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2017 Toyota 4Runner Overview

Off-road SUVs have become scarce with the growing popularity of crossovers. But a few automakers still soldier on, building SUVs that can tackle the trail without showing any sign of sweat. Take, for example, the Toyota 4Runner. This model screams it would rather be off the beaten path than on the pavement, with an aggressive design and plenty of components to help with traversing various types of terrain.

The big change to the 4Runner for 2017 is the introduction of two new trims, the TRD Off-Road and TRD Off-Road Premium. These two trims feature the Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control systems that are standard on most 4Runners. Crawl Control uses the throttle and brakes to allow the 4Runner to traverse certain obstacles, such as rocks, at low speed. Multi-Terrain Select allows a driver to select from various modes to alter throttle and suspension settings for wherever you find yourself driving. Optional on both trims is the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), which allows for more wheel travel by disconnecting the sway bars. Other items of note on the TRD Off-Road and Off-Road Premium are a set of badges on the C-pillar, alloy wheels, and red stitching on the seats. The only other change of note for the 2017 4Runner is a new color choice for the TRD Pro.

The 4Runner’s powertrain story begins with a 4.0-liter V6 pumping out 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque. This is paired with a 5-speed automatic, which trails many competing transmissions that have 6 speeds or more. The SR5, SR5 Premium, and Limited trims get standard rear-wheel drive (RWD) with an automatic limited-slip differential. The Trail, Trail Premium, and TRD trims get a part-time 4-wheel-drive (4WD) system standard, while the SR5 and SR5 Premium get it as an option. The Limited is the only trim that offers a full-time 4WD system as an option. In terms of fuel economy, the EPA rates the 4Runner at 17 mpg city/22 highway/19 combined for RWD versions and 17/21/18 for 4WD versions.

In terms of off-road features, the 4Runner comes with hill-start assist and hill-descent control to help with tackling steep or difficult hills. Step up to the 4WD-only Trail or Trail Premium and you’ll get a locking rear differential, Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control systems, and the option of KDSS. Those who are serious in their off-road endeavors need to look at the 4Runner TRD Pro. This trim features a taller ride height, new front springs, Bilstein shocks, special off-road tires, and a number of the systems found on the Trail trim that allow it to go further into treacherous terrain.

The interior of the 4Runner boasts a simple design with a logical layout for the controls and materials that were chosen for durability, not aesthetics. In terms of passenger arrangements, the 4Runner features seating for up to 5 people. It has an optional third-row seat, but this is best reserved for small kids, as legroom is almost nonexistent. The 4Runner does very well when it comes to cargo. Open the rear liftgate and you’ll be greeted with 47 cubic feet of space. Fold the second row and space increases to 89.7 cubic feet. Opt for the third row and space behind the seats decreases to 9 cubic feet.

Standard equipment on all trims includes LED taillights, heated outside mirrors, keyless entry, cruise control, a 6-way power seat for the driver, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, Bluetooth, a 6.1-inch touchscreen with Toyota’s Entune infotainment system, and auxiliary and USB inputs. Higher trims feature leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, a power seat for the passenger, an upgraded version of Entune with navigation and smartphone app integration, dual-zone climate control, and a 15-speaker JBL audio system.

Safety-wise, the 4Runner has a 4-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a Good rating on most tests from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Standard safety equipment includes a full suite of airbags (including knee airbags for the front passengers), stability and traction control, and a backup camera. The Limited is the only 4Runner trim to get front and rear parking sensors and Toyota’s Safety Connect system, which can automatically call emergency services in the event of a crash. Safety Connect can also locate your vehicle if it’s stolen.

As many automakers change direction and start building more crossovers, it’s good to see a company like Toyota keeping the flame alight for tough and dependable SUVs. The 2017 4Runner might drink a bit more gas and lack many of the luxury appointments found in competitors, but if you want a vehicle that can get you to that special spot out in the middle of nowhere, it's worth a closer look.


Ask William Maley how he started as an automotive writer and he would say he just fell into it. Based in Michigan, William has driven vehicles of all sizes and shapes. His work has appeared on Autobytel, CARFAX, Cheers & Gears, and U.S. News Best Cars.

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