2010 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Review

Boxy new 4Runner excels off-road, but isn’t as well-rounded as it could be

2010 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Review

With exterior dimensions that make it appear much larger than it really is on the inside, the 2010 Toyota 4Runner has an edgy and likeable new look that, along with much of Toyota’s new line of SUVs, seems to borrow styling cues from the recently reintroduced FJ Cruiser. The combination of blocky tail and headlight treatments that protrude from the widened fenders and a high belt line with narrow windows keep the 4Runner consistent with the styling of its siblings, while giving it a seemingly rugged persona. In fact, Toyota has made the look of their current crop of family trucksters so conforming that it sometimes requires a double take to make sure that you aren’t looking at a Sequoia or Highlander.

FAST FACTS

1. Toyota has dropped the V8 option in the 4Runner, offering instead a 270-hp 4.0L V6, as well as the base 157-hp 2.7L 4-cylinder.

2. While a base 4-Cyl 2WD 4Runner will get 18/23-mpg, the V6 is rated at 17/23 and 17/22-mpg with 4WD.

3. There’s a total of 89.7 cu.-ft. of cargo room, with a tow rating of 5,000 lbs.

4. The 2010 4Runner is priced from $27,500, with the V6-equipped 4WD SR5 priced from $30,915.

While the 4Runner has continued to grow in exterior size over the years, it still carries on the theme of tall and narrow, and as such can still fit into mall-sized parking spaces with relative ease. Once in that narrow spot, the tall but short doors make ingress and egress easy without having to worry about dinging the door of the car next to you.

WHERE’S ALL THE SPACE?

Contrasting nicely with the exterior, the interior of our base model SR-5 test vehicle was splashed in dark hues throughout with a black dash, seating surfaces and carpet and dark gray headliner. The dashboard, complete with square edges and a pronounced overhang, house deep set, easy to read gauges with a decidedly retro appearance. Radio and climate control knobs are large and beefy, almost Tonka like in their feel and appearance.  Despite the nice look and ergonomic placement of controls, hard plastic surfaces are found throughout the interior, and give the 4Runner a less than sophisticated feel – something we didn’t expect in a vehicle costing almost $40k.

The rear view mirror splits images when the vehicle is placed in reverse revealing a view from the back up camera. It’s a nifty idea to be sure, but the image on the mirror washed out when direct light entered through the rear hatch, despite the presence of the standard color keyed rear roof spoiler.

While the front seats are comfortable and offer reasonable room, the second row seats are a bit tight in shoulder room especially with three people across. Although the power sliding moonroof offered nice views of the nighttime desert sky on our drive through Phoenix, it limits headroom for second row passengers.  

Our test vehicle came with the optional third row seating area that was basically comprised of two utterly useless bucket seats with little to no head, leg or shoulder room to speak of for the average sized adult. Adding insult to injury, access to the third row was so tight that it required passengers to have advanced training in yoga. Even with the third row stowed, there is only 47.2 cubic feet of storage space, and that space is tall rather than wide, making a Tetris-like mentality critical to getting the most out of your stacking, packing abilities. And speaking of packing, the high rear bumper of the 4Runner can make placing bags in the rear stowage area a real back breaker.

Cargo room behind the third row is just 9.0 cubic feet, although total cargo room with the third and second row seats folded is a substantial 89.7 cu.-ft.

DRIVETRAIN DRIVEABILITY

Once underway, on or off the road, the 4Runner shines in most aspects. Although a 157-hp 2.7-liter 4-cylinder is offered in the SR5, our test model came equipped with the powerful and linear 270-hp and 278 ft-lb 4.0-liter V6 that makes the 5,000 lb. towing capacity a believable figure.

Mated to an exceptionally smooth 5-speed automatic transmission, the V6 pulls eagerly from almost any rpm and belies the 4Runner’s substantial 4,400 lb. curb weight. Our part time 4-wheel drive equipped SR5 was still capable of 17-mpg in the city and 22 on the highway. While average fuel economy in its class, it’s still impressive considering that the motor isn’t far south of 300-hp and is pushing a heavy and less than aerodynamically efficient metal box around town.

ON AND OFF THE BEATEN PATH

The 4Runner’s suspension easily soaks up potholes and pavement seams and offers a comfortable and quiet ride. Roll control is excellent, although the soft dampers and springs, which allow the 4Runner to exhibit its trademark off-road prowess, are weak in pitch control.

The fact that our model had a very soft and long brake pedal, combined with the lack of pitch control, made typical braking maneuvers an often futile exercise in smoothness, that at times, resulted in the feeling of a ship on rough seas. Applied assertively, however, the four wheel ABS-equipped disc brakes provide decent stopping power with good control.

Off road travel in the 4Runner is, as to be expected, a strong suit of the vehicle. Slow mobility maneuvers with deep ruts show that articulation is impressive, and the soft springs that produce large pitch variations on the road allow the 4Runner to keep all four wheels planted off road almost all of the time.

The meaty 265/70/17 tires and the approach angle of 25 degrees and the departure angle of 24 degrees complement each other well to make the most of the standard hill start and hill decent programs. Using the floor mounted transfer lever to place the vehicle in proper 4-wheel drive mode requires a bit of a reach from the driver’s seat, but results in some incredible off-road traction. Finally, the 9.6-inch ground clearance and the standard skid plates allow a bit of confidence breaching various off road obstacles. 

WHAT IT COSTS

Our V6 part time 4-wheel drive equipped SR5 showed an MSRP of $30,915 before the option packages. The 4-cylinder SR5 comes in at a base of $27,500 in 2-wheel drive format. When you add the $585 eight speaker CD stereo with Bluetooth technology, the $525 backup camera, the $1,050 moonroof and super useful 120 volt power outlets, and finally the $3,570 sliding second row option and optional third row, the price jumps to somewhere north of $37,000. 

The 4Runner is also available in the 4-wheel drive and V6 only Trail model that starts at $35,700, and finally the loaded-up Limited that starts at $37,765 for 2-wheel drive and the V6.  

THE VERDICT

It is hard to argue with the 4Runner’s reputation for quality earned pedigree as well as its off road credentials. While it does offer pleasant on-road manners, loading groceries in the back is not what the 4Runner is all about. In addition, interior space is limited, (with the optional third row, the SR5 is listed as a seven passenger vehicle but really only comfortably fits five at the most), so what you have is a vehicle that is big on the “S” and a bit low on the “U” of the SUV acronym.

Ultimately you have to decide what you want to use the vehicle for. Unless you have expendable income, at 30-something thousand, vehicles like this are becoming harder and harder pressed to offer everything to everybody, and the 4Runner may be a little to good at one thing and not as good at being rounded.

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