BLAST

4Run­ner’s old-fash­ioned SUV de­sign a wel­come change in the era of crossovers

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - AUTOS -

In­ter­est­ingly, while the first two gen­er­a­tions of 4Run­ner were built on a pickup plat­form, the last three have been built on the Land Cruiser Prado plat­form; an SUV not sold in North Amer­ica. Even more in­ter­est­ing, the Prado plat­form also un­der­pins the far more lux­u­ri­ous Lexus GX.

Yet, lux­u­ri­ous is not a word that will be found in the vicin­ity of the 4Run­ner. Toy­ota Canada uses the word “truck,” along with ad­jec­tives such as “rugged” and “go any­where.”

Just for com­par­i­son sake, the milder High­lander gets “well-man­nered” and “easy driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.” This is a pretty good clue the 4Run­ner is no sub­ur­ban dilet­tante. Ac­tu­ally, when I last drove one a cou­ple of years ago, I sug­gested it would be on the short­list of ve­hi­cles ideal for es­cap­ing a zom­bie apoca­lypse, es­pe­cially if it’s the tougher-look­ing Trail Edi­tion.

Toy­ota ob­vi­ously in­tends the Trail to be able to tackle paths less taken, adding tech­nolo­gies and sys­tems de­signed to max­i­mize off-road prow­ess. Th­ese in­clude the pre­vi­ously men­tioned lever-type 4WD se­lec­tor, plus four-wheel crawl con­trol, mul­ti­ter­rain se­lect sys­tem and ABS, au­to­matic dis­con­nect­ing dif­fer­en­tial and “ki­netic dy­namic” sus­pen­sion sys­tem. Of those fea­tures, the mul­ti­ter­rain se­lect sys­tem — the knob is lo­cated in a ceil­ing panel above the rear-view mir­ror — is the most driver in­ter­ac­tive, al­low­ing wheel slip to be tai­lored to bet­ter han­dle spe­cific off-road con­di­tions through four set­tings: “mud and sand,” “loose rock,” “mogul” and “rock.”

Though bash­ing through the boonies is within the 4Run­ner’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties, it’s more likely use will in­clude haul­ing du­ties. All mod­els come with a stan­dard tow pack­age — in­clud­ing heavy-duty tow-hitch re­ceiver, 4+7 pin wiring har­ness, trailer brake con­troller pre-wire, sup­ple­men­tal trans­mis­sion cooler and trans­mis­sion fluid tem­per­a­ture gauge. Tow­ing ca­pa­bil­ity is 2,268 kilo­grams.

All of the above might sug­gest the 4Run­ner Trail Edi­tion is some knuckle-drag­ging Ne­an­derthal. It’s not, though it ain’t pretty by any means, with a face only a mother could love (it re­minds me of a bull­dog) and a to­tally un­nec­es­sary hood scoop. The same ap­plies to the in­te­rior, which ap­pears to have been de­signed by some­one who played with those big plas­tic build­ing blocks as a child. Hop into the driver’s seat and one is pre­sented with a big chunky steer­ing wheel, a big blocky cen­tre stack and big, well-marked knobs and but­tons for the as­sorted func­tions and con­ve­niences, plus a chunky shift lever pro­trud­ing from the slot­ted gates in the cen­tre con­sole. It’s a look that, though com­pletely func­tional, is also very dated (the fifth gen­er­a­tion 4Run­ner has been on the mar­ket since 2010).

That said, there’s an ex­cel­lent view of the road ahead from the front seats, which are broad and com­fort­able. And there is the req­ui­site num­ber of mod­ern con­ve­niences ap­pro­pri­ate to the Trail’s $45,475 sticker price. The Trail Edi­tion comes with unique black seats with red stitch­ing, plus such ex­clu­sive ex­te­rior styling cues as black roof rails, dark sil­ver brushed metal­lic trim, ton­neau cover, slid­ing cargo-area tray and more.

How­ever, although I ap­pre­ci­ate sim­plic­ity, es­pe­cially when it comes to in­te­ri­ors, I ad­mit I’m start­ing to ex­pect cer­tain fea­tures on this price and class of SUV. The fact there is no stan­dard push-but­ton start, au­to­matic head­lights or power lift­gate on the Trail does it no favours against the com­pe­ti­tion.

The back seat area (the nor­mally five-pas­sen­ger SUV is avail­able with a third-row op­tion) will ac­com­mo­date six-foot­ers as long as the front seats aren’t all the way back in their tracks. Be­hind those rear seats is 1,336 litres of cargo room, a com­modi­ous 2,540 L with those seats folded flat.

The heavy-duty and heavy (2,111 kilo­grams for the Trail Edi­tion) 4Run­ner is no mus­cle-bound ogre that needs to be tamed. It’s quite easy to drive, though not ex­actly scin­til­lat­ing. Un­der the hood is a 4.0-litre DOHC V6 that’s mated to a five-speed au­to­matic. It pumps out a de­cent 270 horse­power and a ro­bust 278 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. But the truck pushes a lot of air and wind noise is no­tice­able. Foot to the floor, it re­sponds with a lot of in­duc­tion noise and a rea­son­able launch to 100 kilo­me­tres an hour of just un­der nine sec­onds. Pass­ing power isn’t bad, ei­ther — 6.6 sec­onds to hit 120 from 80. In traf­fic, though, the 4Run­ner feels its weight, and is some­what lethar­gic to move.

As for fuel econ­omy, I av­er­aged 14.3 litres per 100 kilo­me­tres, re­spectable for a mid-sized gaspow­ered SUV.

The ride is sur­pris­ingly com­pli­ant for a rig set up for heav­ier-duty work. It kind of galumphs over pot­holes and other tar­mac nas­ties when it’s not weighed down with peo­ple or cargo. Steer­ing is a lit­tle slow, though less so than with the big­ger 20-inch tires that come with the Limited model (P265/70R17s is the spec size for the Trail).

The 4Run­ner is not one of those ve­hi­cles that in­spire lust (if you own) or envy (if you want). It’s a func­tional, though aging, sport-ute with a solid rep and a small but steady clien­tele (a lit­tle more than 4,000 were sold last year in Canada; it’s bet­ter re­ceived in the U.S.). And, un­til there’s a ma­jor re­design to this hauler, I wouldn’t ex­pect much to change.

SUP­PLIED PHO­TOS

De­spite its body-on-frame un­der­pin­nings, the 4Run­ner is a com­fort­able SUV

with plenty of fea­tures.

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