2016 Toyota 4Runner

Starting MSRP: $33,810 - $44,160

Estimated MPG: 17 city / 22 hwy

2016 Toyota 4Runner Review

The 2016 Toyota 4Runner has an interesting claim to fame: It’s the most affordable body-on-frame SUV on the market that isn’t a Jeep Wrangler. Of course, the differences between the two are fairly wide, as the midsize 4Runner is noticeably bigger and more refined, with an MSRP that does reflect those advantages. Yet because the 4Runner isn’t as large as a full-size three-row SUV, it hits a sweet spot for an increasing number of customers. Moreover, the 2016 4Runner lineup has the flexibility of offering two- and three-row configurations.

By Charles Krome
Last Updated 10/18/2016

The Toyota 4Runner is a midsize SUV that was last refreshed for the 2014 model year. Rear-wheel drive and a 4.0-liter V6 engine are standard, while part- and full-time four-wheel drive systems are offered. For the 2016 model year, the 4Runner gets updated infotainment technology across all trim levels: SR5, Trail, Limited and TRD Pro. The latter grade also gets a newly available Quicksand exterior finish.

Exterior

Exterior
8

Our test vehicle was a 2016 4Runner Trail Premium model with four-wheel drive and a vibrant Nautical Blue exterior paint job. However, the real eye-catching detail here is the 4Runner’s grille. Thanks to tall, vertically oriented, fog light pockets, the face of the 4Runner has an Alien-esque, “mouth-within-a-mouth” appearance that’s accented by prominently protruding headlights. (Note that the upscale Limited editions have a different look upfront, with more traditional fog light settings and a thick chrome bar visually connecting those lights.) A hood scoop tops things off in front, while standard LED tail lamps, an LED center-mounted stop lamp and a rear spoiler are notable design cues at the back.

Wheel-wise, 17-inch alloys are standard for all trims except for the Limited, which rides on 20-inch wheels. That trim also signals its premium positioning with uplevel exterior mirrors, with integrated turn-signal indicators and puddle lights.

Also standard on the Trail Premium were a power-operated moonroof, roof rails and heated exterior mirrors. However, customers (particularly those under 6 feet tall) should know that running boards are optional for all grades.

Interior

Interior
7

The important thing to realize about the cabin of the 2016 4Runner is that it’s available in two- and three-row configurations, so that owners can fit five or seven occupants.

That said, the three-row setup drastically reduces standard cargo space: The two-row version provides 47.2 cubic feet of rear storage with all seats in use, and with all rows upright in the seven-passenger SUV, the rear cargo hold shrinks to 9 cubic feet. On the other hand, first- and second-row legroom and headroom remains unchanged regardless. Also, total cargo space is nearly 90 cubic feet with all seats folded in both configurations. It also must be reported that folding the second row in our test vehicle wasn’t exactly intuitive, and at one point the owner’s manual actually had to come into play. In terms of other interior storage, the center-console bin gets props for both its roominess and its small, built-in shelves, which help keep things organized and within easy reach.

Our 4Runner Trail Premium included heated front seats that were surfaced in Toyota’s relatively comfortable SofTex material. Perforated leather upholstery and ventilated front seats help distinguish the Limited grade.

Performance

Performance
7

The Toyota 4Runner continues to furnish high-levels of four-wheel-drive capability and a surprisingly smooth ride on pavement, but a dated powertrain delivers the expectedly low EPA ratings. Thus, our four-wheel drive 4Runner Trail benefits from Toyota’s A-TRAC traction control, an electronically controlled locking rear differential, a dedicated “crawl” control system, a two-speed transfer case and Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select system to automatically fine-tune overall performance for specific driving conditions. An available Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System is on the menu for the Trail model as well, to allow more wheel travel for off-road driving.

Our test vehicle didn’t tackle anything more serious than a muddy parking lot, and on the road, the results included right about 18 mpg in 250 miles of mixed driving. That’s right in line with EPA ratings of 17/21 mpg city/highway (18 mpg combined). Further, those marks are nearly the same for both rear- and four-wheel-drive 4Runners, all of which feature a 4.0-liter V6 engine that routes 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque through a five-speed automatic transmission. The output enables adequate acceleration.

The thing is, there are larger and more powerful SUVs out there, with standard V8 engines and significantly higher tow ratings, that match the Toyota’s combined EPA estimate. And about that tow rating: The 4Runner can pull up to 5,000 pounds, which is the same limit as for the similarly sized, V6-powered 2016 Toyota Highlander.

Technology

Technology
7

One of this year’s key upgrades for the 4Runner Trail edition was an enhanced Entune infotainment system that added a high-value, app-based navigation solution. Known as the “Scout GPS Link,” it relies on an owner’s compatible smartphone for functionality and leverages the vehicle’s 6.1-inch touch screen for display and control. The standard setup for the 4Runner Trail also has voice recognition, Bluetooth connectivity, eight audio speakers and new-for-2016 Siri Eyes Free (for use with select iPhones). In practice, the voice-control technology was mostly hassle-free, and the split-screen ability for the display was a definite bonus. Our vehicle was equipped with a Premium package that adds Toyota’s integrated navigation and App Suite, too. With App Suite, owners can use Entune to access Facebook Places, Destination Search, iHeartRadio, OpenTable, Yelp and similar resources.

Integrated navigation, App Suite and a 15-speaker JBL audio system are standard in the 4Runner Limited.

Safety

Safety
5

Safety highlights for the 4Runner include a standard rearview camera, eight air bags and typical modern-day features such as antilock brakes.

Moving up to the 4Runner Limited brings sonar-based parking assistance for the front and rear, along with the automaker’s Safety Connect telematics package, which includes a one-year complimentary subscription that covers emergency assistance, stolen-vehicle location, roadside assistance and automatic collision notification. Driver-assistance features such as forward collision warning, blind spot monitoring and lane keeping assist are not currently offered.

The 2016 4Runner earned four out of five stars for its overall performance in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) crash tests.

In tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 4Runner received top scores of Good in moderate overlap front, side and roof strength tests, as well as in testing for the head restraints and seats. In small overlap crash tests, the 4Runner received IIHS’ second-lowest score of Marginal.

Cost-Effectiveness

Cost-Effectiveness
7

The cost-effectiveness formula for the 4Runner is going to lead to two very different outcomes depending on customer expectations.

Folks that truly need the off-road hardware that comes standard in the 4Runner Trail edition will get it with an MSRP of $36,915, and that’s a reasonable $1,060 more than for a corresponding Highlander crossover. Even with the Premium Package, pricing is just below $40,000. That’s not cheap, but it is more than $5,000 less than the starting price of a full-size Toyota Sequoia SUV.

The flipside for drivers who aren’t going to get dirty is that the 4Runner lacks the fuel-efficiency and advanced safety technologies found in Toyota’s own Highlander, as well as in competitors like the 2016 Honda Pilot and Mazda CX-9.

Overall

Overall
7

The 2016 Toyota 4Runner is a strong choice for a very specific kind of customer: Namely, one who requires robust four-wheel-drive capability in a midsize, body-on-frame package. Indeed, no other “real” SUV slots between the 2016 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, and the full-size three-row entries like the GMC Yukon.

The 4Runner stands on its own with impressive fit and finish, plenty of cabin space in the two-row edition, and ride comfort that surpassed our expectations. It’s just that Toyota’s own Highlander crossover, for one, matches or betters the 4Runner in almost every trait save off-road performance. With that in mind, the 4Runner is primarily (and highly) recommended for four-wheel-drive enthusiasts.