For 2013, the Toyota 4Runner carries on its longtime role as one of the best
(and last) of the true sport utility vehicles.
This quite-capable on- or off-road midsize SUV entered its fifth generation three years ago, and got a few updates this year.
Prices begin at $31,490 for the base SR5 model with rear-wheel drive, and $33,365 with four-wheel drive, which for off-road-driving aficionados like me is the only way to go.
Our tester, the four-wheel-drive Trail model, lists for $37,155, while the top-of-the-line Limited versions begin at $41,030 with four-wheel drive.
In the Toyota U.S. lineup for 28 years now, the 4Runner is a traditional body-on-frame, truck-style sport utility vehicle that began as essentially a Toyota compact pickup with a cap over the bed and a back seat.
Over the years it evolved into a great family hauler with four doors, a refined interior and the same off-road capabilities as the Tacoma pickup trucks when equipped with four-wheel drive and other trail-ready features. The first four-door model arrived in 1990.
For 2013, base SR5 models now come with satellite radio, a USB port (for iPhone/iPod/smartphone connection), and Bluetooth hands-free phone and music streaming. These models also have new steering-wheel audio controls.
Standard on Limited models and optional on the Trail version (and included on our tester) is a display audio system with a 6.1-inch screen, along with navigation, Toyota's Entune system, satellite radio, HD radio with iTunes tagging, and text/email-to-speech capability.
Entune is a voice-activated multimedia system with mobile applications and data services. It connects the car to the Internet through a compatible smartphone, provided by the user. It hooks up by USB cable or a wireless Bluetooth link. I used it two ways _ direct connection of an iPhone via the USB cable, which gave me full screen control of my music; and Bluetooth streaming of audio from the iPhone. Audio streaming was also available for my Samsung Galaxy S3.
The system includes mobile applications for Bing, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable and Pandora. Also provided are such services as a fuel-price guide, sports scores, stocks, traffic and weather.
The 4Runner has seating for up to seven passengers with the optional third-row seat, which is suitable mostly for kids or small adults.
There is a long list of available amenities, including leather upholstery. But our tester didn't have the third seat or leather. The Trail version comes with water-resistant fabric seats that are easy to clean if you get a bit of mud on them from the trail.
All models are powered by a 4.0-liter V-6 engine rated at 270 horsepower and 278 foot-pounds of torque, connected to a five-speed automatic transmission. The five-speed transmission is getting a bit dated, as Toyota has six-speeds in many of its vehicles, which helps increase highway mileage.
The 4Runner's EPA ratings are 17 mpg city/22 highway for two-wheel-drive models, and 17/21 for the four-wheel-drives.
Although Toyota has eliminated the 4Runner's V-8 engine option, that engine really isn't necessary. The V-6 had more than enough power for our use of the 4Runner, including some mountain and trail driving. If you need this vehicle with a V-8 _ for additional towing capacity, for instance _ check out the Lexus
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