a ‘small’ SUV. Looks are well, 4Runner. It’s unmistakable going down the road what this is. What’s interesting is that this isn’t a vehicle I paid much attention to, or even noticed. But while we were driving this one, we noticed them everywhere. The majority of newer ones I saw were the TRD Pro version, reinforcing our thoughts about which model people will like the most.
Ultimately, people buy 4Runners because they are 4Runner enthusiasts. That might mean they have had one for 25 years, or it may mean that they love going off road and know that the 4Runner is a capable tool. It’s a vehicle that has picked up a loyal cult-following. To that end, we hope Toyota modernizes it a bit soon – but they need to be careful about modernizing it too much. It could easily lose its vintage charm.
Special thanks to Toyota Motor Corporation for providing the 2018 Toyota 4Runner for our review