2018 Toyota 4Runner Limited Review - Old Isn't Always Bad

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey
Fast Facts

2018 Toyota 4Runner Limited

4.0-liter V6 (270 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm; 278 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm)
Five-speed automatic, full-time four-wheel drive
17 city / 20 highway / 18 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
14.3 city, 11.9 highway, 13.2 combined. (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
Base Price
$44,760 (U.S) / $51,320 (Canada)
As Tested
$46,874 (U.S.) / $53,262.50 (Canada)
Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $1,915 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can't be directly compared.
2018 toyota 4runner limited review old isn t always bad

Age can be a strength or weakness, and in the case of Toyota’s 4Runner, it’s almost certainly the former.

Indeed, I expect that when it comes time for the company to fully update the model, there will be plenty of hand-wringing among 4Runner fans as they worry that Toyota will screw it up. Considering that Jeep just successfully modernized the Wrangler without diluting what made it great, and considering the current 4Runner is already more civilized than the last Jeep, I think the next 4Runner will be just fine. But I understand the concern.

The current 4Runner is an old-school SUV – big, blocky, and tough-feeling. It even has old-school body-on-frame construction and boxy looks with a big ‘ole mean-looking grille and front end. Furthermore, the current generation stretches back nearly a decade.

Changes for 2018 are, fittingly, minimal. The changes consist of two new available options packages and two new trim levels. That’s it.

The 270-horsepower, 4.0-liter V6 remains under hood and the sole transmission remains a five-speed automatic. Drivetrain layouts are as follows: 4×2, part-time 4×4, or full-time 4×4.

Climb in the driver’s seat and you’ll see that all the hallmarks of familiarity are there. The center stack is a mix of blocky design and big control knobs. The quickly-becoming-outdated infotainment system sits housed within.

[Get pricing for new and used Toyota 4Runners here!]

The engine isn’t loud, per se, but it’s noticeable, even at idle, in a way that was once common but has become less so as sound-deadening measures improved over the years. It neither sounds nor feels smooth, which adds to the ruggedness. As for delivering power, it’s a mixed bag. The 4Runner has the guts for around-town driving, but it feels a tad slow to come on boil. You get the sense that the throttle response is tuned for the sensitivity needed when off-roading.

Ride and handling are unsurprisingly truckish. Which is fine – this SUV is built for off-roading. Want something soft with a Toyota badge? Go check out that Highlander across the lot.

Rough around the edges as it may be, the ride isn’t unlivable. It’s just not well-suited to city cruising. At least the steering feels connected to the wheels – there’s only minimal numbness.

Off-road-oriented SUVs tend to command decent money, most likely because in a market flooded with SUVs and crossovers, only a handful are truly capable off-road. That could explain why the high-end Limited trim 4Runner I drove bases at over $42K.

With four-wheel drive, the 4Runner Limited I drove started at $44,760. Standard features included full-time four-wheel drive, 20-inch alloy wheels, skid plates, fog lamps, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, Entune, USB, satellite radio, heated and cooled front seats, moonroof, power sliding rear window, push-button start, and keyless entry. Options were limited to automatic running boards, the “Blizzard Pearl” white paint color, and carpeted floor and cargo mats. Total tag: $46,874 including $995 for D and D.

As always with vehicles built with a singular purpose, the value for money equation comes down to how you plan on using it. A lot of today’s SUV buyers would blanche at paying more than $45K for a body-on-frame vehicle that is probably past overdue for a refresh. But those who want or need off-road capability and want something a bit bigger than a Wrangler and cheaper than a Land Rover will find the price just right.

The 4Runner is built to be tough and to handle the outdoors. It should be able to do that just fine. And that’s the point.

Not every vehicle has to be an automotive multi-tool. The 4Runner is an off-road-oriented SUV that happens to be able to haul people and stuff around town as well as any crossover or more “on road” focused SUV.

It does so with an old-school verve that both charms and annoys (although neither the charm nor the annoyance are as pronounced as they were on the last Wrangler). It’s not the best choice for commuting, but it doesn’t punish. This is the same formula that Toyota has used on the 4Runner for well, forever.

Someday soon-ish there will be a new 4Runner, but expect it to remain just as throwback as this one is. It will be a bit more modernized in some ways – a newer and better-looking dash design, and up-to-date infotainment, I’d wager – but the spirit will likely remain.

That’s a good thing.

[Images © 2018 Tim Healey/TTAC]

Comments
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  • JGlanton JGlanton on Jun 08, 2018

    I test drove a 2018 Limited 4-Runner recently. I owned an 80's 4-Runner for 13 years and appreciate what they bring to the table. After the drive I found out the one I drove costs $48K and asked to see a cheaper $38K SR5 model. The cloth seats in that one were horrible thin foam seats that looked like they belong on the old, cheap 80's model. That was a no-go. Not to mention the stripper interior with few accessories. The salesman said I could take it to a shop and have leather covers put in for $1600 or something. Seriously, on those pancake chairs? on a $38K car???? I ended up getting a loaded Outback for $33K and it's been great for my camping/fishing/kayaking/biking excursions.

  • DougDolde DougDolde on Jul 06, 2018

    I don't like the "new" styling. My 2008 4Runner is a V8, AWD and you really know it's a V8. Bought it new 10 years ago and have 215,000 fairly trouble free miles. Have upgraded shocks to Bilstein and done the brakes. Thats about it. My next one will be a 2008 or 2006 used model V8 AWD. Anything with 100K miles or less would be the pick

  • Jim Bonham Thanks.
  • Luke42 I just bought a 3-row Tesla Model Y.If Toyota made a similar vehicle, I would have bought that instead. I'm former Prius owner, and would have bought a Prius-like EV if it were available.Toyota hasn't tried to compete with the Model Y. GM made the Bolt EUV, and Ford made the Mach-E. Tesla beat them all fair and square, but Toyota didn't even try.[Shrug]
  • RHD Toyota is trying to hedge their bets, and have something for everyone. They also may be farther behind in developing electric vehicles than they care to admit. Japanese corporations sometimes come up with cutting-edge products, such as the Sony Walkman. Large corporations (and not just Japanese corporations) tend to be like GM, though - too many voices just don't get heard, to the long-term detriment of the entity.
  • Randy in rocklin The Japanese can be so smart and yet so dumb. I'm America-Japanese and they really can be dumb sometimes like their masking paranoia.
  • Bunkie The Flying Flea has a fascinating story and served, inadvertently, to broaden the understanding of aircraft design. The crash described in the article is only part of the tale.
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