Strengths and weaknesses:
- ability to go anywhere
- reasonable price
- fuel economy
- no heated seats
- no nav system
The real deal 4Running off-road
Let’s face it; most people who buy sport-utes never take them off the road. For them, fresh gravel is about as bad as it gets.
But some drivers do abandon the pavement for the high (or low) country and for them, an ordinary all-wheel drive vehicle just won’t cut it.
That’s why Jeep makes its Trail Rated 4WD vehicles and why Toyota builds the 4Runner (although only for buyers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico).
The midsize 4Runner is not some namby-pamby crossover built on a car body and with little more ground clearance than your average sedan. Nope, it’s built on a fully boxed frame borrowed from the Tacoma pickup which not only gives it the strength for real off-roading but a towing capacity on the highway of 2,268 kg.
Oh, sure, you can buy a gussied up 4Runner Limited with leather, 15 speaker JBL audio system plus voice-activated navigation. And the Limited will take you almost anywhere you want to go – and do it in style.
But for rocks, hills and bogs, the 4Runner for you is the Trail Edition which employs part-time 4x4 mode, which is selected via a lever mounted on the floor next to the shifter for the automatic transmission. The driver can choose from 2WD and 4WD high and low ranges.
The Trail Edition costs $7,240 more than the base model’s $36,800 and comes loaded with features to make life in the woods a little easier:
• Four-wheel Crawl Control. Put the differential into 4L, take your foot of the gas and select one of five settings for speeds up to 25 km/h, where it’s automatically cancelled.
• Downhill Control Assist, which operates much the same way.
• Multi-Terrain Select, which has four settings for mud & sand, loose rock, mogul and rock. For mud & sand the differential can be in 4H, for the others you must choose 4L. This feature operates only under 12 km/h and not in conjunction with Crawl Control.
• Kinetic Dynamic Suspension which automatically disconnects the front and rear stabilizer bars for extra wheel travel when needed.
• Vehicle stability control and active traction control which can be deactivated for rocking the 4Runner to free it from deep mud or snow.
I gave our Trail Edition tester a workout on some local snowmobile trails and didn’t need to take it out of 4H to navigate the hills. It ploughed through everything on its 17-inch Bridgestone Dueler tires.
All 2010 4Runners are powered by a 4.0-litre V6 that unleashes more horsepower than the V8 it replaces – 270 hp at 5,600 rpm. And every 4Runner is equipped with air conditioning, power driver’s seat, power windows (including rear hatch), anti-lock brakes and eight airbags.
The Trail Edition’s 2WD mode is especially useful on dry pavement and certainly helps fuel economy. There’s some wind noise at highway speeds – unavoidable in a tall, boxy vehicle – but the seats are spacious even if they could use more padding in the seat cushions.
The Trail Edition seats are covered in an attractive cloth that’s grippy when the going gets rough, and it’s water-repellent. There are lots of places to stash things and big knobs make climate and audio systems easy to use, even with gloves on. The package also includes a power moonroof.
And now some things I don’t like:
No heated seats – just blank spaces on the console where the switches should go.
The backup camera has a dinky screen integrated into the rearview mirror and I don’t trust it because when I think I’m getting dangerously close to something, it still makes it look like there’s lots of room.
This is a vehicle for getting off the beaten path – and making one of your own.