Step off the tarmac, and the 4Runner makes a case for itself. Buyers can pick between three trims: the budget SR5, the more capable Trail, and the quasi-luxury Limited. Trail comes with a selectable, legitimate mechanical locking rear differential, a bevy of terrain modes, and two systems designed to improve traction: A-TRAC and CRAWL. The former shuttles power to the wheels with the most grip while the latter is a sort of off-road cruise control.
Even when cursed with street tires, the onboard wizardry can shimmy the 4Runner up slick inclines, through deep water, or across rutted terrain without any drama.
But the truck can’t help but feel huge on the trail. That massive curb weight means it takes more power to shove the 4Runner out of deep mud, and gravity loves to grab hold and pull the machine toward off-camber obstacles. Nothing kicks the pucker factor into high gear like a slow slide toward a big, can-opener rock with someone else’s $40,000 SUV. Throw in poor visibility that’s abetted by thick B and C pillars, and the 4Runner isn’t my first choice among off-roaders.