The Toyota 4Runner is a thoroughly modern but traditional sport utility. It excels at off-road capability. If your weekend involves driving over rugged terrain, this is an excellent choice. Yet it's smooth and quiet and highly sophisticated in terms of technology and features. The 2005 Toyota 4Runner models offer more responsive performance than last year's models, whether you get the standard V6 or optional V8. The V8 benefits from a more sophisticated variable-valve setup with drive-by-wire, boosting its output to 270 horsepower, substantially more than last year's 235. Last year, the only good reason to opt for the V8 was to pull a trailer, but this year's V8 is a much more compelling upgrade, delivering strong, responsive acceleration performance out on the highway. With its 330 pound-feet of torque 4Runner 4x4 V8 is rated to tow up to 7,000 pounds. The V6 gets enhanced response from a five-speed automatic transmission that replaces last year's four-speed automatic. (The V8 continues to come with the five-speed automatic as well.) More gears means better response for any given situation. Last year's model performed very well with the V6 and four-speed automatic, and it was our preference, but the new five-speed is a better match and offers smooth shifting and sophisticated features, including Artificial Intelligence. The 4Runner is the real deal, ready to tackle truly rugged terrain. This is no car-based crossover station wagon deal. It's built on a rugged ladder frame with a solid rear axle. While some consider this design dated when compared to the latest SUVs with unibody construction and independent rear suspensions, Toyota believes the traditional package offers better recreational capability and long-term durability in working-truck conditions. Still, it doesn't ride like a buckboard wagon. Toyota engineers went to great pains to prove that this durable, adventurous configuration need not compromise everyday comfort and convenience. The 4Runner is quite comfortable around town and on the highway with a nice ride quality. But hit the dirt, and it's loaded with the latest off-road electronic technology, including Hill Start Assist and Downhill Assist Control. An optional linked shock-absorber system improves handling on the highway. Completely redesigned for 2003, the 4Runner represents Toyota's best effort at delivering outstanding off-road capability with high levels of comfort and convenience for everyday use. Inside it's roomy and comfortable. An optional third-row seat expands the passenger capacity to seven, but the seat can be folded over or removed for cargo space. The 4Runner comes standard with running boards and more upscale body-colored bumpers and lower body cladding. The optional GPS navigation system includes a rear-mounted video camera, useful for checking behind the vehicle before backing up. While the 4Runner may seem old school to people who want an all-weather sport touring vehicle, it's the hot ticket for outdoor enthusiasts for its ability to deal with primitive roads, beat-up two-tracks or serious mud or sand. Yet it won't punish its owner in everyday use.