Overland SUV of the Year - Runner Up: Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition
For the second year in a row, the Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition has taken our runner-up spot for Overland SUV of the Year. Although certainly biased more towards the street than the Jeep Wrangler, the winner of this year’s Overland SUV award, the 4Runner is no laughing matter on the trail. In fact, those looking for a little less trail capability, and more on-road comfort would likely be happier in a Toyota 4Runner.
In the nearly 30 years the 4Runner has been around, we’ve seen it grow up and mature quite a bit. Starting as a Hilux-based compact SUV, the vehicle eventually grew into a mid-to-full sized SUV. But no matter the generation, the 4Runner has proven itself to be stupendously reliable no matter if you’re bashing it down the trail, or simply using it to commute to work. We wouldn’t expect the latest vehicle, now in its 5th generation to be any different—one could argue it would be even more stout and reliable.
Continuing the 4Runner tradition, the latest model has grown quite a bit in size (it’s now reached the size of 80/100 series Land Cruiser.) Along with that comes some concerning clearance dimensions (approach, departure, break-over angles, body width) which aren’t the best for technical trails. However, the new advanced traction systems present in the Trail Edition give it quite the advantage. The unique Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), also found in the upmarket 200 series Land Cruiser, automatically senses when a wheel drops or articulates off-road, and disconnects the swaybars for further flex. Once combined with the A-TRAC traction control system, and a driver-selectable rear locking differential, the 4Runner Trail Edition becomes a force to be reckoned with off-road.
We also enjoy that the 2009+ 4Runner is based on the 150 series chassis, a true global exploration platform serviceable in nearly every country. Unfortunately in the United States, the 4Runner doesn’t receive any of the overseas turbo-diesel engines, but the 4.0L V6 produces a respectable 270hp while returning nearly 20 mpg.
The 4Runner represents a great compromise between modern technology, progressive styling, and bit of “old-fashioned” engineering. It’s not often that we see a vehicle aimed at the masses such as the 4Runner that still has components like a lever-actuated transfer case. We’re so used to seeing some sort of electronic button activated transfer case these days that it legitimately surprised—and excited—us. It’s just a sign that Toyota isn’t straying from what works, perhaps that’s why they’re consistently rated one of the most reliable vehicles one can purchase. We just wish that a vehicle which can easily get into the mid-$40,000 range and borders on luxury SUV would have a nicer interior than a Jeep Wrangler.
The 2013 Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition comes with a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty and a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty. Prices start at $37,155 for the Trail Edition model. If you don't require the capability of the Trail Edition, prices for a SR5 model 4Runner start at $31,490
Learn more about the 4Runner at www.toyota.com