2010 Toyota 4Runner SR5 4×2 Review

By Roger Boylan

03.09.2010

The 2010 Toyota 4Runner SR5 is a very pleasant vehicle, comfortable and capacious. It rides smoothly and quietly, brakes well, and has oodles of storage space. Its fuel economy is reasonable (I averaged 19 mpg on regular), and so is its price, for what you get (across trim lines, from $29K to a tick under $40K). Most models are powered by a 4.0-liter, DOHC, 24-valve V6, with 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque (at 4400 rpm). There’s a 4-cylinder engine available for the lesser 2WD trim levels, but surely it’s not to be taken seriously, except as a dealership decoy. With a mere 157 hp, it’s a bad joke. This truck weighs at least 4300 lbs. and needs a V6, if not a V8 (It used to be available with a V8, but no longer.) This V6 is a pleasant enough powerplant, once it wakes up. It can manage the 0-60 sprint in around 8 seconds, but seems to take longer. Sometimes when you need it to make hard decisions and get going it hesitates and stumbles, annoyingly, as if hunting in confusion for the right gear. Said gear can be hand-selected, because the 5-speed auto tranny comes with a sequential-shift option, if you want to play tough guy and pretend you’re driving a stick. (I seldom bother.)

The 4Runner, even without 4WD, is one of a dying breed: the body-on-frame SUV, just like they made ’em back in the early ’80s when automotive dinosaurs roamed the earth and no one gave a damn about the price of oil or global warming. Surviving rivals include the Nissan Pathfinder and Ford Explorer (though the next-generation Explorer is moving to a unibody crossover architecture in a few months). The Toyota’s depreciation rate is below theirs, and indeed well below market average, partly because reliability is likely to be stellar, as Toyotas tend to be, with minor exceptions (note that the 4Runner was unaffected by the recent recalls).

Even the somewhat boxy looks of the new design grow on you after awhile–or at least they did on me, after causing me to do a double-take when I first saw it. “Oh no,” I thought. “A Honda Pilot, for my sins.” Then I had another look, and beheld the Toyota badges. Actually, the 4Runner isn’t nearly as hideous as the Pilot (my candidate for the ugliest thing on wheels, bar the nearly-extinct Hummers). This sounds like damning with faint praise, because the 4Runner’s actually a pretty good-looking truck; it’s crisply designed, and looks quite sporty from the side, with the spoiler protruding above the rear window. And the new architecture has a definite purpose, because boxiness without increases storage space within: an impressive 90 cu. ft., with the second-row seats folded down.

And speaking of the inside, the new 4Runner’s interior boasts such small but original features as a “Park Assist” sensor, telling you when you’re nuzzling another car or object too closely, or it you; a “Party Mode” button to blast your vibes out the tailgate when you’re down at the stadium on Homecoming Day; and a power-down (and up) rear-liftgate window. These are certainly “cool” features. In a more practical vein, all 4Runners come with ABS + brake assist, stability and traction control, active front head restraints, front knee airbags, front-seat side airbags, and side-curtain airbags that sense the imminence of a rollover and deploy accordingly.

The 4Runner SR5 and Limited trims can be had in either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive (part-time for SR5, full-time for Limited), while the Trail edition comes only with part-time 4WD (a review of a Trail model is coming in a few weeks). My test vehicle was the rear-drive SR5, with select options such as leather upholstery, automatic headlights, heated front seats, Sirius XM satellite radio, keyless entry and ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, a six-CD changer and 15 speakers, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Towing potential is 5,000 pounds. (I’ve always wondered: What’s the point of having an SUV without four-wheel drive, especially with no V8 option? I guess it’s just for show.) The interior is spacious and comfortable, with ample room for five (a child-friendly third row is available on Limited trims) and plenty of cargo capacity, as noted previously.

But I have a couple of quibbles. One is that the front passenger-side seat has no lumbar control, as does the driver’s seat. OK, it’s not the end of the world, but why not extend the franchise to the passenger, who’s just as likely to need lower-back relief on long drives? How much can it cost? C’mon, guys, don’t be cheapskates. Another quibble concerns the amber–dark orange, really–lighting of the otherwise very easy-to-read gauges. An orange glow amid the funereal dark grays and blacks of the seats and dashboard evokes a somewhat gloomy Halloween theme, not really what you want on days other than October 31st. Memo to 4Runner design team: Lose the orange glow. Blue, white, or pale green work much better: compare Chevys. Overall, however, the 4Runner’s a pleasant place to spend time, with a few features borrowed from Lexus. The dials and switches are intuitive and well placed, especially the big idiot-proof HVAC knobs. Also available are voice-activated navigation and Bluetooth phone connectivity.

So it’s a really nice vehicle. And yet, and yet. Would I buy a 4Runner, if I needed (or wanted) an SUV? I might, but only if I couldn’t get a good deal on a Porsche Cayenne, Escalade Hybrid, or Land Rover LR2. Because the 4Runner, for all its virtues, shares the besetting drawback of so many Asian cars: It’s deeply, irrevocably bland. You could spend eight hours in it, and two minutes after getting out, you’d forget you’d ever been inside it. Maybe that’s why they made the design a little edgier. But more edge is needed. Or maybe just an Edge.

Author: Roger Boylan

Aside from being the only Autosavant writer with a Wikipedia page, Roger Boylan is an American writer who was raised in Ireland, France, and Switzerland and attended the University of Ulster and the University of Edinburgh. His novel “Killoyle” was published in 1997 by Dalkey Archive Press and has been reprinted four times. In 2003, a sequel, “The Great Pint-Pulling Olympiad,” was published by Grove Press, New York. Roger’s latest novel, “The Adorations,” in which a Swiss professor named Gustave, Adolf Hitler, Hitler’s mistress, the Archangel Michael, and a journalistic sexpot meet at the intersection of history and fantasy, has been published as an e-book and is now available on Amazon.com and other online bookstores. Boylan's light-hearted memoir, "Run Like Blazes," has also been published as a Kindle e-book and is also now available on Amazon.com.

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