2017 Toyota 4Runner Reviews
Cars.com Expert Reviews
The 2017 Toyota 4Runner is an affordable, no-frills, off-road-capable SUV with a hint of weekend-toy fun factor.
Versus the competition
If the 4Runner TRD Off-Road were a Jeep, its capabilities and luxuries would fall somewhere between the primitive-but-capable Jeep Wrangler and the more refined Jeep Grand Cherokee.
The 2017 Toyota 4Runner is slowly becoming one of a kind thanks to a focus on off-road capabilities and ruggedness rather than the refinement, passenger comfort and crash avoidance technologies that are prioritized in competing models. If you'd like the latter, there are a plethora of car-based SUVs out there, like the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot, to get the family around in comfort. The 4Runner, on the other hand, has hardware better suited for weekend camping trips, mountainous exploration or, as I found, oddly good maneuvering of an urban landscape.
What makes it so capable? The 4Runner retains body-on-frame construction, a once-common chassis type that's given way to lighter — and less-capable — unibody SUVs (commonly called crossovers or car-based SUVs)
People who tow frequently may not find the 4Runner suitable for much more than light-duty use. Despite its rugged construction, the 4Runner's 5,000-pound towing capacity is the same as the Highlander's, and it's less than a Grand Cherokee's 6,200 pounds (with the gasoline V-6). The Jeep's V-8 can tow up to 7,200 pounds, while the Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited max out at 3,500 pounds.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2017 Toyota 4Runner a score of marginal in its small overlap front crash test (out of a possible good, acceptable, marginal and poor) and good in four other crashworthiness tests. These ratings match the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 4Runner an overall safety rating of four out of five stars, while the Grand Cherokee has an overall five-star rating with four-wheel drive and four stars with rear-wheel drive.
The Highlander aced IIHS crash tests and scored five out of five stars from NHTSA.
In NHTSA's rollover testing, the 4Runner earned three stars — the rating most often earned by off-road and truck-based models — with both RWD and 4WD. The Grand Cherokee earned three stars with RWD but four with 4WD. Typical of car-based SUVs, the Highlander rated four stars regardless of driveline.
The Highlander and other popular SUVs, including the Grand Cherokee, have more optional crash-avoidance features than the 2017 4Runner. The 4Runner lacks forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind spot warning and more. That may change soon, however, with Toyota's promise to include automatic emergency braking for the 2018 model year. A backup camera is standard, and front and rear parking sensors are optional.
For $39,835, a TRD Off-Road is still the sweet spot in the 4Runner lineup, just like it was when it was sold as the Trail trim level in 2016. It offers a lot of capability but not a lot of refinement, which could be endearing to weekend adventurers or those who just want to feel like they could dive deep into the woods at a moment's notice.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee is arguably a more modern interpretation of an off-roader, with all the safety and convenience features you'd expect in a modern SUV. Of course that also comes at a higher price, and it's hard to argue with Toyota's reliability and ownership perks. J.D. Power's 2017 Vehicle Dependability Study, which measures reliability of 2014 vehicles, rates the 4Runner five out of five for predicted reliability, while the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee gets just two out of five. (Neither model has been redesigned since 2014, so these ratings set reasonable expectations for the 2017s.) Toyota also offers two years/25,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance.
With less-than-stellar crashworthiness ratings and some modern features absent, the 4Runner is certainly not for everyone, but the roomy and off-road-oriented SUV certainly packs a lot of capability and ownership perks for less than $40,000.