2021 Toyota 4Runner

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2021 Toyota 4Runner Test Drive Review: The Off-Roader That Always Can

It almost feels like the Toyota 4Runner has been around forever, and that is largely because it has undergone almost no changes for the last decade. Some shoppers will argue that this is a bad thing, but considering how popular it was upon release, many of us appreciate the nostalgia. And then there's the risk that a redesign would see the 4Runner lose its prestige as one of the last remaining body-on-frame midsize off-road SUVs. Powered by a V6 engine with loads of torque on tap, it is sure-footed in any environment and can even handle a fair amount of manual labor, handily lugging around up to 5,000 pounds. Sure, there is a lot of competition in the US from more modern rivals like the Ford Edge, but classics are popular for a reason - just look at the Jeep Wrangler. We were handed the keys to a Trail Edition for a few days to see how it measures up.

Read in this review:

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New 2021 Toyota 4Runner Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2020 4Runner?

For 2021, Toyota has expanded the 4Runner lineup. The new Trail Edition is based on the entry-level SR5 and is mechanically identical to the SR5, but sports dark gray TRD wheels and black exterior badging. It also gets a Yakima LoadWarrior rooftop, as well as a 40-quart cooler and sliding cargo tray inside. Changes to the existing models include standard LED headlights across the range and the addition of new wheel designs and Lunar Rock paint to the TRD Pro trim. The shocks on this top trim have also been re-tuned to maximize comfort when off-roading.

Pros and Cons

  • Top-notch off-roading capabilities
  • Excellent cargo space in five-seater configuration
  • Various special edition customization options
  • Easy-to-use and comprehensive infotainment
  • Available third-row seating
  • Clumsy handling and indecisive transmission
  • Dated design, inside and out
  • Third-row seating is cramped
  • Limited driver aids

Best Deals on 2021 Toyota 4Runner

2021 Toyota 4Runner Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
4.0L V6 Gas
5-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
Trail Special Edition
4.0L V6 Gas
5-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
SR5 Premium
4.0L V6 Gas
5-Speed Automatic
Rear-Wheel Drive
Four-Wheel Drive
TRD Off Road
4.0L V6 Gas
5-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
TRD Off Road Premium
4.0L V6 Gas
5-Speed Automatic
Four-Wheel Drive
See All 2021 Toyota 4Runner Trims and Specs

2021 4Runner Exterior

2021 Toyota 4Runner Front View CarBuzz
2021 Toyota 4Runner Rear View CarBuzz
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  • Length 190.2 in
  • Wheelbase 109.8 in
  • Height 71.5 in
  • Max Width 75.8 in
  • Front Width 63.2 in
  • Rear Width 63.2 in
  • Curb Weight 4,400.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

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

2021 4Runner Performance

2021 Toyota 4Runner Frontal Aspect CarBuzz
2021 Toyota 4Runner View Out Back CarBuzz
2021 Toyota 4Runner Front Wheel CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

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

Handling and Driving Impressions

It's really hard to find anything to comment on around town. The Toyota 4Runner is, in every way, utterly average for a body-on-frame vehicle and below average compared to its crossover cousins. It is not quick by any mark, but its handling wouldn't be able to manage any more speed than it has. Similarly, it doesn't offer the greatest ride comfort, and highways can be a real nightmare at higher speeds. However, the seats are comfortable enough to offset much of this. This is no light-handed city slicker SUV, so if you intend to spend most of your time navigating the urban jungle, consider something better suited from the competition.

But if you want to venture out of town and into the wild, you'll see what the 4Runner is really capable of. Once it gets dirty, the SUV really gets down to business. Where the handling is clunky on the asphalt, it is communicative and surefooted on uneven terrain. Similarly, the suspension earns its keep by absorbing all the rocky bumps without complaint. This is even more true for the TRD Pro's upgraded Fox suspension.

Multiple speed settings are offered with the off-road-purposed crawl control so that less confident drivers can face hillside descents without fear. But going uphill is a breeze thanks to the abundance of torque, while a variety of terrain modes, courtesy of the available Multi-Terrain Select, help you deal with difficult road conditions.

2021 4Runner Interior

2021 Toyota 4Runner Steering Wheel CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

  • Seating capacity
  • Front Leg Room 41.7 in
  • Front Head Room 39.3 in
  • Rear Leg Room 32.9 in
  • Rear Head Room 38.6 in

2021 4Runner Trunk and Cargo Space

2021 Toyota 4Runner Front Seats CarBuzz
2021 Toyota 4Runner Back Seats CarBuzz
2021 Toyota 4Runner Trunk Space CarBuzz

2021 4Runner Safety and Reliability


  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    2 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Maintenance:
    2 Years \ 25,000 Miles

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2021 Toyota 4Runner a good SUV?

This feels like a bit of a trick question. If you truly think of it as a car, then the Toyota 4Runner is not a good one. It feels alien around town and handles even the most basic of tasks without any grace. It also lacks many of the safety and comfort features we expect from our commuter SUVs. It is eminently practical, though, and supplies loads of cargo space. Still, there are far more competent rivals on the market in the USA.

However, we dearly love the 4Runner, despite its flaws. If you're looking for a spirited off-road trailblazer, then the Toyota most definitely fits the bill. For a start, it definitely looks the part, but it's also extremely rugged and dependable. With several models specially designed to play in the mud, shoppers will always find what they're looking for.

On a more personal note, it's not often we're reluctant to hand the keys back on a loaner car. However, this was the case with the 2021 4Runner. Sure, it's a bit dated now, but it has been so good for so long that we don't want it to change. If you break it down on paper as we have here, the 4Runner isn't great in modern terms, yet we loved having it for a week and put a lot of miles on it - both road and trail. It's with a heavy heart we remind you that there will come a day when people will say, "They don't build them like that anymore," with regard to the current 4Runner. It'll be a sad one.

2021 Toyota 4Runner Comparisons

Toyota Highlander Toyota
Jeep Grand Cherokee Jeep
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Toyota 4Runner270 hp16/19 mpg$37,815
Toyota Highlander 295 hp21/29 mpg$35,855
Jeep Grand Cherokee 293 hp19/26 mpg$38,325

2021 Toyota 4Runner vs Toyota Highlander

These two siblings are both great at what they do, and what they do is dominate the unbeaten path. They are in many ways alike, but the Highlander is like a higher-quality version of the 4Runner. Slightly larger overall, the Highlander fits a third-row bench as standard, though it doesn't offer a whole lot more room for those seated there. It is more customizable in other ways though, particularly in terms of powertrains. If the V6 is a little more than you need or too thirsty, then there is a lower-displacement four-cylinder hybrid that develops 243 hp in exchange for much better fuel economy of 36/35/36 mpg. Since it seats five as standard, the 4Runner has more starting cargo capacity, but the Highlander offers better quality materials in the cabin. Neither is particularly up to date in terms of tech or style, though. But since you buy these vehicles for their off-roading expertise rather than luxury or tech, the 4Runner is our choice between the two, since it does this so well.

See Toyota Highlander Review

2021 Toyota 4Runner vs Jeep Grand Cherokee

Jeep prides itself on building some of the most rugged off-roaders in the world, and the Grand Cherokee is one of its oldest nameplates in production at the moment. A bit cheaper than the 4Runner, it also gets a bit more raw power from the Pentastar V6 - 295 hp and 260 lb-ft, to be exact. Despite the lower torque, it can actually tow a whole load more than the Toyota, with a max capacity of 7,200 lbs. It is also a little more at home around town and has a more premium interior. But in terms of sheer off-roading ability, the Jeep needs a few add-ons to even compete with the 4Runner, such as the optional air suspension. Even so, it isn't quite as confident on rougher terrain, and it can't stow as much gear in the trunk for a camping trip. If you're going to be using your SUV for commuting around town with the occasional outdoor adventure, the Grand Cherokee is the more balanced choice and easier on your budget. But, if you want a dedicated off-roader to go alongside your family hauler, then the Toyota 4Runner is the better choice.

See Jeep Grand Cherokee Review

2021 Toyota 4Runner Popular Comparisons

The most popular competitors of 2021 Toyota 4Runner:

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