That’s so last decade. If you think Toyota’s slab-sided 4Runner looks dated by modern standards, you’d be right. This bulky mid-size SUV is now into its 14th model year, with only one refresh in that whole time. Toyota has tried to keep the design contemporary by adding creases and contrasting materials, but this vaguely feline vehicle is way past its prime. Then again, its competitors aren’t exactly oil paintings, from the WWII-descended Jeep Wrangler to the rather gormless-looking Ford Bronco.

Internally, an unremitting expanse of dark fabrics centers on a fittingly slab-sided dashboard. Yes, there’s an eight-inch infotainment screen and chunky physical controls for the heating elements, as opposed to the awful touchscreen sliders befouling some competitors. However, the overall effect is seriously dated. Even the zigzag gear lever gate feels like it belongs in the past, rather than in a brand new vehicle.

Choose with care. We’ll get onto the 4Runner’s road manners (or lack thereof) in a moment – suffice it to say here that this is a car you’d only really buy for tackling the rough stuff. As such, it’d be ludicrous to choose the entry-level rear-wheel-drive models that could skid on a wet lawn. If you’re not willing to specify all-wheel-drive, stop reading and move on.

Still here? Cheaper models generally make more sense as utilitarian off-roaders, but we would suggest moving past the rather minimalist SR5 trim to mid-range TRD Off-Road. This makes the most of the 4Runner’s off-road potential by adding AWD, traction control, and a locking rear differential. Every 4Runner has an eight-inch infotainment screen with smartphone mirroring, power seats, and an extensive options list. You can have good fun customizing your car with upgrades like synthetic leather and a sunroof.

2022 Toyota 4Runner Interior

A blast from the past. The 4Runner doesn’t just betray its age aesthetically. On the move, it feels every inch like a 2010 vehicle. Its four-liter V6 gas engine may be smooth, but its fairly feeble 270 hp output is further hobbled by being fed through a five-speed automatic gearbox that simply doesn’t have enough ratios. The result is sluggish performance befitting of such heavy steering, while the ride is wearyingly bouncy and the handling could best be described as ‘absent’. As for the fuel economy, combined figures of 17 MPG are about as bad as it gets these days.

Mercifully, safety is more in line with modern consumer expectations. Blind-spot monitoring is welcome on a vehicle of this size, while automatic emergency braking includes pedestrian detection. Incomplete crash test data doesn’t paint an especially rosy picture, though. If safety is a top priority and you don’t cross boulder fields on your way to work, you’d be better off with the far safer, far cheaper, and (overall) far better Subaru Outback.

Cabin fever. Given its boxy design, you’d expect the 4Runner to be spacious inside, but there simply isn’t as much room as you’d imagine after clambering up into the cabin. The rear seats have a disappointing 33 inches of legroom, while the optional third row isn’t really worth investing in – even kids will complain about having to sit back there.

The seats are reasonably comfortable, with a choice of hard-wearing cloth, synthetic leather, or the real thing. As a load-lugger, the 4Runner is quite impressive, offering 90 cu. ft. of space in a cargo bay built from materials that should withstand any DIY project or camping trip. It’s a shame about those angular wheel-arch intrusions, though.

Final thoughts. If it sounds like we have a downer on the 4Runner, it’s because it does nothing especially well while managing to disappoint in often contradictory ways. Its V6 powerplant delivers disappointing performance despite also returning awful fuel economy; the handling is ponderous yet the ride is bouncy; the underwhelming boxy design doesn’t even result in generous passenger space. It looks and feels dated inside and out, and drives like a product of the Aughts.

Upsides? If you raid the options list, the slide-out loading tray makes the most of cargo capacity that reaches 90 cubic feet with the rear seats dropped. The 4Runner is more adept off-road than rivals like the Honda Passport, especially in the fittingly-named Off-Road trim. Some observers will appreciate the ruler-designed exterior and heater controls you can operate with gloves on, while the materials promise long-term durability. Overall, though, the 4Runner does nothing to distinguish itself in a market saturated with some seriously good rivals.

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