2010 Toyota 4Runner

Toyota’s first 4Runner was rugged, tough and capable. That was 1994—and nothing has changed. The 2010 on- and off-road favorite is still all of those things, and better.

All models have wider shoulders and new-design head and taillights. The SR5 also wears overfenders, mudguards and a standard roof rack, and the outside mirrors on V6 models now incorporate turn signals and puddle lamps. The Trail grade has a higher ground clearance, better approach and departure angles and a wide selection of functional upgrades to optimize its off-road performance, plus front and rear bumper guards, a unique hood scoop, specific wheels, black outside mirrors and a dark smoke treatment on the front and rear lamps. The Limited and SR5 sport chrome trim on their grille inserts, fog lamp bezels, roof rack, bumper and side moldings, and color-keyed side skirts and overfenders for a more premium appearance.

Rear-drive 2010 4Runners offer a choice of a 157-hp 2.7-liter four with a 4-speed automatic or a 270-hp 4.0-liter V6 coupled to a 5-speed automatic, while all 4×4 models get the V6/five-speed combo. With advanced engine management that includes Toyota’s dual independent Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), this new V6 pumps out 34 more horses than the previous V6 and 10 more than the previously available V8. Yet (partly thanks to the new body’s somewhat slipperier shape) its EPA fuel economy improves from 16 mpg city/21 highway to 17/23 for 4x2s and from 16/20 to 17/22 for 4×4 models. And both achieve 19-mpg EPA combined ratings, about a five percent better than last year. The standard VVT-i 4-cylinder in the SR5 4×2 is EPA rated at 18 mpg city/23 highway.

SR5 and Trail 4×4 models have a two-speed part-time system with a manual lever, while the Limited packs full-time four-wheel drive with a locking center differential. Toyota’s A-TRAC system, standard on all 4×4 models, can distribute driving force to any one wheel in contact with the ground, and the Trail grade has an electronic-locking rear differential. An automatic LSD (Limited Slip Differential) provides better slick-road traction on 4×2 models.

The Trail grade also offers: 1) standard Crawl Control (CRAWL), which can be tuned to match the terrain by selecting one of five speed levels; 2) a Multi-Terrain Select system that allows the driver to dial in wheel slip control to match the terrain; and 3) optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), which improves terrain-following ability by disconnecting the stabilizer bars for better suspension articulation and more axle travel in slow, difficult terrain. All 4×4 4Runners have Downhill Assist Control (DAC) for steep descents and Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) to keep the vehicle stationary while starting on a steep incline.

For improved on-road handling, the Limited features an X-REAS suspension system that automatically adjusts shock-damping force in corners and on rough surfaces. It also uses a center control damper to cross-link shocks on opposite corners to significantly reduce pitch and yaw. As a result, the Limited corners and handles choppy pavement amazingly well. The 2010 4Runner’s Star Safety System includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with traction control (TRAC), an Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. In addition go active headrests for the driver and front passenger, its eight standard airbags includes front, side-mounted and knee bags and side curtain bags for the second and third rows.

The instrument cluster houses speedometer, tachometer, voltage, fuel and temperature gauges and a multi-function meter. Major controls are large and industrial looking, suitable for a working truck that will be driven while wearing gloves. Off-road control switches are easily organized on an overhead console. Water-resistant fabric seats are standard on Trail models, while leather is standard on Limited and optional on SR5. The Limited also has Smart Key keyless entry with push-button start and automatic dual-zone climate control.

The front seats have a greater range of adjustment than before, and the sculpted front seatbacks increase second-row knee room. The second-row seats recline up to 16 degrees, and (available) third-row access is improved with a one-touch walk-in function. The 40/20/40 second-row and 50/50 third-row seats fold flat, the former without removing their headrests, the latter using convenient one-touch mechanisms on their sides, or at the rear. Another great convenience feature is an available slide-out cargo deck that doubles as sheltered outside seating (for up to 440 pounds) and comes with a 6.4-liter storage box behind the rear seat.

The base SR5 8-speaker AM/FM/CD audio gets upgraded on the Trail grade with MP3 capability, integrated XM Satellite Radio (with a 90-day trial subscription), a USB port with iPod connectivity steering wheel controls and Bluetooth hands-free phone and music streaming capability. An optional 15-speaker JBL premium system has a six-disk CD changer and a way cool Party Mode setting that raises the bass and transfers equalization to the rear for tailgating.

Although the full-frame, truck-based SUV market has dramatically shrunk due to fuel economy concerns, this versatile and relatively fuel efficient new 4Runner may be an excellent choice for those who still want or need one, especially for serious off-road usage.