Expert review written by the Kelley Blue Book vehicle review editorial team.
Today’s Sport Utility Vehicles look more like overgrown station wagons than rugged off-road trucks. Thankfully, the 2016 Toyota 4Runner reminds us what it means to be a true SUV. Not as refined as the Ford Explorer or Nissan Pathfinder, the 4Runner appeals to those needing to tow heavy loads and venture over deeply rutted trails without worry.
You'll Like The 2016 Toyota 4Runner If...
If you’re seeking a dependable daily driver that can double as a rugged weekend warrior, Toyota’s 2016 4Runner SUV has you covered. There’s even a 3rd-row seat option, small as it is, that increases the 4Runner’s passenger complement to seven.
You May Not Like The 2016 Toyota 4Runner If...
If you’ve become accustomed to large SUVs riding and driving like midsize luxury sedans, the 2016 4Runner’s truck-like ride and handling probably won’t impress. The 4Runner’s cabin is a bit narrow and rear-seat legroom is modest. Less expensive body-on-frame alternatives include the Nissan Xterra and Jeep Wrangler.
Other than a new Quicksand color for the TRD trim, the 2016 4Runner SUV from Toyota carries over unchanged. All models gain the latest 2.5 version for Entune, bringing the ability to connect your cell phone’s navigation to the head unit, plus adds Siri Eyes Free for iPhone users.
Although rather simple, the 2016 4Runner’s cabin is roomy and versatile. The 4Runner’s large dials and buttons operating everything from the radio to the low-range gearing are a cinch to use. The large center console has an available 120V AC power outlet, helpful for charging accessories. The power-adjustable front seats are comfortable and supportive. In back, a 40/20/40-split seat offers numerous cargo/seating configurations and reclines. Seven-passenger seating is available in SR5 and Limited trims, though the small third row is best suited for children. Folding the rear seats yields a flat floor and nearly 90 cubic feet of cargo space.
Not much has changed on the outside for the 2016 4Runner. In an effort to give the SUV a "more rugged and aggressive appearance," Toyota has endowed the front fascia with large, boomerang-shaped indentations below the slanted headlights. If that gaping design is a deterrent, know that it doesn’t apply to the top-line Limited edition. The rest of the 4Runner successfully carries on the SUV’s rugged, boxy shape. We dig the 4-wheel-drive Trail model’s hood scoop and additional ground clearance that totals 9.6 inches. All trims feature a standard roof rack.
Although it’s no Highlander, the 2016 Toyota 4Runner’s suspension and spring settings deliver a decent combination of ride comfort and cornering ability. Thanks to a potent 270-horsepower V6 engine, accelerating and passing are never a worry, and the efficient 5-speed automatic always feels sure of its gear selection even when negotiating steep grades. No surprise, the heavy 4Runner is not as agile or self-assured in the curves as a car-based SUV, but the relatively narrow body makes maneuvering easier than in a full-size SUV. We found the 4Runner’s brake pedal felt rather spongy at first, then caused the brakes to grab with increased pressure. In the areas of noise, vibration and harshness, car-based SUVs have raised the bar beyond where a vehicle such as the 4Runner can reach. However, once off road, the only sounds filling the cabin are those of laughter and the occasional, “Let’s do that again.”
Toyota’s 2016 4Runner SUV has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting just under $33,500 for a base 2WD SR5 model. Trail models begin closer to $36,300 and Limited models start around $41,000. The TRD Pro Series starts close to $42,500. At its starting price, the 4Runner costs more than the Nissan Pathfinder, Ford Explorer and Kia Sorento, though those three are car-based crossover SUVs not meant for serious off-roading. The Nissan Xterra and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited are more like-minded competitors, and all have starting prices several thousand dollars below that of the 4Runner. Before buying, check the Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their Toyota. In long-term value, the 4Runner is a Best Resale Value Award winner, with predicted residuals far above the Xterra and near those of the stellar Jeep Wrangler.
Toyota’s 2016 4Runner SUV is available in six trims: SR5, SR5 Premium,Trail, Trail Premium, Limited, and TRD Pro Series. The base SR5 includes Entune Audio Plus with Connected Navigation app and Siri Eyes Free, Bluetooth music streaming, rearview camera and an 8-way-power driver’s seat. The Trail and TRD models, which include 4-wheel drive instead of rear-wheel drive, add water-resistant seat fabric, locking rear differential, and multi-terrain select with crawl control. Limited models add leather-trimmed seats (heated and ventilated in front), dual-zone climate control, a 15-speaker JBL sound system with navigation, moonroof, X-REAS automatic-adjust suspension, and 20-inch aluminum-alloy wheels.
Depending on trim, extras for the Toyota SUV include a 3rd-row seat, 4-wheel drive, Entune premium audio with navigation, and the helpful sliding rear cargo deck. Trail models can be equipped with the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), which can disconnect the stabilizer bars to allow more axle travel to help conquer tough terrain.
REAR LIFTGATE POWER WINDOWToyota’s 2016 4Runner features a power rear window ideal for when you need to load gear but don’t want to open the entire liftgate. Lowering the rear window also aids in ventilation when cruising and rearward visibility when dust or mud covers the glass.TRD PRO SERIESSerious off-roaders love the TRD Pro Series trim thanks to its Bilstein custom off-road shocks, unique aluminum wheels, Nitto Terra Grappler tires and additional skidplates. This year, a new paint color dubbed Quicksand replaces Inferno Orange, while black and white remain the other two choices.
Under the Hood
The sole powertrain combination in Toyota’s 4Runner SUV for 2016 is a 270-horsepower V6 mated to a responsive 5-speed automatic transmission. There are three drivetrain choices: 2-wheel drive (2WD) in the SR5 and Limited, part-time 4WD (SR5, Trail, TRD), or full-time 4WD (Limited) with a limited-slip, locking center differential. Towing is a strong point for the 4Runner, with an SAE J2807-compliant rating of 4,700 pounds. A not-so-strong point is fuel economy, with 2WD models returning a combined 19 mpg and 4WD models rated at 18 mpg combined. Thankfully, the Toyota’s V6 drinks regular unleaded.4.0-liter V6 engine270 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm278 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpmEPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/22 mpg (2WD), 17/21 mpg (4WD)
There are not many body-on-frame SUVs left in the world, and even fewer with the 2016 Toyota 4Runner’s reputation for capability, longevity and strong resale. Designed to tackle the toughest off-road obstacles, the 4Runner is all about the mission. Sure, the Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder offer a smoother ride and more high-tech features. They even come with advanced AWD systems for varying off-road conditions. But, they lack the ability to really take a pounding and tackle immovable objects in the way the 4Runner can. On the flip side, the 4Runner’s poor fuel economy and truck-like driving characteristics are a far car from what car-based SUVs can deliver, although its powerful V6 and numerous interior amenities help it remain competitive when prowling the urban jungle.