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2019 Toyota 4Runner Review

The dated but charming 2019 Toyota 4Runner is a throwback to ‘90s-era SUVs.
The 2019 Toyota 4Runner waves a tattered flag for off-roaders. It’s a beefy, truck-like SUV that stands in marked contrast to crossovers such as Toyota’s own Highlander parked across the showroom.

With the 2019 4Runner, Toyota has an adventure-mobile better suited to the great outdoors than city-slicking. We rate it at 4.7 out of 10, dinging it for poor safety and fuel-economy figures. 

For 2019, the rugged 4Runner TRD Pro gains Fox shocks that give it a plush ride over even the biggest rocks and the 4Runner Limited can be dressed up with a new appearance package. SR5 and TRD Off Road trim levels carry over largely unchanged.

All 4Runners use a 4.0-liter, 270-horsepower V-6 that routes power to the wheels via a 5-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard on SR5 and Limited trims, but most 4Runners delivered outside the Sun Belt are four-wheel drive. The V-6 provides good power at the expense of fuel economy. All versions are rated at just 18 mpg combined.

The 4Runner’s muscular body sits over a pickup truck-derived ladder frame with a coil-sprung solid rear axle and an independent front suspension. Even the SR5 sits high off the ground—good for bouldering, less so for a night out. TRD Off Roads can be fitted with a trick suspension that reduces body lean in corners, which helps tame its old-school handling.

Away from the pavement, the 4Runner shines. Base SR5s are better than almost any other SUV on the market, while those with a TRD badge turn capability up to 11 (and 12) thanks to multi-mode traction control, locking rear differentials, and more. Think 9/10ths Jeep Wrangler with better on-road manners.

Inside, the 4Runner’s blocky interior doesn’t win it any style points. The front seats are firm and supportive, but the view out is compromised by thick roof pillars and a high dashboard. Rear-seat riders have decent space, but the optional third row is a kid-only affair.

The 4Runner comes up short on active safety tech—so short that it’s easier to list what’s missing than what’s standard. Don’t look for automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, or blind-spot monitors. Crash-test scores don’t impress, either.

Love it or hate it, the 2019 Toyota 4Runner looks like nothing else on the road.
With its angry face, the 2019 Toyota 4Runner is anything other than an anodyne crossover. We’re sharply divided on its styling, so overall it scores a 6 out of 10. 

The 4Runner’s basic look has been around for nearly a decade, so it’s a familiar sight for most drivers. Its front end has sharp angles and squinty headlights that scowl at the road ahead. The high front bumper is no accident, however; it provides a good approach angle for climbing mountains.

4Runner Limiteds have a different front end with a chrome moustache that we universally agree doesn’t work well. This year’s new Nightshade package is costly at about $1,700, but it tones down the chrome with a darker finish.

Opt for the TRD Pro and the 4Runner sits higher off the ground and has black-painted wheels and a beefy roof rack.

At the rear, the 4Runner’s tailgate is unremarkable except for one nicety: a rear window that slides down at the press of a button.

Inside, the 4Runner has a chunky look with oversized buttons and plenty of bins for storing smaller items. Varying textures give it a more upmarket look than the hard plastics suggest. Cloth upholstery is standard, while synthetic and real leather are optional depending on the trim level.

The 2019 Toyota 4Runner is a lumbering beast on pavement, but it’s a goat in the dirt.
Like an avid outdoorsman, the 2019 Toyota 4Runner is ill-suited to urban explorations. When the going gets rough, it always has the right tool for the job, however.

We rate it 5 out of 10, docking a point for its bouncy ride but adding one back for a portfolio of off-road tech.

A 4.0-liter V-6 puts out 270 hp and 278 pound-feet of torque shuttled to the ground via a 5-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel drive is standard on TRDs, while SR5 and Limited trims can be had with either rear- or four-wheel drive. Notably, the 4Runner Limited is the only version with a four-wheel-drive system suitable for use on dry pavement. Other trims have a part-time system meant only for slippery surfaces.

The 2019 4Runner’s big tires smother bigger bumps around town. It’s less comfortable on the highway, where its tall body gives it less-than-stellar straight-line stability. Acceleration is leisurely at best thanks to a curb weight that approaches 5,000 pounds in some configurations. The 5-speed automatic works quickly, but could use another cog for calmer highway driving.

Where the 4Runner excels is away from pavement. Base SR5s are sufficient for most needs, while the TRD Off Road includes a locking rear differential, off-road modes for its traction control, and a crawl control system that lopes it along at a walking pace to lumber over big obstacles. Optional on the TRD Off Road is a suspension setup Toyota calls Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System. In short, it features massive anti-roll bars to quell body lean in curves that disconnect automatically for better off-road articulation. KDSS is an option worth selecting.

The TRD Pro is costly at about $47,500, but its capability would be tough to replicate with aftermarket equipment. Fox dual-reservoir shocks tuned specifically for the 4Runner give it an exceptionally comfortable ride at any speed on- or off-road. KDSS is not available on the TRD Pro due to the large Fox shocks.

The 4Runner is rated to tow 5,000 pounds.

Comfort & Quality
The 2019 Toyota 4Runner’s trucky nature limits interior comfort.
The 2019 Toyota 4Runner is more comfortable for exploring the great outdoors than some hiking boots, but there’s room for improvement. We rate it at 6 out of 10 based on its good cargo space. 

Up front, the 4Runner’s seats are firm and well-bolstered, but they sit low to the ground and outward vision is limited by a tall dash and chunky roof pillars. Rear-seat riders have the same hefty step-in height but are greeted by good space for two adults or three in a pinch.

An optional third row on some trims may make sense for families with small kids, but it’s not suitable for adults. It’s also not nearly as easy to access as the third row in crossover SUVs such as Toyota’s own Highlander.
Cargo utility is a 4Runner asset. With the second row upright, it has about 46 cubic feet of storage. Fold the rear seat and that figure climbs to nearly 90 cubes. An available slide-out cargo floor robs a cubic foot or so but is handy for heavier items and doubles as a bench for tailgating.

The standard cloth upholstery has a tough feel, but we’d opt for the available synthetic or real leather for its easy-clean nature. Aside from some vinyl with contrasting stitching on the 4Runner’s door panels, its interior doesn’t impress with soft-touch materials.

Big and beefy doesn’t necessarily mean safe when it comes to the 2019 Toyota 4Runner.
The 2019 Toyota 4Runner has a commanding presence on the road, but its crash-test scores and lack of active safety tech are concerning.

We rate it at 2 out of 10, with points dialed back for weak federal and independent ratings and a lack of advanced feature availability.

The 2019 4Runner has a full complement of airbags and traction control modes, but that’s where the features stop. It’s not available with active lane control, automatic emergency braking, or even blind-spot monitors. Few new cars are as sparsely equipped.

The NHTSA rates it at four stars overall, with an especially eyebrow-raising three-star rollover rating. The IIHS is generally more complimentary, but even the insurance industry-funded group said that it rates “Marginal” in the small-overlap frontal crash test designed to simulate impact with an oncoming car on a two-lane road.

The 2019 Toyota 4Runner is costly, but TRD versions are a good value.
The 2019 Toyota 4Runner is available in a wide range of trim levels that are well-equipped for what they cost.

We rate it at 6 out of 10, with a point above average for its available off-road features.

The base 4Runner SR5 costs about $36,000 to start and includes a 6.1-inch touchscreen for infotainment, power features, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Four-wheel drive costs about $1,800 more.

The SR5 Premium adds navigation, synthetic leather upholstery, and a few other features for about $2,000. A third row of seats and a power moonroof are optional.

We’d probably bypass the SR5 for the TRD Off Road. At about $39,000, it builds on the SR5 with four-wheel drive, off-road traction control modes, a locking rear differential, and a few other features. Synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, and a few other features come on the TRD Off Road Premium for about $41,000.

The Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System that gives the 4Runner better on- and off-road prowess costs $1,600 on either TRD Off Road trim and is paired with navigation. A 4Runner TRD Off Road with KDSS is probably the one we’d have, but we’d look closely at the TRD Pro.

With its Fox shocks, raised suspension, and off-road tires, the TRD Pro costs about $47,500. It’s costly but not out of line with the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon that delivers a similar level of off-road ability.

Finally, the 4Runner Limited costs about $46,300 and features leather upholstery, a JBL audio system, 20-inch alloy wheels and a power moonroof.

Fuel Economy
The blocky, upright 2019 Toyota 4Runner does not cheat the wind.
The 2019 Toyota 4Runner is old-school in many ways, including its fuel economy. Don’t look for a mild-hybrid powertrain, aerodynamic bolt-ons, or a stop/start system. It’s a 3 out of 10 on our scale. 

With rear-wheel drive, the 2019 4Runner is rated at just 17 mpg city, 21 highway, 18 combined. Opting for four-wheel drive doesn’t change much. It’s estimated by the EPA to earn 17/20/18 mpg.

Aided by its 8-speed automatic and available 48-volt mild-hybrid system, the four-door 2019 Jeep Wrangler is rated as high as 22 mpg combined.

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