2019 Toyota 4Runner

2019 Toyota 4Runner Review: For The Rugged At Heart

by Adam Lynton

When you think of off-road SUVs, a number of monikers jump to mind: the Jeep Wrangler, Mercedes-Benz G-Class, and Toyota Land Cruiser being chief amongst them. Of course, Toyota has more in its off-road arsenal than just the Land Cruiser, and the 4Runner is an ultra-capable off-road crawler that's celebrating 35 years in existence as the fifth generation now enters its tenth production year. As a midsize body-on-frame SUV that shares underpinnings with the Toyota Tacoma, it's a true rival for the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and the upcoming Ford Bronco, and much like its adversaries, the 4Runner is wayward on-road, with loose steering, even looser handling, and specification levels that seem as aged as the decade-old design. But steer away from tarmac and head into the great unknown, and the 4Runner's burly 4.0-liter V6, available four-wheel-drive, and low range transfer case truly shine. Don't think of it as a sub-par on-road vehicle, instead, it's an ultra-versatile seven-seat off-roader designed for those who like to live on the edge.

2019 Toyota 4Runner Changes: What’s the difference vs 2018 4Runner?

For 2019, Toyota has placed an emphasis on the TRD Pro trim, featuring new Fox internal bypass shocks, a bulky roof rack, and a heavy-duty skid plate, while the also standard sunroof and optional JBL audio give it a little more rugged luxury. Also new to the range is a Nightshade Edition for the 4Runner Limited trim, decking the exterior out in all sorts of black attire. The TRD Pro trim also gets a new color called Voodoo Blue, shared with other TRD Pro models like the Tundra.

Pros and Cons

  • Highly-capable off-roader
  • Reliable powertrain
  • Powerful V6 motor
  • Loads of cargo volume
  • Extensive options list
  • Decade-old bones
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Antiquated technologies
  • Rough ride quality
  • Sloppy handling
  • One-trick pony

4Runner Exterior

With underpinnings shared with the Toyota Tacoma, the 4Runner carries the family genes boldly. Typically boxy and high-riding, it gets utilitarian roof rails standard on all trims. Wheels range in size from 17-20 inches in diameter with varying designs and finishes, while most trims feature mudguards accentuating the off-road focus. Skid plates are equipped to all trims while running boards are optional. The headlights are projector-beam lamps by default, all equipped with LED daytime running lights and smoked trim. The taillights are all-LED units, also decorated with the same smoked sport trim. The TRD Pro is further defined by black TRD Pro badging, a model-specific "TOYOTA" front grille, TRD stamped aluminum front skid plate, LED foglights, and a more pronounced roof rack.

2019 Toyota 4Runner Front Angle View Toyota
2019 Toyota 4Runner Front Angle View 1 Toyota
2019 Toyota 4Runner Front Angle View 2 Toyota
See All 2019 Toyota 4Runner Exterior Photos

Dimensions

The Toyota 4Runner is anything but subtle, with its SR5 trims sporting nine-inches of ground clearance, and the TRD Off-Road a staggering 9.6-inches of underbody clearance. The SR5 variant also benefits from 30-degree approach and 26-degree departure angles, whilst the TRD Off-Road adds another three degrees to 4Runner's approach angle. Depending on trim, the height and length differ, with the SR5 and SR5 Premium measuring 190.2 inches long, the TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, and TRD Pro measuring 191.3 inches long, and Limited and Nightshade trims measuring 190.7 inches. All but the TRD Pro stand 71.5-inches tall, with the TRD Pro gaining half an inch on that, and all models ride on a 109.8-inch wheelbase. Curb weights range by trim too, starting at 4,400 for the SR5 and topping out at 4,750 on all three TRD variants.

Exterior Colors

Eight hues make up the exterior color palette for 2019's 4Runner, with only one change from the previous year. Cavalry Blue has been removed from the TRD Pro's palette and in its place, Toyota has introduced Voodoo Blue, shared with a number of other TRD-branded products from the Japanese manufacturer. Voodoo Blue is one of three colors offered on the TRD Pro, the other two being Midnight Black - available on all trims - and Super White - available on all except the Limited and Nightshade which replace it with the $395 Blizzard Pearl. Other options with wide availability include Nautical Blue Metallic, Barcelona Red Metallic, and more subdued hues like Magnetic Gray and Classic Silver.

  • Magnetic Gray Metallic
  • Classic Silver Metallic
  • Barcelona Red Metallic
  • Nautical Blue Metallic
  • Midnight Black Metallic
  • Blizzard Pearl
  • Super White
  • Voodoo Blue

4Runner Performance

A number of midsize SUVs have transitioned away from body-on-frame utilitarians to unibody mom-mobiles, and along the way, they've moved to front-wheel drivetrains. Of course there are exceptions, with some matching the 4Runner in offering either rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive inherited from its truck underpinnings. It's the combination of the body-on-frame construction and 2WD that yields the best towing capacity, enabling up to 5,000 lbs to be towed by the 4Runner. Meanwhile, on-road, the burly V6 engine is suitable enough to send the 4Runner from 0-60 mph in a not-too-slow eight-second average. That's not where the 4Runner's talents lie, though, and you'll have to head off-road to access its full potential. It's there where the duel-range transfer case on 4x4 models and standard mud-and-snow tires will see the 4Runner come into its own, while the Torsen locking limited-slip differential will send the TRD Pro scampering over just about anything you can through at it.

2019 Toyota 4Runner Side View Toyota

Engine and Transmission

All models in 2019's Toyota 4Runner range draw power from the same engine. The 4.0-liter V6 develops 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque, sending it to your chosen drivetrain via a five-speed automatic transmission. By today's standards, a five-speed automatic is rather outdated and inefficient for both effective power delivery and fuel economy, both of which are hardly the 4Runner's strengths. But it effectively manages power from the V6, of which there is enough for day to day use both in the city and when overtaking on the highway, and more than enough to conquer loose surfaces. But the V6 is far from refined. It's gruff, agricultural, and doesn't like being wrung out. While it might be effective, it won't match up to the latest EcoBoost engines Ford is expected to bring to the new Bronco, and even the Wrangler's engine choices feel more refined than the 4Runner's.

  • Engine
    4.0-liter V6 Gas
  • Transmission
    5-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    4X4, RWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Body-on-frame SUVs make several concessions for the sake of their ruggedness, but the 4Runner seems to make more than most. Firm suspension geared towards off-road prowess is hell on the road, sending ripples and corrugations rattling through the cabin. The steering suffers too, although not from excessive feedback but rather from its wayward nature. It's loose on center and the response to inputs is dull and slow. The mud and snow tires found on most models don't inspire confidence on tarmac, and the TRD Pro's all-terrain tires do even less; if anything, this makes every commute a nerve-wracking experience.

But once off-road, the tires, suspension, and truck foundations prove invaluable. A high ride height and stiff suspension mean that it's a cinch to climb rocks and rutted terrain, and the deadness of the steering wheel means it doesn't shuffle excessively in hand. It's by no means a short wheelbase Wrangler, but it's damn good off-road, particularly in TRD Pro guise, with thick skid plates, Fox internal bypass shocks, and grippy tires getting the most out of what the V6 has to offer.

4Runner Gas Mileage

Fuel consumption is heavy. Period. In its most fuel-efficient trim, the entry-level 4Runner SR5 only manages to get 17/21/18 mpg city/highway/combined. Add four-wheel-drive and you get 17/20/18. All trims come equipped with a large 23-gallon fuel tank, putting the estimated range at 414 miles. In comparison, the Ford Explorer achieves 17/24/20 mpg, meaning the 4Runner is one of the worst in the segment, betraying the archaic engine and built-for-purpose underpinnings.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    23.0 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 17/21 mpg
* 2019 Toyota 4Runner SR5 2WD

4Runner Interior

The interior is where the 4Runner's age really shows, with the dominant design trait being the pre-2000 square-shaped everything that doesn't do well to hide its outdated nature. A few soft leather inlays were added with 2014's facelift, but most of the switchgear looks old and basic and even the soft-touch materials that are present feel cheap and substandard. The interior design is indicative of Toyota's late 2000s styling of what a rugged SUV's cabin should look like. Build quality is impressive. Despite its obvious design drawbacks, the layout is simplistic and intuitive, backlighting illuminates the controls really well, and the instrument cluster gives the driver all the relevant information in a very legible manner.

2019 Toyota 4Runner Dashboard Toyota
See All 2019 Toyota 4Runner Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

The 4Runner SR5, SR5 Premium, Limited, and Limited Limited Nightshade Edition are three-row seven-seater SUVs, with all TRD models only available as five-seaters. From front to back, 39.3 inches and 34.3 inches of headroom allow taller adults to be seated comfortably, with the Limited and Limited Limited Nightshade Edition models losing 0.9 inches when opting for a moonroof. Legroom at the front and the middle row come in at 41.7 and 32.9 inches respectively, with the third row only getting 29.3 inches of legroom, making it more suited to small children. Accessing the third-row is also impractical, requiring contortions to access the rearmost perches.

  • Seating capacity
    5-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

The entire 4Runner range, from base-level SR5 to TRD Pro, utilizes a blend of inexpensive hard plastics. Interior finishes scale with the trim levels, starting off the SR5 in a graphite color fabric, whereas the SR5 Premium sees SofTex fabric instead. Moving over to the TRD-Offroad, a black off-road fabric lines the interior, with its Off-Road Premium and TRD Pro equivalents receiving SofTex as well. The Limited and Nightshade Edition trims are the only models to receive leather interior finishes and seats, with a selection between Limited Leather in Black, Redwood, or Sand Beige available. The Nightshade Edition features only a single interior color, namely Nightshade Leather in Graphite.

4Runner Trunk and Cargo Space

With the third row of seats up, there's merely nine cubic feet of cargo space available, leaving little room for hauling any goods. Dropping the third row flat opens up space to a much more generous 46.3 cubic feet, enough to pack a dozen carry-ons - and then some. The rear seats fold down to the floor as well, delivering an impressive 88.8 cubic feet of cargo space, enough to satisfy even the most prepared camper or explorer with a hoarding problem. Despite its squared-off interior, the lift-over height to load any cargo is quite severe, making packing hardly a one-man job. There is an available sliding deck to help load heavier goods but this does very little to remedy the issue. The interior is a bit more forgiving, with a roomy center console storage compartment and a total of ten bottle holders throughout the cabin. Storage is definitely a high point for the 4Runner, and it's apparent Toyota had a goal in mind when it came to packing in an abundance of storage solutions.

2019 Toyota 4Runner Trunk Space Toyota
2019 Toyota 4Runner Trunk Space 1 Toyota

4Runner Infotainment and Features

Features

Much like the 4Runner's age-old design, its accompanying features lack the modern luxuries you'd expect at this price point. A key example of this is dual-zone climate control, available only for the Limited and Nightshade editions, with the top of the range TRD Pro left only with the most basic of air conditioning. That said, a multi-information display, eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, cruise control, Optitron instrument cluster, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, powered rear liftgate window, push-button start (Limited/Nightshade), a backup camera, overhead Multi-terrain select (TRD models), six 12-volt outlets, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a foot pedal parking brake come as standard.

Infotainment

Infotainment in the 4Runner is available in three different variations, with the entry-level SR5 and TRD Off-Road trims equipped with the most basic option. A 6.1-inch Entune Audio Plus touchscreen display kicks off the list, with an eight-speaker sound system taking care of the cabin, while a much-outdated CD player is present too. AM/FM/HD Radio, USB/AUX ports, Bluetooth, Scout GPS link and SiriusXM are all part of the standard package. Moving up to the SR5/TRD's Premium models, the infotainment system gets integrated navigation and a Doppler Weather overlay added to its functionality, dropping the third party Scout GPS link altogether. The Limited, Nightshade, and TRD Pro trims make use of an Entune Premium JBL audio system, with integrated navigation, a split-screen display, and an extensive 15-speaker sound system completing the list.

4Runner Problems and Reliability

The 4Runner is a typical Toyota, with great reliability. Parts for services have also become rather cheap with the fifth generation stretching on for what seems like infinity. There have been two recalls issued as of the time of writing, with the first relating to a load capacity label with non-permanent text spanning many Toyota vehicles. The second is an isolated issue, specific to Southeast Toyota Distributors 4Runners between 2017 and 2019, again for a label issue. Warranties also cover a three-year/36,000 mile basic and five-year/60,000 powertrain period, should things go south.

4Runner Safety

The NHTSA gave the 2019 Toyota 4Runner an overall safety rating of four stars, which is standard for the SUV segment but lagging behind crossover-type SUVs. Meanwhile, the IIHS scored the 4Runner Good in most tests, with the small front overlap yielding Marginal scores and the headlights receiving a Poor score.

Key Safety Features

Despite not boasting class-leading safety scores, there's a fair amount of standard safety equipment in the 4Runner. Standard stability control, traction control, ABD, EBD, brake assist, and eight airbags including three-row side curtain and dual front knee airbags are included as part of the Star Safety System. There's also a standard backup camera, and on the Limited and Nightshade Edition you get front and rear parking sensors. But there's not much in the way of advanced safety, with no forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, or blind-spot monitoring - all of which are now becoming a standard in this segment, or at least available as options.

Verdict: Is the 2019 Toyota 4Runner a good SUV?

Spend any significant amount of time with a 4Runner on road, and you'll rue the day you ever decided to purchase one. It's thirsty, unrefined, and the handling and steering are loose at best, even scary if you've got the all-terrain tires of the TRD Pro. But the hungry V6 engine is a potent performer, and it comes to life off-road, which is where the 4Runner suddenly makes so much sense. It's not as good as a Wrangler, but then again, a Wrangler is far worse on-road. However, the 4Runner is highly accomplished off-road in a way almost no midsize SUVs can compare to, and with age on its side, it's incredibly reliable, too. It's also a spacious campaigner, with an abundance of storage and seating space - provided you stick to the five-seat configurations. We're disappointed in Toyota's lack of effort regarding safety features and driver assists, something they'll hopefully remedy for 2020, but the 4Runner is still a great midsize SUV if you keep it in its comfort zone. If you're an outdoor adventure lover who occasionally has to spend time on-road, then the 4Runner might just be the best SUV for you. Just don't expect any refinement.

What's the Price of the 2019 Toyota 4Runner?

The 4Runner range spans across seven models, with the base trim SR5 carrying an MSRP of $35,310, excluding tax, licensing, registration, and a $1,095 destination charge. Stepping up one trim, the SR5 Premium is priced at $37,140, close on the heels of the TRD Off-Road model at $38,485. The 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium is listed for $40,395, while the off-road-oriented TRD Pro sports a $46,815 price tag. Finally, the Limited and Limited Nightshade Edition models are priced at $43,625 and $47,400 respectively.

2019 Toyota 4Runner Models

The 2019 Toyota 4Runner range comprises seven trims: SR5, SR5 Premium, TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, TRD Pro, Limited, and Limited Nightshade Edition. All models feature a 4.0-liter V6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission, with two and four-wheel-drive available depending on trim.

The SR5 kicks things off with either two or four-wheel-drive, 17-inch alloy wheels, eight-way power-adjustable fabric seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, backup camera, and a 6.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth and eight speakers.

SR5 Premium models represent a small step up, adding simulated leather seats, navigation, the Entune app suite, a HomeLink transceiver, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

Based on the SR5, and built for those with a sense of adventure, the TRD Off-Road is standard with 4WD and a locking rear differential, but it also gets upgrades in the form of 17-inch alloy wheels, a silver front bash plate, and a hood scoop; inside, TRD badges abound and you get switchgear for the Multi-terrain Select and Crawl Control, while seats are upholstered in cloth.

The TRD Off-Road Premium takes this same package and makes it a little more luxurious, with simulated leather seats, onboard navigation, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

Limited models are the most luxurious in the range and come with the choice between 2WD and 4WD, along with sport suspension and 20-inch alloy wheels. A power tilt-and-slide sunroof, front and rear park sensors, heated and ventilated leather seats, and dual-zone automatic climate control are all standard here.

The Nightshade Edition is based on the Limited but with a range of blacked-out styling traits like black wheels, exterior trim, interior trim, and black badges.

Last in the range is the hardcore TRD Pro. The most off-road focused model comes with standard 4WD, a locking rear differential, Fox internal bypass shocks, TRD-tuned front springs, all-terrain tires, a 'TOYOTA' grille, a TRD-stamped aluminum skidplate and loads of TRD badging.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
SR5
4.0-liter V6 Gas
5-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$35,310
SR5 Premium
4.0-liter V6 Gas
5-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$37,140
TRD Off Road
4.0-liter V6 Gas
5-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$38,485
TRD Off Road Premium
4.0-liter V6 Gas
5-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
$40,395
Limited
4.0-liter V6 Gas
5-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
$43,625
See All 2019 Toyota 4Runner Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

The entire 4Runner range benefits from packages that include running boards, a third row of seats with one-touch easy access (non-TRD models only), upgraded suspension (TRD models), a sliding rear cargo deck with an under-floor storage box (TRD models), as well as upgrades to the infotainment system, adding integrated navigation or JBL Premium audio, depending on the trim. Package costs also vary slightly between non-Premium and Premium trims, with the latter generally benefiting from a power tilt/slide moonroof with a sunshade.

Starting at the bottom, the SR5's all-inclusive package will set you back $1,495, or $995 with Toyota's Keep It Wild Savings initiative applicable across the range. The SR5 Premium's inclusive package would set you back $2,030, with the TRD Off-Road and Off-Road Premium's packages at $2,095 and $2,700 respectively. Both TRD models benefit from upgraded suspension as part of their packages, as well as the sliding rear cargo deck. The TRD Pro has running boards ($345) and the cargo deck ($350) available, with the Limited and Nightshade trim's inclusive package setting you back $2,365 for automatic running boards.

What Toyota 4Runner Model Should I Buy?

The 4Runner's wayward on-road dynamics and thirsty engine means that no one buys one to use as a commuter with no intention of heading off-road. So it makes sense then that you head straight for one of the TRD trims to capitalize on the 4Runner's off-road ability. The TRD Off-Road might seem like an enticing buy with a relatively low price, but if you're going to buy a 4Runner, we'd recommend going all-out for the TRD Pro. The suspension enhancements, all-terrain tires, locking differential, and extra underbody protection make it the consummate off-roader, while it also benefits from a number of luxuries like enhanced infotainment, a power sunroof, and dual-zone climate control. With bespoke exterior styling, it'll also never be confused for lesser models, so you'll always stand out from the crowd.

2019 Toyota 4Runner Comparisons

Jeep Grand Cherokee Jeep
Toyota Highlander Toyota

2019 Toyota 4Runner vs Jeep Grand Cherokee

midsize off-roaders aren't exactly prevalent these days, but the Jeep Grand Cherokee probably strikes the best balance between capable off-roader and luxurious on-road machine. It's a little smaller than the 4Runner and doesn't offer seven-seat capability as the Toyota does, but it also doesn't offer the same abundant storage capacity as the 4Runner. It's capable off-road, with Selec-Terrain traction management, 4WD, and air suspension that can raise or lower to suit the terrain, but the 4Runner is naturally more rugged and more capable off-road, with a long history of reliability to back it up. However, the Grand Cherokee is vastly more comfortable, luxurious, and refined, with an eight-speed automatic gearbox and a range of available engines catering to all needs. It's got a more luxurious interior, loads more safety features, and better infotainment to boot. What it lacks in cargo space it makes up for in towing capacity, hauling 1,200 lbs more than the Toyota. So, while the Toyota is spacious and rugged, the Grand Cherokee is a superior all-rounder. If you'll be spending more time on-road than off, the Jeep makes far more sense.

See Jeep Grand Cherokee Review

2019 Toyota 4Runner vs Toyota Highlander

Toyota offers two polar-opposite midsize SUVs in the form of the 4Runner and the Highlander, each built for a purpose. The Highlander is the on-road crossover of the family, unibody construction and front-wheel-drive base mean that it's suited to on-road use, while the vastly better gas mileage means you can travel further for less. The Highlander is also quicker, more refined, and more comfortable on-road, with better handling dynamics and higher levels of refinement. Interior materials feel more premium and the available technology - safety and infotainment - are better in the Highlander. But it can only handle modest off-tar work, even with all-wheel-drive equipped. Where things get rocky, the 4Runner is vastly superior, with locking differentials, a low-range transfer case, and genuine 4x4 capabilities. The 4Runner is also more capacious from a cargo perspective, but that's unfortunately where its benefits end. At around $3,000 more expensive, the 4Runner is more costly to buy and run, but at least it's highly reliable. At the end of the day, if you're after an off-roader, get the 4Runner, but if you just want a high-riding daily runner, the Highlander is better in almost every way.

See Toyota Highlander Review

Toyota 4Runner Popular Comparisons

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2019 Toyota 4Runner Video Reviews

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