Toyota must have thought the same thing, because they put together a brief video tutorial for the 4runner’s manually operated, two-speed transfer case. It lets you shift the truck between two- and four-wheel-drive (at speeds below 50 mph); or to its low-range 4WD for low-speed rock crawling, driving in soft sand – or wherever you want, frankly.
The Toyota’s outstanding Crawl Control can automatically trigger brakes at individual wheels to walk you up or down hills with no human throttle or brake inputs, if those inclines seem beyond a driver’s skill grade.
By now, serious off-roaders – can I get a show of dirty hands? – are rolling their eyes and asking why I’m bothering to explain the obvious. But that’s the point: The 4Runner, and vehicles like it, were once synonymous with the SUV: a steel-frame, truck-based vehicle with genuine four-wheel-drive. Today, the 4Runner is a niche vehicle, including features and capabilities that can seem odd or superfluous to the crossover-driving masses.
2020 4Runner is as charming and trustworthy as ever. If your lifestyle leans toward commuting, family chauffeuring, or road trip on the Interstate, well, let’s put it charitably: The 4Runner is not the ideal tool for the job. Besides the inherent detriments common to truck-based SUVs, the 4Runner was last full redesigned for 2010. As such, its ride and handling, interior and fuel economy, especially (you won’t see 20 mpg on a bet) have fallen behind the competitive curve.
To address some – but not all – issues, Toyota has mildly updated this 2020 version. Grilles are slightly revised, in part to accommodate a new front radar sensor for the previously unavailable but now standard Toyota Safety Sense Plus suite of accident avoidance features: automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, automated high beams and lane-departure alert with trailer sway control.
Inside, a new driver’s instrument panel is more handsome and informative, including a chrono-style speedometer and tach. Toyota has also managed to shoehorn in its 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system, which comes with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or Alexa. The 4Runner previously had a tiny 6.1-inch touchscreen and none of those smartphone connectivity features. Should you choose a TRD Pro or Limited model, the new system adds a 15-speaker, 550-watt JBL audio unit. In another nod to modernity, back-seat riders get a new pair of USB ports that fans have been demanding (the old 4Runner had one). Proximity entry with push button start also becomes standard on nearly all models.
Mechanically, the TRD Pro adds a cat-back exhaust system with a slightly huskier growl. Though it’s questionable whether anyone really needs to hear the 4Runner’s ancient, 4.0-liter V6 groan its way to high revs. That V6 delivers an unchanged 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. Toyota says it’s good for a 0-60 mph run in a reasonable 7.5 seconds, which is a touch quicker than a burly Dogde Durango with its 293-hp V6.
As noted, nothing announces the 4Runner’s authenticity like the manly-man transfer case once found on every four-wheeler. (You might crawl beneath the TRD Pro version to spot its 2.5-inch-diameter Fox shocks, or its expanded skidplates, but that would take more effort). Today, even most Jeeps (or the 2020 Toyota Tacoma pickup we tested at Moab) have replaced manual transfer cases with electronic knobs or switches, which are easier to operate but not nearly as tactile and cool. Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select system and Crawl Control are still operated with knobs, though they’re oddly located on the ceiling forward of the rearview mirror.
Toyota hasn’t divulged pricing for the 2020 4Runner that goes on sale this fall, but cost increases should be negligible. For reference, a rear-drive, 2019 SR model starts from $36,405, while the TRD Pro goes for $47,910. Analysts’ crystal balls do see Toyota bringing an all-new 4Runner to showrooms, finally, around 2022. It seems likely that the 4Runner can withstand market pressures until that sixth-generation model arrives, especially with its antiquated infotainment and missing safety tech features being corrected for 2020. Its market niche is also showing surprising endurance, thanks in part to Americans’ increasing demand for SUVs with authentic design and rugged personality. This old soldier actually sold nearly 100,000 more units in 2018 than it did when it was brand new in 2010.
- 4.0L V-6 Engine
- 5-spd auto w/OD Transmission
- 270 @ 5,600 rpm Horsepower
- 278 @ 4,400 rpm Torque
- Rear-wheel Drive type
- ABS and driveline Traction control
- 17″ silver aluminum Wheels
- Front air conditioning, manual
- SiriusXM AM/FM/HD/Satellite, seek-scan Radio
- 1st row LCD monitor
- Keyfob (all doors) Remote keyless entry
- Front Fog/driving lights
- Heated mirrors
- Cloth Seat trim
- Driver Lumbar support