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Is the Toyota 4Runner the Most Reliable SUV Ever Built?

Toyota 4 Runner

In this article, we delve into the iconic Toyota 4Runner, a legend in the SUV category, to determine if the Toyota 4Runner is the most reliable SUV on the market today. But more importantly, is it the right vehicle for you to spend your hard-earned cash?

Here, we’re not going to regurgitate every technical detail that can easily be found on the Toyota website.

What we want to accomplish is understanding this SUV’s strengths and weaknesses from a practical perspective to help potential buyers understand and make a rational purchasing decision. And for existing owners, help them arrive at a new appreciation of this ultra-reliable SUV.

History of the Toyota 4Runner

The sport utility vehicle (SUV) market is a diverse landscape, offering a plethora of options for consumers seeking a reliable, versatile, and rugged vehicle.

The 4Runner is one of the few remaining SUVs still made in Japan at the Tahara factory, where many of the high-end Lexus vehicles are also built. This factory is worth mentioning upfront as some automotive experts consider it to be the best auto manufacturing factory in the world for quality control.

Since its inception, the Toyota 4Runner has undergone a fascinating evolution. When it was introduced globally in 1984, it set the stage for a vehicle that would become synonymous with durability, unique style, and off-road prowess. 

Exterior Design

The 4Runner’s exterior boasts iconic features and styling with its high stance, square back, and thick steel body panels with bulging fenders that have become emblematic of the go-anywhere rugged adventure brand. 

A signature feature of the 4Runner is the retractable back window, which is a favorite among dog lovers.

Toyota 4Runner set up an a reliable overlanding vehicle

Interior Design

Inside, the 4Runner offers a blend of comfort and space, accommodating both passengers and cargo with ease. Technological features lag behind many competitors, but the driving experience provides a balance between simplicity and rugged durability.

Engine and Power

Today, the 4Runner is powered by what many enthusiasts call the most formidable engine ever built. The naturally aspirated 4.0 L V6 paired with a robust five-speed automatic transmission is known to go far with little issues. Many owners reach 300-400 thousand miles with nothing more than performing regular oil changes.  

In the city, the performance is sluggish due to the weight and non-aerodynamic design of the vehicle. It’s on the highway and off-road where the 4Runner’s performance is at its best.

Handling and Driving Experience

A non-responsive yet sturdy vehicle, the 4Runner delivers a slow driving experience. Its handling of sharp turns and abrupt stops is not what makes it well-suited for everyday commuting. Yet the thrill of its off-road capabilities, performance in snowy conditions, versatile cargo capacity, and go-far reliability make up for its lack of precision driving dynamics. 

Off-Road Performance

Off-road features found on the TRD trims, like crawl control, a-track, and locking rear differential, make it highly off-road ready from the factory.

Let’s be honest: many people who buy a 4Runner don’t need this much off-road capability. Sure, some need to navigate deep snow or rough washed-out dirt roads. But the majority never take it off the pavement.

Many people buy a 4Runner for its looks and cargo capacity. They need something that can haul the family and all their gear on an annual camping trip. The 4Runner is great for this.

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Toyota has long been celebrated for its commitment to reliability, and the 4Runner is no exception. The vehicle’s robust construction and dependable performance contribute to Toyota’s overall reputation in the automotive industry.

Examining consumer reviews and testimonials provides insight into real-world experiences with the 4Runner. Positive feedback on reliability and longevity reinforces its standing in the SUV market.

Comparing the 4Runner’s longevity to its competitors sheds light on how well it stands the test of time in a fiercely competitive market.

Towing Capacity

For those with towing needs, the 4Runner’s towing capacity of 5000lbs is capable of handling a variety of payloads, including camping trailers and boats. 

Fuel Economy on Highways and in the City

The 4Runner’s fuel economy is not its strength. Rated at 14.8L per 100km city, 12.5L per 100 km highway with a combined rating of 13.8L or 100km. In MPG, it’s rated at 19 miles per gal in the city, 23 miles per gal on the highway with a combined 20 miles per gal overall.

Many people would avoid the 4Runner based on the fuel economy. However, there is another perspective worth considering. The 4.0L V6 engine is set up in such a way that it can last a really long time. This reliability of a go-anywhere 4×4 comes at the cost of a higher gas bill. The time and money saved on repairs can easily justify the higher cost at the pump.

Resale Value and the Value Equation

The 4Runner’s resale remains extremely strong as one of the highest resale values in the market.

The Toyota 4Runner is likely the best-built SUV on the market today. What it lacks in driving performance and fuel economy it makes up in reliability, style, and longer term owner satisfaction.

If you’re in the market and thinking about the 4Runner make sure you take in on a proper test drive where you emulate your daily driving pattern. If you drive to work everyday in a busy city but want a 4Runner because of the one or two camping trips or outdoor adventures, you take each year it might be a better idea to rent a 4Runner for those vacation days and get something lighter and easy to drive in stop and go traffic.

So, back to our question: Is the Toyota 4Runner the Best SUV ever built? Yes, indeed, it is.

Adam Ainsworth