Unlike a lot of modern crossovers and SUVs, the Toyota 4Runner is part of a dying breed of vehicles that can go anywhere. With its body-on-frame construction, the 4Runner shares many of the same features, construction, and driving characteristics of a pickup truck, making it a force to be reckoned with when there's snow on the ground or a steep hill to climb. Regardless of what's in the SUV's way, the 2018 Toyota 4Runner is one of the few vehicles on the road that can get through a serious challenge.
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2018 Toyota 4Runner Overview
What's New for 2018
Not much has changed for the 2018 4Runner. There are two new packages for the old-school SUV: the Wilderness Package and the TRD Enhancement Package.
The Wilderness Package, which adds roof rack crossbars, all-weather floor liners, and a cargo tray, is available on all of the 4Runner trims, except for the range-topping Limited. The TRD Enhancement Package, which is only available on off-road-focused TRD trims, brings 17-inch TRD matte gray alloy wheels and a TRD-branded aluminum front skid plate – to keep all of the SUV's parts safe when off-roading.
Lastly, two new colors have been added to the lineup: Cavalry Blue and Midnight Black Metallic. While not a new color, Super White is now available on the entire 4Runner lineup, instead of being a bespoke color for the TRD Pro trims.
Choosing Your Toyota 4Runner
The 4Runner has a lot to offer those that are willing to trade some comfort for off-roading capability. Power for the SUV comes from a 4.0-liter V6 engine that produces 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. The engine is paired to a five-speed automatic transmission that has a sequential shift mode. All 4Runner trims, when properly equipped, are rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds.
As an off-roading-friendly SUV, the 4Runner comes with a lot of performance-oriented goodies. Two-wheel-drive models feature an automatic limited-slip differential function on the traction control (TRAC) system. The function allows some wheel slippage to let the SUV dig out of tricky situations. Getting the available part-time four-wheel-drive system also adds Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) and improves the SUV's off-roading prowess thanks to a two-speed transfer case with low-range.
The range-topping 4Runner Limited trim takes off-roading to a new level thanks to a full-time four-wheel-drive system that utilizes a Torsen center differential that has a locking feature that drivers can access via a center console-mounted switch. For most driving situations, the system splits the engine's power 40:60, front to back. The system, though, is smart and adapts to changing conditions. If the system senses that the SUV's front wheels are slipping in a turn, it sends more power to the back, going with a 30:70 split. If the rear wheels are slipping in a corner, the differential sends more power to the front (53:47 split).
With the 4Runner, it's important to accept the fact that it's a little more rugged and a little rougher around the edges than the majority of other SUVS on the road. The TRD Off-Road Premium trim strikes the right balance of being able to tackle any type of terrain, while being enjoyable for everyday use. While expensive, the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System is a must-have for enthusiasts that want excellent off-roading characteristics.
2018 Toyota 4Runner Review
Looking past the 2018 Toyota 4Runner's choppy ride, mediocre handling, poor fuel economy, and minimal safety features, you'll find that behind its rugged style lurks exceptional off-road prowess, sophisticated suspension options, and slick touches like a power rear window and an available sliding rear cargo deck.
2018 Toyota 4Runner starts at $35,400 for a rear-wheel-drive SR5 (which you don't want) and climbs to over $48,000 for an all-wheel-drive Limited equipped with a third row and optional paint. A single engine/transmission is offered, while rear-wheel-drive is standard on SR5 and Limited models. SR5 4x4 models feature a part-time four-wheel-drive system with active traction control, while a locking rear differential and multi-terrain select and crawl control are added to TRD models. TRD Pro models receive an off-road capable Bilstein-developed system, while the Limited rounds out the offerings with full-time four-wheel drive, active traction control, and a lockable Torsen limited-slip center differential.
The usual power features are present, along with seventeen-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, leather-trimmed steering wheel, power liftgate window, Bluetooth, satellite radio, Toyota's app suite with navigation, and a rear view camera. But unlike most Toyotas, advanced safety systems like blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning are not offered.
With the 4Runner's off-road prowess in mind, we'd skip the SR5 trim and head for the TRD Off-Road model that adds the upgraded 4WD system along with unique seventeen-inch alloy wheels and all-terrain tires, color-keyed bumpers and exterior trim bits, heated outside mirrors, fog lights, and overfenders. It also allows access to the 4Runner's Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System that uses hydraulics to adjust the front and rear sway bars – loosening them for extended wheel travel in off-road conditions and tightening them for better control on-road.
Here's how we'd build it
- Model: 2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road
- Engine: 4.0-liter V6
- Output: 270 hp / 278 lb-ft
- Transmission: Five-speed automatic
- Drivetrain: Four-wheel-drive
- MPG: 17 City / 21 Hwy
- Options: Kinetic Dynamic Suspension system ($1,750)
- Base Price:$38,030 (including a $995 destination charge)
- Best Value Price:$39,780
The real deal with a 5,000-pound towing capacity, 9.6 inches of ground clearance, 33-degree approach, and 26-degree departure angles; a two-speed transfer case allows the 4Runner to handle challenging terrain, while the TRD Off-Road and Pro's Crawl Control automatically applies the brakes at each corner, helping it creep over obstacles. The V6 provides decent – if unexceptional – acceleration, while the five-speed automatic is quick to respond to driver input, even on steep grades with a full load of passengers and cargo.
But the goodness ends when the pavement begins as the soft ride – courtesy of tall tires – can turn raucous over rolling pavement, advanced driver safety assists aren't offered, and the steering is numb, with light on-center feel and very little feedback to the driver. Adding to the jam pile are mediocre handling and a V6 that sounds rough when pressed, and in tandem with the four-wheel-drive system and antiquated five-speed auto, only manages an EPA-estimated 17 miles per gallon in the city, 20 on the highway, and 18 combined.
Aggressive sheetmetal punctuated by an underbite-inspired front fascia is wrapped around an interior with comfortable first and second row seats and an above average 47.2 cu ft of cargo room. Controls and knobs are well laid out and intuitive, an optional pull-out sliding rear cargo floor makes loading items a breeze, while a 70's-era station wagon-style power rear window aids loading and natural cabin ventilation – it's very fun to drive down the road with the back window down.
But the tall ride height means getting in and out is more difficult – especially for children - making the optional running boards almost a necessity (they also compromise ground clearance off road), while the optional third row is only suitable for small children. The shallow dash – a boon for off-road visibility – makes the interior feel claustrophobic, while the 4Runner also lacks a power tailgate option.
The Best and Worst Things
The 4Runner's rugged style matches its off-road capability and solid feel. We only wish it offered more advanced safety features and better fuel economy.
Right For? Wrong For?
The 4Runner is a great choice for weekend warriors looking for a more refined off-roader than the Jeep Wrangler.
A high ride height, limited safety features, and poor fuel economy spell doom for families looking for an around-town commuter.
The Bottom Line
Despite limited safety features and poor fuel economy, the 4Runner is a solid, capable, true off-roader, and a worthwhile choice for the family that's outgrown a Jeep Wrangler but isn't willing to lose that go-anywhere character or elemental driving experience.
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