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2010 Toyota 4Runner
If there's such a thing as socially responsible off-roading, this is about as close as it gets
By Malcolm Gunn
If you're looking for a dilettante-pretty sport ute for night-life cruising or for tripping to the mall, the Toyota 4Runner will likely do the trick, but you would really be missing out on what this vehicle is all about.
The 4Runner has always been considered an honest off-roader that makes no apologies for its extra-firm ride and blue-collar body styling that is anything but downtown trendy. That image is reinforced to a greater extent with the 2010 edition, but fans of this go-anywhere rig will be pleased to discover that Toyota has tamed the 4Runner's appetite for fuel, while strengthening it's ability to take on whatever moonscape-terrain its owners are brave enough to challenge.
The mid-size 4Runner began back in 1984 as a fixed-roof version of Toyota's compact pickup and has retained its truck-like body-on-frame construction through the previous four generations and more than 100,000 in Canadian sales.
The all-new edition, while still maintaining its brutish good looks and relative size, actually appears a bit more civilized. Although the 4Runner is slightly taller than before, it borrows its platform from the retro-inspired FJ Cruiser, which means a lower floor height and a slightly less lofty perch.
But the biggest news is that the previously offered 260-horsepower 4.7-litre V8 didn't make the cut for 2010, likely due to its abysmal 15.0/11.5 l/100 km city/highway fuel consumption that probably scared off many prospective 4Runner buyers during last year's off-the-scale gas prices.
Replacing it is 2009's base 4.0-litre V6 that has been upgraded to 270 horsepower, a gain of 34 and 10 more horses than to outgoing V8.
Additionally, the made-over V6 earns a more respectable city/highway l/100 km rating of 12.6/9.2.
The V6 comes with a five-speed automatic transmission and is coupled to a full-time four-wheel-drive system with a locking centre differential that's controlled by a console switch.
All 4Runners are designated as SR5 models for 2010, with a number of available option packages that can be selected according to the buyer's discretion and credit limit. The extensive level of base-edition content includes manual climate control, multi-adjustable power driver's seat, eight airbags (including two front-knee inflatables) and roof rails. The Trail Edition, which can be easily identified by its unique hood scoop, lives up to its name by including Crawl Control, a system that sets the vehicle at a specific low speed in low range so that it "digs in" over steep and/or rough surfaces. As well Multi-terrain Select allows the driver to adjust the degree of wheel slip, depending on surface conditions such as loose sand or solid rock. Another optional system disconnects the stabilizer bars for added suspension travel.
If that isn't enough, Hill Start Assist that keeps the vehicle from rolling backward when stopped on an incline is also part of the Trail Edition, as is Hill Descent Control to prevent unintended acceleration on a downward slope.
The Trail Edition is the only way to add the handy slide-out rear cargo deck that can support up to 200 kilograms and can also be used as a seat for two while the 4Runner is parked.
Limited Edition content includes a leather interior, chrome-plated grille, backup monitor, push-button start and 20-inch wheels (17-inchers are standard elsewhere). The Limited Edition with Navigation adds a 17.5-centimetre screen to display your position.
A 15-speaker premium audio system is available for the Limited Edition as well as a third-row seat that can convert this far-from-tepid Toyota into a passenger-laden commuter.
Pricing is starts at $38,300, including delivery, which is a good deal considering Toyota's larger eight-passenger Sequoia adds more than $10,000 to that amount. But for off-road enthusiasts, the 4Runner is the real deal, even if there's some time spent cruising to the mall instead of wandering the wilderness.
What you should know: 2010Toyota 4Runner
Type: Four-door, four-wheel-drive mid-size sport-utility vehicle
Engines: 4.0-litre DOHC V6 (270 hp)
Transmissions: Four-speed automatic (std. on 2.7); five-speed automatic (std. on 4.0)
Market position: The 4Runner appeals to people who are serious about back-country travel and need a vehicle that will ensure they return safely.
Points: Tough-customer design "language" is backed up by off-road prowess; Standard 4.0-litre V6 now beats the outgoing V8 in horsepower, fuel economy, but falls a bit short in torque; Optional third-row seat adds versatility; Less expensive and very cool Toyota FJ Cruiser has likely cut into 4Runner sales over the years; Impressive off-road technology for safer excursions.
Safety: Front airbags; front-knee airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.
L/100 km (city/hwy): 12.6/9.2
Base price (incl. destination): $38,300
Base price: $23,500
A rugged sport ute with good power for cost-conscious off-roaders.
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
Base price: $24,700
Just like the 4Runner, it has a reputation for agility and strength.
Base price: $28,500
Surprisingly agile on or off pavement; comfortable interior.
Malcolm Gunn is an automotive writer based in Moncton, NB, and a regular contributor to CarTest!
Posted January 26, 2010. © CarTest.ca TM