2021 Toyota 4Runner 4x4 TRAIL V6 - Review by David Colman +VIDEO
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Toyota sticks with a tried and true success
By David Colman
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Last week I had two SUVs at my disposal for evaluation. One cost twice as much as the other. I preferred the one that cost half as much because it fit me like an old pair of slippers. The other one looked flashier, like a fancy pair of dress shoes, but pinched me with a vengeance whenever I took a step. The importance of the comfort factor cannot be overestimated. With that in mind, it's hard to beat Toyota's rugged 4Runner, which still combines excellent highway driving manners with serious off-road chops. In order to cook the perfect soufflé you need to assemble the right ingredients, and Toyota has done just that with their latest 2021 Trail Edition of the legendary 4Runner.
To build the Trail Edition, Toyota uses the body-on-frame design of the SR5 4Runner. The company claims that this method of assembly is essential to the DNA of any SUV with serious off-road aspirations. You can select either 2 or 4 wheel drive for your Trail model. Our test model was equipped with 4WD at a base price of $40,190. Toyota will make only 4,000 4Runner Trail Editions for 2021. They will be available in just four color schemes - army green, midnight black, super white and cement (the fetching shade of our test vehicle). In all color schemes, exterior nameplates are tinted flat black to match the special darkened front and rear body cladding peculiar to this model. Inside the cabin, black fabric seating is enlivened with tan stitched inserts, and all-weather rubber floor liners carry prominent 4Runner logos. The Trail Edition adds a highly conspicuous Yakima roof top cargo basket (called the "LoadWarrior"), and finishes off the custom look with a sparkling set of 17x7.5J dark grey alloy wheels which look particularly good against the cement bodywork.
The most ingenious addition to the Trail portfolio is the inclusion of a slide-out rear loading platform that is ideal for inserting or removing heavy objects. This slider is designed to withstand loads of 440 pounds, so it can easily serve as a tailgate seat for 1 or 2 adults. But Toyota further enhances the functionality of this slider by equipping it with a 40 quart cooler, custom made in the USA for the Trail model, This "4Runner" emblazoned unit, finished in cement regardless of exterior color choice, features a flat top which can also serve as a seating surface when the cooler is removed from the 4Runner. The unit features 2 heavy duty latches with integrated bottle openers, a pair of ergonomic carry handles, freezer grade gaskets, and a large built-in drain plug with lanyard. "Trail" decorated tie-down straps secure the cooler to the slide-out table. Tailgating has never been made so inviting.
Neither has thumping along badly paved roads or unpaved dirt trails. We took the 4RunnerTrail for an extended run along levee-top Sacramento Delta paths that varied from perfect pavement to decrepit cow paths to rutted dirt all within the space of a few miles. If ever a vehicle were perfectly designed for such unpredictable diversity, it's the 4Runner Trail edition. With its sizeable Bridgestone mud and snow rated Dueler H/T tires (265/70R17) thumping along rhythmically, the 4Runner scoffed at bad pavement, sneered at potholes, and laughed off dramatic terrain changes that would have stymied a less stout SUV. Toyota provides hefty skid plates under the engine, front suspension, transfer case and fuel tank to ensure maximum protection against terrain intrusion.
When we returned from the lunar levee landscape to terra firma, the 4Runner's torquey 4.0 liter V6 blasted us from a stop sign to 60mph traffic flow in just 7.7 seconds. This SUV will run the quarter-mile in a very respectable 16 seconds flat at 88mph, so lack of power is never an issue with the 4Runner. Neither is towing prowess. The Trail Edition is fitted with a receiver style tow hitch and 4 and 7 pin electrical connections. Maximum tow load is 5,000 pounds. And speaking of interior load capacity, with the second row seats in use, you can still carry 47.7 cubic feet of cargo inside that hulking shell. You can also drop the second row seats flat without removing the attached headrests. Doing so produces a vast interior space good for 89.7 cubic feet of locked and protected interior storage. An optional third seating row is also available.
While the evergreen 4Runner may lack some of the tepid refinements commonly found on more citified, fancy pants SUVs, this Toyota sticks steadfastly close to the original formula that has long made this brand such a rousing sale success.
2021 TOYOTA 4RUNNER 4x4 TRAIL V6
ENGINE: 4.0 liter DOHC, 24 valve V6 with dual independent VVT-i
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 16MPG City/19MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $43,126
HYPES: The Formula for Success Perfected Yet Again
GRIPES: A Little Long In The Tooth
STAR RATING: 10 stars out of 10