2007 Toyota 4Runner Expert Reviews

Expert Reviews

2007 Toyota 4Runner

New Car Test Drive
© 2007 NewCarTestDrive.com

Bucking the trend for mid-size SUVs, the 2007 Toyota 4Runner is no car-based crossover station wagon. It's a traditional sport utility built on a rugged ladder frame with a solid rear axle. It's a truck. While some consider this design dated when compared to the latest SUVs or CUVs, which use unit-body construction and independent rear suspensions, the 4Runner's more traditional design gives it an advantage in long-term durability and on truly rugged terrain.

Yet the 4Runner is no rough-rider. It's quite comfortable around town and on the highway, with a nice ride quality, almost luxurious. An optional linked shock-absorber system called X-REAS further improves handling in sweeping, high-speed turns. Active safety features including ABS, EBD, Brake Assist, traction control, and electronic stability control are all standard.

The 2007 Toyota 4Runner carries over with no changes from 2006.

Though the basic design may be traditional (relatively), the 4Runner features the latest in off-road electronic technology, including Hill Start Assist and Downhill Assist Control. You can't truly appreciate the 4Runner until you drive over rugged terrain. This is a truly amazing vehicle in the muck. Having the 4Runner walk you down a steep, muddy incline with both feet off the pedals, the system selectively applying the brakes to individual wheels as needed, is an impressive display of technology and engineering. And it's just as impressive going uphill, maximizing the smallest bit of available traction. Both full- and part-time four-wheel drive is available, but even the full-time system comes with a locking function for when the going gets sloppy. Add that technology to its highly capable suspension, and the 4Runner will go just about anywhere.

Whether you choose the standard V6 or the V8, the 4Runner offers responsive performance. The V8 boosts the 4Runner's tow rating to 7,300 pounds and we recommend it for drivers who tow. Those who don't tow or only tow light trailers, such as an ATV, should be more than happy with the V6, which delivers excellent performance. Both engines benefit from a sophisticated variable-valve setup and drive-by-wire throttle, delivering strong, responsive acceleration out on the highway. Both engines also benefit from a five-speed automatic transmission.

The 4Runner is noted for its quality construction, durability and reliability. Look up QDR in the automotive dictionary and you might see a picture of a Toyota 4Runner.

Inside, the 4Runner is roomy and comfortable. An optional third-row seat expands the passenger capacity to seven, but the seat can be folded or removed to gain additional cargo space. The optional voice-activated GPS navigation system includes a rear-mounted video camera that lets the driver back to within an inch of the vehicle behind when parallel parking and can help the driver spot a small child before backing up. Bluetooth technology is available as an option as is a factory-installed rear-seat DVD entertainment system.

If your weekend involves driving over rugged, punishing terrain yet you want a vehicle that won't punish you in everyday use, the 4Runner is an excellent choice. It's also a good alternative for owners who tow but don't want a full-size SUV.

Model Lineup

Toyota 4Runner SR5 2WD V6 ($27,635); SR5 4WD V6 ($29,910); SR5 2WD V8 ($29,650); SR5 4WD V8 ($31,925); Sport Edition 2WD V6 ($29,975); Sport Edition 4WD V6 ($32,250); Sport Edition 2WD V8 ($31,355); Sport Edition 4WD V8 ($33,630); Limited 2WD V6 ($34,350); Limited 4WD V6 ($36,625); Limited 2WD V8 ($36,110); Limited 4WD V8 ($38,385)

Walk Around

The current generation Toyota 4Runner is big and burly. Launched for the 2003 model year, today's 4Runner looks small only in relation to the Toyota Sequoia.

More than ever, given styling changes for 2006 that included a more massive front bumper, more prominent overfenders and body cladding, the 4Runner looks off-road rugged and ready to hit the dusty trail.

Backing up that contention are skid plates for the engine, transfer case and fuel tank, which come standard on 4WD models. (Even 2WD models get the engine and fuel tank skid plates.) A molded-in step adds a functional look to the broad rear bumper.

Visual cues distinguish the three trim levels. Bumpers are body-color on all three models. On the SR5, however, the grille, door handles, and license-plate trim are chrome, and running boards are painted black. The Sport is distinguished by its hood scoop and a smoked-chrome effect for the grille and headlamp trim, and by a graphite-and-black roof rack. Tubular side steps replace the SR5's running boards. The Limited has a body-color grille, black roof rack and black running boards, which are illuminated. The standard aluminum-alloy wheels have six spokes on SR5 and Sport Edition; five on Limited, and they grow from 16 inches to 17 to 18 as you move up the line.

4Runner's windshield, side windows, and side mirrors are made of hydrophilic glass and repel water like a waxed car or a window that has been treated with Rain-X. The glass causes water to form large drops, which are quickly shed by gravity or wind. The side mirrors are angled out to increase the driver's field of view. The available moonroof includes a two-stage wind deflector designed to reduce wind noise when traveling above 55 mph.

The high floor and low roof are side effects of a practical SUV design to pull the ground clearance up as high as possible while keeping the overall profile low for stability and clearance.

Interior

The Toyota 4Runner cabin is a good place to be in rugged terrain and nasty weather. For starters, it's roomy and comfortable, and it's highly functional. The quality of materials and they way they fit together is good, and loaded models are quite luxurious. Overall, the cabin looks traditional SUV.

The standard cloth is nice, and the cloth seats in the SR5 and Sport Edition are comfortable, with side bolsters to keep the driver in place when cornering or driving off road. All seats offer adjustable headrests and the driver's seat adjusts eight ways, manually on the SR5 V6 and powered on all others. The driver and front passenger sit up high, as one expects in an SUV, yet flatter to the floor, as in some low cars like a Ford Mustang. The driver's legs stretch out, rather than down, toward the pedals. It's a feeling we've noticed in some Jeeps, going back quite some years.

A two-tone dashboard houses the instruments. Gauges illuminate orange, set in three deep binnacles that prevent the front-seat passenger from reading them. The fuel gauge uses an inclinometer for accurate readouts when the 4Runner is tilted in the rough.

Automatic climate control is standard on all models, while the Limited comes with his-and-hers dual-zone temperature controls. The fan, airflow and temperature controls, are big and easy to locate; they are long on design and a little awkward at first, but become easy to use with familiarity.

The stereo buttons are easy operate. The Auto down button for the power windows is illuminated but the central lock button is not and can be difficult and awkward to find in the dark, leaving impatient, would-be passengers tapping on your window as you fumble around for the switch, a frequent annoyance. A display located just above the climate controls reveals time, ambient temperature, and trip data. A 115-volt AC power outlet is available, a real bonus in the backcountry.

An unusual feature is a pair of small convex mirrors at the rear corners of the interior, designed to help the driver see approaching vehicles when backing out of a parking space. The mirrors work on the same principal as those big convex mirrors mounted at the corners of large parking garages. In the 4Runner, they help the driver detect motion in a busy parking lot. Using them effectively, however, takes some practice, as it's hard to distinguish details. We're guessing most people won't use them and may not even notice they're there.

The rearview video camera works incredibly well. A video camera hidden in the rear bumper projects the image onto the seven-inch navigation screen on the center dash whenever the 4Runner is in reverse. The pictures are sharp, even in complete darkness (with the backup lights on), and cover the area directly behind and a couple of feet on either side of the car. The extreme fish-eye view of the lens makes distances difficult to judge, but skilled drivers quickly learn how to use it to their advantage. When parallel parking the camera allows the driver to back up to within an inch of the car behind. The camera adds safety by giving the driver an opportunity to see what's immediately behind the 4Runner, whether it's a short metal pole or a child on a tricycle or someone pushing a grocery cart.

The navigation system is among the best, intuitive and relatively easy to use. It features a touch-screen monitor, voice guidance and Bluetooth capability. Map data for the contiguous United States and major cities in Canada is stored on one DVD. The integrated Bluetooth feature provides a hands-free communication system using a cellular phone. The system is integrated into an eight-speaker JBL AM/FM/CD stereo, which is automatically muted when a call is received. The stereo speakers then act as the phone receiver and transmitter.

The ultimate stereo system is a 360-watt JBL Synthesis setup with 10 speakers and controls integrated into the steering wheel. It is st

Driving Impressions

The Toyota 4Runner is available with a V8, but we find the standard 4.0-liter V6 engine impressively responsive. It never leaves us feeling short changed. The V6 features variable valve timing, an electronically controlled throttle, and lightweight all-aluminum construction. It's rated at 236 horsepower, but more noticeable is its 266 pound-feet of torque. Torque is that force you feel when you accelerate from an intersection or power up a steep hill. Torque is crucial when driving over rugged terrain, when the engine is running at low rpm yet under a heavy load because you're geared way down and lugging up a steep slope. A 4WD V6 4Runner gets an EPA-rated 17/21 mpg City/Highway, while the 2WD V6 is rated 18/21 mpg. Premium fuel is recommended for optimum performance, though it'll run just fine on Regular. The V6 is the engine we for anyone who doesn't plan to do a lot of towing.

The 4.7-liter V8 is smooth and tractable and never struggles when thrust is needed. The V8 features variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i) and electronic throttle control with intelligence (ETCS-i), turning it into a real performer. It's rated 260 horsepower and 306 pound-feet of torque, and adds about 190 pounds to the overall weight. Again, the torque figure is the key number here. In the case of the V8, torque is important for pulling a trailer. The V8 is EPA-rated at 16/20 mpg with 2WD, 15/19 with 4WD. Toyota recommends premium fuel. Again, when you see that word, recommends, it generally means you'll get more power and better fuel economy with the higher octane gas but it'll run without a whimper on Regular.

Both engines feature a cranking system that keeps the starter engaged until complete combustion is achieved, freeing the driver from holding the key until the engine turns over. This is a nice feature, and one usually associated with expensive luxury sedans.

Both engines come with a sophisticated five-speed automatic transmission. More gears means better response for any given situation along with better efficiency and this five-speed is more flexible than four-speed transmissions and better able to keep the engine running in its optimum rpm range, whether you're after power or fuel economy at any particular moment. The transmission is equipped with Artificial Intelligence Shift control, which changes gear-shifting patterns according to driving conditions and driver intent. It works well and seems to understand when you want to cruise and when you want to get with the program, and it shifts smoothly around town.

The 4Runner handles very well for a truck with a live rear axle. We drove V6-powered models over twisting back roads along the Oregon coast and found them easy to drive at a quick clip. We've also spent a lot of time in V8 versions around Los Angeles.

The suspension damping is excellent. When the road got bumpy, we could tell our truck had a solid rear axle rather than an independent rear suspension, but the 4Runner still handles more confidently than other live-axle SUVs. Rack-and-pinion steering gives the 4Runner quick response and good steering feel.

Still, the 4Runner is a truck, not a car. Rather than using unit-body construction like the Toyota Highlander and RAV4, the 4Runner is built on a separate ladder frame that features full-length box-section frame rails. Toyota also steered away from using an independent rear suspension like the one on the ladder-frame Ford Explorer. An independent rear suspension would have offered a cushier ride around town and allowed for a roomier interior, but off-road capability was a high priority for the 4Runner and that its live rear axle provides more suspension travel. In other words, if your driving consists almost entirely of commuting to work, hauling kids around and running errands, you might be more comfortable in a Toyota Highlander.

The 4Runner starts making a lot of sense when pull off the pavement. The ride quality on u

The Toyota 4Runner is a highly capable trail vehicle. It will get you over the rocks and through the muck, but it won't make you regret its durable construction when you're cruising the Interstate. It's smooth and quiet on the road and there's plenty of room for family and friends. The V6 is our first choice for its power and efficiency combination, but the V8 delivers excellent response and is the better choice for towing. If you want serious recreational capability with quality, durability and reliability, the 4Runner is an excellent choice. On the other hand, if you rarely venture onto unimproved trails, then you'll find the Toyota Highlander and other car-based SUVs smoother and more comfortable.

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