THE 2012 TOYOTA 4RUNNER REVIEW
Full Review by Andy: Run For It!
The Toyota 4Runner is often judged on what it is not. Reviewers are too quick to harp on its flaws and blithely ignore its considerable strengths. Their sense of adventure muffled by caffeine, clocks, and other traits of urban civilization, automotive journalists forget what the 4Runner is. The 4Runner is a tribute to treeless tundra, cracked granite boulders, and a sky that stretches past the imagination. Jack Kerouac meets Jack London, you say? It is that dual nature, the ability to thrive in the outdoors and survive indoors, that makes the 4Runner one of the best of its kind.
What Does It Look Like?
Unlike other Toyota products that appear either bland or effeminate, the 4Runner reeks of masculinity. Its grille is vaguely reminiscent of the bulging Tundra’s, while the brusque, square wheel arches and honed rear end promise no-nonsense talent. The 4Runner has over 9 inches of ground clearance, roof rails, and 24-degree approach/departure angles.
Trappings & Trimmings
In art, perception matters more than shape. Were the 4Runner to be billed as a family-oriented grocery getter, the utilitarian aesthetic, beveled dashboard and lumps of hard plastic would be rightfully condemned. But as the 4Runner is not an urban runabout, its down-to-earth interior suits its purpose. However, the interior could do with more touch-point padding and artful texture.
(See 80+ images of the 2012 Toyota 4Runner).
Packin’ a Powertrain
The sole engine for the 4Runner is a 4.0-liter V6 pounding out 270 horsepower. With FWD, it achieves 17/23 mpg; 4WD drops highway mpg to 22. (See estimated annual fuel costs with the 4Runner). All models come standard with a fuel-efficient Eco mode. The 4Runner SR5 trim has a part-time 4WD system while the Limited trim uses a full-time 4WD with a limited-slip center differential. Properly equipped, all models can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
With its rough-and-tough construction, the Toyota 4Runner spawns dreams of Factory Butte, Utah and the Badlands of South Dakota. All models come with hill descent and ascent control, a chassis made from adamantium, and more off-road grunt than a horde of ATVs. The 4Runner Trail has a locking rear differential, off road-oriented tires, Crawl Control, and a multi-terrain system. A KDSS off-road suspension is optional for the Trail model. My advice? Ditch work, aim towards the horizon and drive.
On-road ride quality is largely a function of which model you drive. The base SR5 is composed but not comfortable, while the Trail drives like a Panzer and the Limited cossets occupants with its adaptive dampers. Depending on the drivetrain, the 4Runner shoots to 60 mph in 7.1-8.2 seconds.
Whether you hit pedestrians or passenger vehicles, the 2012 Toyota 4Runner has you covered. It is well-equipped to alleviate collisions, coming standard with eight airbags, rear parking sensors, foglamps, and more acronyms than the Scripps Spelling Bee. The Limited model adds Safety Connect telematics and a rearview mirror. Exempting mediocre ratings in rollover and roof strength tests, the 4Runner garnered top scores in industry crash testing.
Comfort & Cargo
Functionality is an art form. Think about it: Toyota designers needed to create a cabin fit for five people of all ages, height, size, constitution, walks of life, and religious beliefs. But that’s not the surprising part. What’s startling is that Toyota succeeded. The blocky cabin seats five in comfort, even for the long haul. An optional third row expands seating capacity to seven but is only fit for children. Every square inch and micron of the 4Runner’s interior exudes functionality, from a 40/20/40-split folding second-row bench seat to an optional sliding rear cargo deck. All told, the 4Runner can hold up to 90-cft worth of stuff. That is art.
The base SR5 trim ($31,090) is fully outfitted for adventure and ease. In addition to basic comfort and convenience features, it offers Bluetooth and an eight-speaker audio system with satellite radio and a universal audio interface. Stepping up to the Limited model ($38,595) adds dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and other accoutrements one usually expects in a top-end Land Cruiser or a Land Rover Range Rover. The Trail model ($36,755) loses the Limited’s luxurious upgrades but offers a rearview camera, a sunroof, water-resistant fabric, and more off-road trappings than I have space or patience to list.
Should you run for the 4Runner or run for the hills (pardon the pun)? That depends on your preferences. The Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Explorer, and Nissan Pathfinder are all comparable models. Test drive the group and pick your preference.
Engine: 4.0-liter V6
Horsepower & Torque: 270 hp @5,600 rpm, 278 lb-ft of torque @4,400 rpm
Transmission: five-speed shiftable automatic
Fuel Economy: 17/23/19 mpg (FWD)
Base MSRP: $31,090
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