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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Toyota 4Runner is for the outdoorsy type, carrying with it authentic off-road capability and history – it looks tougher than the many crossovers that have sold their soul to look softer and more suburban so as to please the masses.

I drove a 2017 Toyota 4Runner with the standard 270-horsepower 4-liter V6 engine with 278 pound-feet of torque, paired to a five-speed automatic transmission and part-time four-wheel drive system with A-TRAC. Available in six trims– SR5, SR5 Premium, TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, Limited and TRD Pro for those who want more off-road ability – my TRD Pro Off-Road Premium test drive came with the following standard feature highlights: SofTex upholstery; heated front seats; Entune infotainment; navigation; Bluetooth; a 6.1-inch touchscreen with backup camera; tow hitch receiver; seventeen-inch alloy wheels; hood scoop; fog lights; silver-colored roof rails; front and rear mud guards; TRD shift knob, floor mats, and seat stitching. Total price as described came to $39,295.

With niche vehicles like the 4Runner, you can’t come to expect a tremendous amount of changes year to year, so there are minimal tweaks for 2017 (basically, the previous “Trail” trim was renamed TRD). The Grand Jeep Cherokee is the 4Runner’s best trail-rated match, but competitors include other rugged three-row SUVs such as the Dodge Durango and GMC Suburban.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: You sit high inside the 4Runner, and visibility is clear. At first glance on the dash and center console, I’d like to personally thank Toyota for keeping large knob dials for climate control (too many manufactures now use tiny buttons, which can be a real annoyance). The TRD Pro Series trim is the way to go in terms of really brining out rugged style and character, as it adds black bumper accents and black TRD alloy wheels with huge Nitto Terra Grappler tires, plus high-performance shocks with rear remote reservoirs. Equipment for the tech-minded includes Entune, Toyota’s multi-media system for streamlining your smartphone to hands-free navigation, calls and music. My test drive also came with the $350 sliding rear cargo deck, a $1,750 Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, and a $850 moonroof.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2017 Toyota 4Runner ratings of “Good” in all crash-test areas with the exception of a “Marginal” in small overlap front. I also love that the organization is now rating the ease of use with child seat anchors, with the 4Runner getting just another “Marginal” rating in this area (headlights rated as “Poor”). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the vehicle an overall rating of 4-Stars – rollover earned just 3-Stars.

Cost Issues: A base 2017 4Runner SR5 starts at $36,240, so these specially SUVs do cost more than the trendy alternatives. My 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium with options came in at $42,455 and the TRD Pro is $42,675 fully loaded.

Activity & Performance Ability: For daily driving, the 4Runner hums on the highway but does boarder on bulky, and certain cannot swing into parking space with the grace and ease of an Acura MDX. But once you take this beast into the wild, and I’ve taken an older model – remember, not much has changed – to a mountainous excursion in Stanislaus National Forest on off-road trails where the TRD extras became a justified expense along with those specialty wheels, shocks absorbers, and of course the KDSS for true, big-boulder climbing. Overall i’s a delightful ride, and it offers a ton of grit verse a button-up personality.

The Green Concern: The 4-liter V6 gets 17-city and 20-highway for a combined 18 miles-per-gallon combined.

The 2017 Toyota 4Runner is the real deal in both looks and attitude, encouraging families to take the road less traveled and get off the commuter one for a change. While any of the TRD trims are pleasing, if it was me I’d splurge for a white TRD Pro trim to set off those tough black alloy wheels.

©2017 Katrina Ramser

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