2011 Toyota 4Runner Reviews and Ratings

Utility 4D SR5 2WD

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2011 Toyota 4Runner
New Car Test Drive

The Toyota 4Runner is built for durability and all-terrain capability. Using rugged body-on-frame construction, the 4Runner is intended to be a tough and reliable sport utility for the more adventurous owner.

Completely redesigned and re-engineered for 2010, the Toyota 4Runner carries over unchanged for 2011. The 2011 4Runner represents the second year of the fifth generation.

The 2011 Toyota 4Runner is powered exclusively by a 4.0-liter V6 that generates 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy ratings are 17 mpg City and 22 mpg Highway with 4WD. Maximum towing capacity is 5,000 pounds, enough for light boats, ATVs, snowmobiles, and motorcycles. (No V8 or four-cylinder models are available for 2011.)

Two-row and three-row seating configurations are available, for five or seven passengers.

The 2011 Toyota 4Runner comes in three distinct models, each with specialized equipment packages, to suit a variety of luxury, recreational capability, and affordability priorities. All are sturdily built, with an extensive suite of safety features, flexible seating, and multiple cargo options.

The SR5 is the standard grade with cloth upholstery, automatic air conditioning, and 17-inch wheels, while the Limited is loaded with leather, dual-zone climate control, and 20-inch wheels. The Trail grade is designed to maximize off-road performance with superior approach and departure angles, high ground clearance, and an array of functional upgrades for the most demanding active outdoor enthusiast. It is distinguished by a unique hood scoop, unique 17-inch wheels, black side mirrors, front and rear bumper guards and dark smoke treatment on the head lamps and tail lamps.

We found the 4Runner has good on-road dynamics with rack-and-pinion steering and well-proportioned disc brakes. It may be as nimble as the lighter-duty Highlander crossover. But the key point here is that the 4Runner is far more capable and much more durable for use on rough terrain. That durability factor is crucial for owners who frequently drive on rough, unpaved roads or over rugged terrain. Compared to the FJ Cruiser, the 4Runner is more versatile and more passenger-friendly, and nearly as capable off-road. Model Lineup
The 2011 Toyota 4Runner is available in SR5, Limited, and Trail grade. Trail grade and SR5 4WD use a part-time four-wheel-drive system. Limited 4WD includes a full-time multi-mode four-wheel-drive system. Two-row or three-row seating configurations are available, for five or seven passengers. The 4.0-liter V6 mated to a 5-speed automatic is standard across the range.

4Runner SR5 ($30,305) comes with cloth upholstery, automatic air conditioning with air filter, six-way manual driver's seat w power lumbar, four-way passenger seat, sliding second-row seats split 40/20/40, AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio with eight speakers, auxiliary jack, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, overhead storage, cruise control, map light, 10 cupholders, multi-information display, compass, HomeLink garage door opener, sonar park assist, power windows, power locks, remote keyless entry, three 12V power outlets, auto-off headlights, integrated fog lights, color-keyed fenders, spoiler, exterior puddle lamps, 265/70R17 tires on 17-inch alloy wheels, towing hitch, skid plates. The 4Runner SR5 4WD ($32,045) uses a part-time four-wheel-drive system. The Premium Package with Leather ($2,790) includes leather upholstery and trim, power front seats. Third-row seats are optional ($805).

4Runner Trail Edition 4WD ($36,555) includes special trim, unique 17-inch wheels, upgraded cloth upholstery, a power moonroof, rearview camera (small display inside rearview mirror), power front seats, XM Satellite Radio, under floor storage. Navigation is available for the Trail Edition ($2,420) that includes the DVD navigation system, voice-activated, rearview camera, Bluetooth, XM Satellite Radio with XM NavTraffic, steering wheel controls, and premium JBL 15-speaker audio system.

4Runner Limited ($38,400) upgrades to leather upholstery, first and second rows, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, JBL AM/FM/6CD audio with 15 speakers, subwoofer, MP3, chrome exterior trim, push-button start, heated front seats, leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio and telephone controls, X-REAS Sport Enhancement suspension, 245/60R20 Mud and Snow tires on 20-inch alloy wheels. Limited 4WD ($40,435) uses a full-time multi-mode four-wheel-drive system. Navigation is available for the Limited ($1,420) that includes the DVD navigation system, voice-activated, rearview camera, Bluetooth, XM Satellite Radio with XM NavTraffic, steering wheel controls. Third-row seats, leather trimmed, are optional ($1,365).

Safety features on all 4Runner models include active front head restraints, ABS, electronic brake-force distribution, quick brake assist, Vehicle Stability Control, traction control, Hill-start Assist Control, LATCH child-seat anchors, seat belts with ALR/ELR, force limiters, pretensioners, tire-pressure monitor, Downhill Assist Control (DAC) in included on 4WD models. Walkaround
The Toyota 4Runner has a boxy form with a wide stance, with wide fenders to suggest muscularity. The wheelwells are squared off and generously sized for larger tires, like the FJ Cruiser. The bumpers add a sense of heft. Roof rails are standard on all models, emphasizing the 4Runner's potential as a recreational gear transporter.

Projection-beam headlights lend a technical appearance, with high-tech taillights distinguished by unusually conspicuous lens bulges. The effect is contemporary, advanced, and yet in keeping with 4Runner's five-generation tradition of body-on-frame construction.

The Trail Edition is styled to project rugged good looks, a sense of mystery, and a sporting nature. It has a sporty hood scoop, blacked-out mirrors and bumpers, and a dark smoke treatment on the headlights and tail lights.

Trail Edition and SR5 have similarly styled overfenders and mud guards, and both have 17-inch alloy wheels as standard equipment, although each grade has its own distinctive wheel. On the SR5, there is greater use of chrome accents, and the roof rack is silver with black end caps. Heated exterior mirrors have turn signal indicators and puddle lamps.

The Limited comes on lower-profile P245/60R20 tires mounted on 20-inch alloy wheels. All models come with a full-size spare, and the Limited has a matching alloy spare. Like the SR5 and Trail grade, the Limited has a rear spoiler that houses the rear wiper, keeping it tucked away when not in use. Interior
The Toyota 4Runner interior was designed with an eye toward practicality, comfort, and utility. All rows are relatively roomy. The cabin is trimmed in textured materials with silver trim accents, creating a modern, high-tech environment.

The steering wheel is thick, with a technical four-spoke design. The instrument cluster is bright with large dials. The standard three-gauge cluster combines orange-numeral speedometer and tachometer with temperature and fuel meters; on Trail and Limited, white-numeral Optitron gauges are used. All grades share an accessory meter that displays time, average fuel consumption, range, compass direction, and outside temperature.

An automatic dual-zone climate controlled air conditioning system is standard on the Limited; SR5 and Trail Edition have manual climate control.

Three 12-volt outlets are located in the glove box, the center console sack, and the cargo area. Optional 120-volt AC outlets, useful for charging batteries or running appliances at the campsite, are located in the center console box and cargo area.

On the Trail Edition, there is an overhead panel with two dials that house the Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select System. The Trail Edition gets water-resistant seat fabric in a charcoal gray color.

The front seats in the 4Runner are comfortable and supportive, with a lot of adjustability. The standard SR5 cloth seat adjusts six ways manually; Trail and Limited models get eight-way power adjustments. Limited features flawless leather, heated seats. Active headrests are standard for all front seats.

Second-row seats fold completely flat to maximize interior cargo area. With everything folded flat, cargo volume is just short of 90 cubic feet, or 88.8 cubic feet on models with third-row seating.

The third-row seating is functional for everyday use. The seats are realistically sized and there's a livable amount of space. Access to the third row is made easier with second-row seats split into a 40/20/40 configuration, so it's possible to enter the third row from either side using a one-touch walk-in feature.

The rear hatch has a power window that can be controlled from an interior switch, or at the rear door using the key. By lowering the window, efficient flow-through ventilation becomes possible. Not many vehicles have this feature these days. We tried the retractable rear tailgate window underway. By opening the vents in the front, and cracking the rear window, a real breeze can be allowed to flow from front to rear. On a nice day, it might be the best ventilation system of any SUV, as airflow is maximized and wind noise is minimal, much less than from a sunroof. Smokers love it, and it can be handy when hauling smelly cargo, such as a wet dog, dead fish, a deer, fertilizer, tires.

Three audio systems are available, all of which are compatible with MP3 and WMA files via an AUX jack in the center console. The mid-grade system includes satellite radio and antenna, and Bluetooth connectivity. An iPod USB port in the glove box allows for controlling an iPod through the steering wheel and audio head unit switches. Both systems have eight speakers.

The premium audio setup is a 15-speaker JBL system that can be integrated with the Toyota navigation system. Now in its sixth generation, the navigation system is easy to use and program. Driving Impressions
It's in bad weather that the full-time 4WD system in the Limited really shines. It's designed to shift torque between wheels as the vehicle rolls over inconsistent surfaces, so it's ideal for use on roads with slippery patches or wet spots. We found the 4Runner Limited tracked cleanly and accurately through corners and over compromised surfaces.

The brake system feels strong and progressive at the top of the pedal, and even in the rain, lends itself to a secure, confident feeling. The front discs have four-piston fixed calipers and 13.3-inch brake rotors. They are augmented with four-sensor, four-channel ABS and skid control systems.

Full-throttle acceleration is quite brisk for a seven-passenger, family SUV. The V6, introduced beginning with 2010 models, has noticeably more snap, revving quicker and with more urgency.

From a standing start, the 4Runner will hit 60 mph in about 8.6 seconds, and feels good doing it. The full-time 4WD system hunts a little from a standing start, so a small amount of torque initially tugs at the steering wheel, but steers true after a quick chirp off the line. High-speed passes are similarly exuberant. Pin the throttle pedal and the transmission with kick down two gears and rev to 5500 rpm, making it easy to swoop by lines of traffic and accelerate up steep grades. Decide to pass and the next thing you know, the speedometer says 90 mph. Shifts are smooth and progressive, without much lash or thump, even at full throttle.

Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 17 mpg City and 22 mpg Highway with 4WD. Driven normally, the V6 will deliver decent mileage for a 4800-pound SUV. The fuel consumption readout said we had gotten 20.3 mpg after a day of mostly highway driving.

Maximum towing capacity is 5,000 pounds, enough for light boats, ATVs, snowmobiles, and motorcycles.

Steering effort seemed about right to us, neither too firm or too light. The engineering involves a variable flow, power-assisted rack-and-pinion arrangement that uses a variable gear-ratio steering rack. So not only does the hydraulic assist adjust based on conditions, but the rack itself is has a different tooth arrangement at the ends of the rack. The result is reasonably precise steering that is strong and easy at all speeds, even at full lock. It's not what you'd want for a sports car, but for an off-road-going, seven-passenger SUV, it's right.

The seats are easily wide enough for an average-size body, with low bolsters on the seat cushion and taller side bolstering on the seat back. We found they provide cornering support on winding roads, without making the driver's seat hard to get into. The leather seating material on our Limited was conspicuously fragrant, and remarkably free of blemishes or imperfections.

The Limited model looks more sophisticated with its 20-inch wheels and lower-profile tires, and it likes corners better than the other models, a benefit of the tires and the X-REAS setup. But on lumpy roads, the stiffer wheel and tire combination makes for a choppy ride, especially noticeable to back-seat riders. The Limited has a diagonally cross-linked shock absorber system, called X-REAS, that helps damp out pitch and roll, and it works to limit body roll. We like this system on winding mountain roads. But sharper impacts do come through due to the low-profile tires.

The Trail Edition rides about as well as the Limited because of its more compliant suspension and taller tire sidewall, and it transitions through corners only slightly less cleanly. That's because the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) anti-swaybar disconnect capability allows for thicker stabilizer bars on the Trail Edition. Therefore, on-road cornering power can be preserved without compromising off-road suspension compliance. The Trail Edition, with the thicker bars, did feel a little a little more jittery at speed on the highway but soaked up larger impacts best of all. The Limited, more stylish and better handling, runs along smoothly until larger impacts come into play.

We had an opportunity to drive a 4Runner off road. The Trail Edition is the 4Runner for those who plan to use the vehicle for recreation so that was our choice. Almost like an FJ Cruiser with four doors, the 4Runner Trail Edition is set up to cruise to a trailhead, confidently drive on the trail itself, and return to the highway. That makes its capabilities and packaging advantages ideal for those who camp, hunt, fish or regularly travel backcountry roads. It can ford up to 27 inches of water and has 9.6 inches of ground clearance. Skid plates are included for the engine, transfer case and fuel tank. Two tow hooks are mounted on the front although in a low position that might make them hard to reach if stuck in a stream or snow bank. A rear receiver hitch is standard, for towing up to 5000 pounds, and its presence makes for easy vehicle recovery from the rear. Just as important, the 4Runner has the durability to do this stuff without wearing out in one season.

We found the manual part-time transfer case easy to operate that comes on the SR5 and Trail grade. There is a stubby lever that actuates 4WD High Range and 4WD Low Range. Sometimes lever-actuated part-time systems can be balky, but on our Trail Edition we were able to slip in and our of 4-Low without any dithering. The Trail Edition's part-time system is shared with the SR5.

The Limited gets a dial-actuated full-time system that is always on, ready for changing road conditions or inclement weather. The Limited is better for ice and wintry conditions when grip is inconsistent. It automatically apportions power to the tires with the best grip. The driver need do nothing to engage it.

The Trail Edition trades surprisingly little for the advantages it offers. Ride quality is about as good as the other versions, and steering and cornering are only slightly less crisp. Tire noise is only slightly increased, at least inside the cabin. Meanwhile, traction is markedly improved by the addition of an electronic locking rear differential, the KDSS system, and traction control systems with adjustable rates of feedback.

One system, Crawl Control, allows the driver to dial in speeds from 1 to 3 mph as the driver concentrates on steering across difficult terrain. We tried it, uphill and down, and sure enough, the system controls throttle and braking to maintain a steady speed. When that speed seemed to be too rapid for the suspension to handle comfortably, we adjusted the dial to give us a slower pace. At 1 mph, progress is very slow, safe and predictable.

Another system, multi-terrain select, allows for dialing in the rate of wheelslip when driving off-road. As a result, the Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) system can be just as effective in mud or sand as it is on rock. When even more traction is called for, an electronic locker in the rear axle actuates with the push of a button. KDSS is optional, but it's an excellent off-road suspension enhancement. It was formerly only available on the Land Cruiser, but now can be had in the 4Runner. Summary
The Toyota 4Runner can hold up to outdoor recreational use that would prove destructive to car-based crossover SUVs. Given that capability, the 4Runner stands out as a truly multipurpose vehicle with authentic, structurally based recreational capability. With three different formats to choose from, and a variety of specialized equipment, the 4Runner can be configured for a wide range of needs and budgets.

John Stewart filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the Toyota 4Runner near Solvang, California.

Model as tested
Toyota 4Runner Limited 4WD ($40,435)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Tahara, Japan
Destination charge
Gas guzzler tax
Base Price
Price as tested
Options as tested
voice-activated navigation system and rearview camera ($1420)

Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Toyota 4Runner SR5 ($30,305), SR5 4WD ($32,045); Limited ($38,400), Limited 4WD ($40,435); Trail Edition ($36,555)
Safety equipment (standard)
STAR Safety System includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist; Hill-start Assist Control (HAC); Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) on 4x4 models; Downhill Assist Control (DAC) on 4x4 models; driver and front passenger Advanced Airbag System; Driver and front passenger TAP (thorax, abdomen, pelvis) front seat-mounted side airbags and front- and second-row (third-row airbags on models so equipped) roll-sensing side curtain airbags (RSCA) with cutoff switch; driver and front passenger knee airbags; driver and front passenger active headrests; three-point seat belts for all five seating positions; front seatbelt pretensioners with force limiters; side-impact door beams; Tire Pressure Monitor System (TPMS); Emergency Locking Retractors (ELR) on driver's belt, Automatic/Emergency Locking Retractors (ALR/ELR) on all passenger seat belts; child-protector rear door locks and power window lockout; second-row LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children); rear clearance sonar (on models without backup camera)
Safety equipment (optional)
4.0-liter DOHC V6
5-speed automatic

Specifications as Tested
leather-trimmed and heated 8-way power-adjustable driver's seat with power lumbar support and four-way power-adjustable passenger seat, leather trimmed second-row, leather trimmed third-row, leather-wrapped shift knob; tilt/telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel with cruise control, audio, and Bluetooth hands-free phone-calling controls; backup camera linked to an electrochromic mirror with integrated backup camera monitor; dual-zone climate control with rear ventilation and air filter; JBL AM/FM/MP3/6CD with 15 speakers and woofer box, integrated XM Satellite Radio (includes 90-day trial subscription), USB port with iPod connectivity, hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth; Tailgate Party Mode sound optimization setting for tailgate listening; power door locks with programmable auto door lock logic; power windows (including sliding rear gate window) with auto up/down and jam protection; Optitron instrument cluster with speedometer, tachometer, coolant temperature; multi-information display; tilt/telescopic steering wheel with cruise control; HomeLink universal transceiver; two front and one rear 12V power outlets; front and rear 120V AC/400W power outlets; two front AUX audio jack inputs; large locking glove box and large center console with tissue box and pen holder; 10 cup and bottle holders; dual sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors; 40/20/40 split reclining and fold-flat second-row seating; second-row center armrest with cup holders

Engine & Transmission
4.0-liter DOHC V6
Drivetrain type
four-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
270 @ 5600
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)

Brakes, front/rear
disc/disc with ABS, EBD, Brake Assist
Suspension, front
independent, double-wishbone with stabilizer bar
Suspension, rear
four-link with coil springs

Seating capacity
Head/hip/leg room, middle
Head/hip/leg room, front
Head/hip/leg room, rear

Fuel capacity
Trunk volume
Turning circle
Towing capacity
Track, front/rear
Ground clearance
Curb weight

2011 Toyota 4Runner
NADAguides Test Drive Review


Who knew the Toyota 4Runner could be anymore further enhanced for off-road conditions; but it seems Toyota has done it and done it very well. The 4Runner not only comes in a SR5 and Limited trim, but is now also available in a Trail edition 4x4 4.0L V6 and is more than well-equipped to take on any situation on or off the road.Sharing a few of the off-road touches of the FJ Cruiser, the 4Runner Trail has protruding taillights, and stronger, more distinct lines giving it a muscular appeal making it look fiercer than ever before. All exterior assets, such as bumpers, mirrors, door handles, mudguards, grille and utility roof rack are black adding more 4x4 appeal; let’s face it chrome or painted assets might make it a little too prissy amongst Mother Nature’s rugged animals.
The 2011 Toyota 4Runner Trail comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels and a part-time 4WD system with Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) which compensates for wheel slippage and loss of traction in off-road conditions. Most off-road vehicles would be expected to have a more rugged feel and slightly rough around the edges in terms of drive and ride, however the 4Runner proved me wrong. While the interior was definitely not luxurious, but indeed was surprisingly comfortable, the 4Runner was easy to handle and drove very smooth nonetheless. Equipped with coil-spring independent double-wishbone front suspension with stabilizer bar and coil-spring 4-link rear suspension with lateral rod and stabilizer bar, Toyota made sure this SUV was built for off-road conditions while providing passengers with a smoother experience.

If you want an SUV that is simple but well-equipped, the 4Runner is the one for you! While the Trail comes standard with a power sunroof, auto-dimming rearview mirror with integrated backup camera monitor, the technologically advanced consumer has a nice variety of optional equipment to choose from. Even fully loaded with voice-activated touch-screen DVD navigation system, backup camera, CD changer, XM Radio, Bluetooth and USB/auxiliary connections, Toyota kept it very basic which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Each function was easy to operate; controls were in convenient placements and not at all overwhelming to the eye. Keeping in mind that this vehicle is designed for an off-road environment, a luxurious interior design with every function controlled by a touch screen probably wouldn’t have been a good idea; limiting audio and GPS controls only to touch-screen makes sense here. Toyota did a good job of realizing that less is more in a vehicle of this stature but at the same time did not limit the possibilities either. The dashboard isn’t anything overboard and fancy, it’s pretty basic in telling the driver what they need to know. I think they could have added a cluster or message center here for a little added spunk but it doesn’t at all take away from this vehicle by not having one.

All 4x4 controls are placed above the head where the reading lights and sunroof controls are which I found a good use of the space. Considering you wouldn’t always be in 4x4 modes, it’s not entirely necessary to have the control panel in your face with other daily functions such as climate and audio. In the area of safety, the 4Runner Trail comes standard with the Stability Control System, Traction Control Brake System, Electronic Brake-Force Distribution, Brake Assist, Smart Stop Technology, Safety Connect and front and rear airbags. A nice safety feature includes the roll-sensing side curtain airbags with cutoff switch.This Toyota 4Runner Trail 4x4 is an exceptional vehicle, fulfilling its purpose successfully. Whether dad wants to go off-road driving with the boys or mom wants to go shopping with the kids, the Toyota 4Runner Trail is a true sports utility vehicle providing safety, versatility in driving conditions and plenty of storage space for all types of road trips.

The Toyota 4Runner starts at a base MSRP price of $29,705 for the RWD V6 SR5 and goes up to $39,835 for the 4WD V6 Limited. The Trail trim level starts at $35,955. For more information on this vehicle please visit www.NADAguides.com.

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