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2011 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Review

2011 Toyota 4Runner SR5 (select to view enlarged photo)
2011 Toyota 4Runner SR5

2011 Toyota 4Runner SR5 - A mid-size SUV that can tow.
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

Toyota’s original entry into the SUV segment, the 4Runner was completely redesigned for 2010 and the 2011 model is unchanged except for a few tweaks in options. This mid-size, body-on-frame, traditional SUV has towing capacity, off-road prowess and a reputation for reliability.

I spent a week with a 2010 that had about 12,000 miles on it when it came to me…a good 1-years-worth of miles. I was pleased with the overall quietness of my test vehicle; no noticeable squeaks and rattles, good wind noise management and just the sing of the 17-inch nobby tires at highway speed. On a 400 mile day trip from Chicago south passed the Lincoln Highway to the middle of Illinois, I found the interior and seats to be very comfortable and supportive and the engine quiet while lumbering along at 2000 rpm at a 70 mph cruise. Rated at 17 city mpg and 22 highway mpg, my fuel economy was about 20 mpg on my trip with air conditioning turned on at my 70 mph cruise.

The 4Runner is available in a variety of configurations and in three models: a well-equipped SR5, top-of-the-line Limited, plus a Trail grade for maximum off-road capability. Optional third-row seats allow for up to seven-person capacity.

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Drivetrain configurations include rear wheel 4x2, part-time 4x4 and full-time multi-mode 4x4 with a locking center differential. All models are equipped with a 4.0-liter V6 teamed to a five-speed ECT-i automatic transmission.

The 2011 4Runner is powered by a 4.0-liter V6 that generates 270 horsepower and 278 lb.-ft. of torque. Through the use of advanced engine management that includes dual independent Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), the new 4.0-liter engine gained power over the previous 4Runner’s V6 and even V8 engines, yet is more efficient than either. The new 4.0-liter fuel economy ratings are respectable at 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway for 4x2 models (22 mpg highway for 4x4). Maximum towing capacity is 5,000 pounds.

A suite of high-performance, state-of-the-art safety systems further enhances on-road vehicle dynamics in the 2011 4Runner. The standard Toyota Star Safety System™ includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with traction control (TRAC), an Anti-Lock Brake System with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. VSC helps the driver to ensure control by compensating for front and rear wheel slip. The system uses selective braking and modulated engine output to help keep the vehicle in line with the driver’s steering inputs. On 4x2 vehicles, the Auto LSD (Limited Slip Differential) system allows for better traction on slippery sections of roadway.

The four-wheel ABS with EBD provides the 4Runner with optimal brake proportioning, regardless of vehicle load. Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), standard on all models, helps suppress backward roll when switching from brake to accelerator.

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A system of eight standard airbags includes front, side-mounted and knee airbags for the driver and front passenger, and side curtain airbags for the second and third row. All 2011 4Runners have active headrests for driver and passenger, and three-point seat belts for all seats.

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Fold-flat second-row rear seats provide a level load floor, and it is not necessary to remove the headrests to fold the seats flat. The available third-row seat is split 50/50 and folds flat, as well. The seats can be folded from the side, or at the rear, using separate one-touch levers. With this new arrangement, more cargo space is available without removing seats, and longer items can be conveniently carried.

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Two features I really liked were the rear liftgate window that can be lowered for flow-thru fresh air and the available pull-out cargo deck ($350). Capable of carrying up to 440 pounds, to make loading heavy items easier and eliminate the need to crawl in the rear cargo area to unload
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Plus, it functions as seating for tailgating or campsite relaxation. Which brings me to the standard “party mode” audio setting that is ideal for tailgating. It raises bass response and shifts sound balance to the rear of the vehicle, bolstered by rear liftgate-mounted speakers.

Another nice feature especially when maneuvering in tight city parking spaces and garages is the optional ($525) backup camera. Displayed in the rear view mirror, it saves some neck twisting to help confirm you are aiming correctly.

The base MSRP for the 2011 4Runner ranges from $29,525 for the SR5 4x2 V6 with a five-speed automatic transmission to $39,685 for the Limited grade 4x4 V6 with a five-speed automatic.

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If you regularly tow a boat or camping trailer, venture on unpaved, rough roads, or need to drive in frequent deep snows, a traditional SUV such as the 4Runner makes sense. Crossover’s provide a more-car-like ride but slightly less cargo space and certainly don’t have the towing capacity.

Something to think about: With 1,234 Toyota dealers nationwide and a good solid warranty the 4Runner should prove to deliver a good ownership experience.

Larry Nutson