We drive the ’21 Toyota 4Runner Limited

For nearly three decades, the Toyota 4Runner mid-size SUV has been a stalwart for off-roading enthusiasts seeking an SUV with rugged, go-anywhere capability. Currently, in its fifth-generation, 4Runner stands out in a crowded SUV field as one of the few fully capable mid-size SUVs.

The original 4Runner was basically a Toyota pickup with a back seat. It was not very fancy and there were not many creature comforts but the price was right and it was a great off road machine. Times have changed and now buyers expect more from their vehicles.

The 4Runner combines rugged body-on-frame construction with comprehensive suspension technology that yields optimal off-road capability with a smooth ride and comfort more often associated with crossovers.

The 4Runner lineup has expanded into nine different models. The base continues to be the SR5 model starting out at $36,590. Next up is the new Trail Special Edition at $38,565 which is our test vehicle. The top of the line 4Runner is the TRD Pro that starts out at $50,570.


All 4Runners use the Toyota 4.0-liter V6 which generates 270 horsepower and 278 lb.-ft. of torque.  Dual independent Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) optimizes torque across the engine’s operating range.

The V6 runs smoothly and very quietly but it has enough power to tow 5000 pounds. The V6 is mated to a 5 speed automatic transmission which works fine but Toyota really needs to provide a 6 or 8 speed transmission.

The 4Runner feels like it can tow much more than the 5000 pound rating, perhaps due to the heavy-duty truck frame. The 4Runner comes with an integrated tow-hitch receiver and wiring harness as standard equipment which makes towing a breeze.

4Runner fuel economy is a bit disappointing with our 4WD version receiving an EPA rating of 17 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the freeway.  We came close to those numbers which is fine but these days you expect better numbers.

What really separates the 4Runner from many of its competition is that it is a real off road machine and it can climb places that you would not dare take your fake SUV.  A double-wishbone independent front suspension, combined with a variable-flow rack-and-pinion steering, help give the 4Runner precise control on demanding roads.

The four-link rear suspension maximizes off-road axle articulation, while providing a smooth ride for rear-seat passengers on and off pavement.


The Trail Special edition has a couple of unique touches. It is built for people that like to do outdoor things so it is really an SR5 model with a few added pieces to keep costs down. It comes with a sliding rear cargo tray to make loading and unloading easier. The tray is nice on a truck bed that is 6 or 8 feet long but it is somewhat wasted on a short trunk of an SUV.

Toyota also includes a Yakima LoadWarrior rooftop cargo basket that really comes in handy for carrying extra stuff. All weather floor liners help catch dirt and mud that your feet carry into the cab and you will find a 40 quart lockable ice chest in the trunk.

While the 4Runner is a great machine off road, it is amazingly civilized on road.  It features a well-built interior that is comfortable and durable.  The front seats are super comfortable and are covered in fabric. Unfortunately, you don’t get heated seats at this trim level, but you do get things like Multi-Information Display and all-weather floor mats,

There is 46-cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and if you fold down the second row, you will get a very large 89 cubic feet area to carry all of your stuff.

The 4Runner has grown up and is an adult now.  It is a very capable vehicle and can perform many duties.  The Trail Special is a fun trim level that is perfect for taking camping or fishing. It can tow a pretty good size trailer, it has many features and it is roomy and comfortable.

The current 4Runner has been with us a long time and at times it does feel dated and Toyota needs to give it a newer engine and more gears in the transmission for more power and better fuel economy.

The nice thing is that the Trail Special is affordable with its sub-$40,000 price tag and with its proven mechanicals, you know that it will be durable and cheap to operate. That engine and transmission may not be super high tech but they will take you around the world a few times without letting you down and that is what the 4Runner is all about.


Retail Price: $47,530MSRP / Window Sticker Price

Engine 4.0L V-6
MPG 16 City / 19 Hwy
Seating 5 Passengers
Transmission 5-spd auto w/OD
Power 270 @ 5600 rpm
Drivetrain four-wheel
Front head room 39 “
Rear head room 39 “
Front shoulder room 58 “
Rear shoulder room 58 “
Front hip room 57 “
Rear hip room 56 “
Front leg room 41.7 “
Rear leg room 32.9 “
Luggage capacity 47.2 Cu.Ft.
Maximum cargo capacity 89.7 Cu.Ft.
Standard seating 5
Length 190.7 “
Body width 75.8 “
Body height 71.5 “
Wheelbase 109.8 “
Ground clearance 9.6 “
Curb 4,805 Lbs.
Gross weight 6,300 Lbs.
Fuel tank capacity 23.0 Gal.
EPA mileage estimates 16 City / 19 Hwy
Base engine size 4.0 Liters
Base engine type V-6
Horsepower 270 Hp
Horsepower rpm 5,600
Torque 278 Lb-Ft.
Torque rpm 4,400
Payload 1,495 Lbs.
Maximum towing capacity 5,000 Lbs.
Drive type Four-Wheel
Turning radius 18.7 ”
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