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3/4 Front Glamour 2012 Toyota 4Runner

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Expert's Rating


MPG 17 City / 22 Highway
  • Second and third row seats fold flat
  • Impressive off-road ability
  • Plenty of cargo room
  • Less towing capacity than competitors
  • Styling may not be for everyone
  • Large wheels make ride feel stiff
, Automotive Editor -
The 4Runner is one of the few midsize SUVs popular in the 1990s that hasn't been turned into a car-based crossover. That means this Toyota is an able tower and has strong off-road credentials. If high ground clearance to navigate a rocky or muddy trail is at the top of your priority list, the 4Runner's powerful V6 and tough mechanicals could be the ticket.


Toyota offers the 4Runner in SR5, Trail Edition and Limited trims. All are powered by a 4.0-liter 270-horsepower V6 with a five-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive is standard on SR5 and Limited, while the Trail Edition comes only with a part-time four-wheel drive system with locking differential and an electronic terrain system similar to Land Rover's Terrain Response. The SR5 is available with part-time four-wheel drive, while the Limited gets a full-time system as an option. Towing capacity for all models is limited to 5,000 lbs., or similar to what some crossovers are rated at.

See our picks for best SUVs in the CarsDirect SUV Buying Guide.

SR5 models get 17-inch alloy wheels, power windows, locks and heated mirrors, air conditioning, cruise control, a power rear window, Bluetooth and an 8-speaker audio system with AUX and USB inputs. The Trail has the most off-road bias, coming with four-wheel drive, Crawl Control (a system that controls the throttle and brakes for hill climbs or descents), water-resistant seats, big off-road tires and two 120-volt power outlets. The Limited is the most luxurious with adaptive suspension, keyless entry and start, heated leather seats and Toyota's Entune system. A small third-row seat is optional on SR5 and Limited to bring total capacity to seven passengers.

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is the 4Runner's chief competitor. Jeep offers a V8 with more towing capacity and more luxurious interiors on top trim levels. But the 4Runner offers that hardcore Trail edition and can seat up to seven. The Land Rover LR4 meets or beats the 4Runner off road and also boasts adjustable suspension to boost ground clearance, as well as a more luxurious interior with available third row. But the Land Rover is much more expensive and its V8 is less fuel efficient. The GMC Acadia crossover can tow about as much as the 4Runner and seats up to eight people with a more comfortable third-row, but lacks any off-road prowess. Ford's Explorer has off-road tools similar to the 4Runner's terrain system and hill descent control, and boasts a standard third-row seat and turbocharged engine options. But the Explorer's car-based design means it has less ground clearance and lacks locking differentials.

If your driving includes a lot of towing and crossing treacherous surfaces, the 4Runner could be a good choice. But a number of other SUVs offer the same, or better, off-road credentials and have nicer interiors. And crossovers are better at carrying people. The 4Runner's appeal may be narrower than some midsize SUVs, but for some people it's just the right tool for tackling big jobs the car-based crossovers just aren't cut out to accomplish.

Which Style To Buy?

2012 Toyota 4Runner
Starting price

2012 Toyota 4Runner Limited

Recommended for: Shoppers who want a luxurious, multi-purpose SUV

The Limited offers a dose of luxury with the off-road capability of the SR5. Standard features include leather seats, power and heated front seats, the adjustable suspension dampers, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry and start and the Entune infotainment system. Optional is a comprehensive navigation system that replaces Entune with SiriusXM traffic and weather and a 15-speaker JBL sound system with subwoofer. A third-row seat, automatic running boards and sliding rear cargo deck are all options.

2012 Toyota 4Runner
Starting price

2012 Toyota 4Runner SR5

Recommended for: Shoppers who want comfort with all-terrain capability

The SR5 comes with all of the basics a midsize SUV driver would want. Power windows, locks and mirrors are included, as is air conditioning with rear air outlets, a power sliding rear window, foglamps, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth, 8-speaker audio system with satellite radio and Bluetooth. The Entune Package with Navigation is optional, combining Toyota's Entune infotainment system with HD radio and a 6.1-inch touchscreen navigation system. A backup camera is optional, as is a split-folding third-row seat, anti-theft system, automatic running boards and 8-way power driver's seat with 4-way power for the front passenger's seat.

2012 Toyota 4Runner
Starting price

2012 Toyota 4Runner Trail

Recommended for: Buyers looking for the ultimate off-road machine

The Trail comes ready for arduous missions, with beefier tires, four-wheel drive with locking differential and a brace of electronics, including Toyota's Crawl Control – which modulates the throttle and brakes for hill climbs and descents. Other standard features include a sunroof, water-repellant seat fabric, power front seats, 2 120-volt outlets and a sliding rear cargo deck. Also optional is the Entune Package like on the SR5 and the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System.

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