The 2019 Toyota 4Runner is the SUV to buy, if it’s off-road adventure you have in mind. Based on Toyota’s Tacoma pickup, the 4Runner gets few changes for the new model year. The TRD Pro gets Fox shocks that smooth the ride, and the Limited gets a new dark appearance package.
All 4Runners use a 4.0-liter V-6 making 270 horsepower, mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission. Rear-wheel drive is standard but most 4Runners get optioned into four-wheel drive.
The 4Runner’s muscular body is bolted to a pickup-truck ladder frame, with a solid rear axle, rear coil springs, and an independent front suspension. The ground clearance is high, so it’s a big step in and out. There’s an optional suspension for the TRD off-road models that reduces the lean in corners.
The 2019 4Runner’s fuel economy comes in at an EPA-rated 17 mpg city, 21 highway, and 18 combined with rear-wheel drive, and the same combined 18 mpg with four-wheel drive.
Unlike other Toyotas, the 4Runner isn’t endowed with much active safety equipment: no adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitors, or automatic emergency braking. The NHTSA rates it at four stars overall, with a three-star rollover rating. The IIHS rating is a bit better, but still â€œMarginalâ€ in the small-overlap crash test.
There are six 4Runner models: SR5, SR5 Premium, TRD Off Road, TRD Off Road Premium, TRD Pro and Limited.
The SR5 costs about $36,000 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 for about $38,000 adds navigation, synthetic leather upholstery, and a few other features. A third row of seats and a power moonroof are optional.
The TRD Off Road, at about $39,000, builds on the SR5 with four-wheel drive, off-road traction control modes, a locking rear differential, and more.
The TRD Off Road Premium for about $41,000 adds synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, and more. 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.
With its Fox shocks, raised suspension, and off-road tires, the TRD Pro costs about $47,500.
Finally, the 4Runner Limited costs about $46,300 and features leather upholstery, a JBL audio system, 20-inch alloy wheels, a power moonroof and more chrome. This year’s new Nightshade package tones down the chrome with a darker finish.
The face of the 4Runner is full of sharp angles and headlights that sit up high for a good reason. It isn’t meant to be pugnacious; it provides a good approach angle for climbing mountains.
The Limited wears more chrome, while the TRD Pro sits higher off the ground and has black-painted wheels and a beefy roof rack.
The cabin controls are chunky, with oversized buttons, and the 4Runner has lots of big bins for storage. The standard upholstery on the SR5 is a rugged cloth, but it turns to synthetic and real leather as the models move up.
The front seats are firm and well-bolstered, but they’re low. The rear seats have decent space for two, and can accommodate three. The third row is difficult to access, and it’s only big enough for childrenâ€”something to keep in mind if you consider the 4Runner a replacement for a three-row crossover SUV.
Cargo capacity is excellent. There’s 46 cubic feet behind the second row, and with it folded, nearly 90 cubic feet. The power rear window is a very nice feature. An available slide-out cargo floor is useful for weighty loads and can serve as a bench for tailgating.
The 4.0-liter V-6 puts out 270 hp and 278 pound-feet of torque, mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission. 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.
Four-wheel drive is standard on TRDs, while SR5 and Limited are either rear- or four-wheel drive. The system on the Limited is different, and the only one designed for dry pavement, more like a crossover’s all-wheel drive. The other models have a part-time system meant for mud, snow, sand and the like. The 4Runner is rated to tow 5,000 pounds.
The 4Runner handles like the off-road beast it is. The ride is very firm and the 4Runner can wander on smooth pavement. The good news is its big tires smother big bumps around town.
Off the road, the 2019 4Runner excels. The base SR5 does the job in most situations, while the TRD Off Road includes a locking rear differential, off-road modes for its traction control, and a crawl control system that inches it over obstacles. The optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System uses massive anti-roll bars to reduce body lean in curves, and they automatically disconnect for better off-road articulation.
The TRD Pro is costly at about $47,500, but it’s still a value because you can’t build that kind of capability with aftermarket equipment. Fox dual-reservoir shocks tuned specifically for the 4Runner give it an exceptionally comfortable ride at any speed, on or off the road.
The 2019 Toyota 4Runner makes the most sense if it’s used off pavement a lot. Its performance is less civilized on hard roadsâ€”but when the trail turns muddy, you won’t find an SUV that can do more.