A long time ago, the SUV was a truck. In fact, many of our SUV-owning friends used to call them trucks. It was a badge of pride.
The anti-Minivan in every sense of the word.
But we got seduced. Today, nearly everyone wants car-like comfort, luxuries, swank styling.
Rugged capability? Who cares.
Well, if you’ve seen the weather lately, or watch the hot TV shows, you know, it might not be such a bad idea to have a little go-anywhere in your garage. Which leads us to today’s question:
What vehicle do you want when the Zombie Apocalypse comes?
Well, for your consideration, we offer up the 2017 Toyota 4Runner.
You can make a good argument that the 4Runner was the first modern compact SUV. Back in the 80’s Toyota did a smart thing and put a removable (barely) fiberglass on top and a rear seat inside Toyota’s venerable small pickup. Better than a pickup with a camper shell, the first 4Runner created a segment of versatility, capability, and rugged looks.
Even more amazing, the 4Runner has stayed the 4Runner. Where most competitors got on the car-in-SUV clothing bandwagon, Toyota’s SUV stayed true to its roots. Just gave it 30 years of development, and kept on truckin’.
Will it blend into the crowd of SUVs?
Heck no, and it shouldn’t. And it fact, it looks kind of angry that you asked. This is classic, rugged, square-jawed handsome. It doesn’t look aerodynamic. It probably isn’t. Squinty eyes, a large frowny grille with gill-like sides. It looks purpose built.
Now, our tester was the frou-frou Limited model, so they throw some bling your way with 20-inch alloys, color-keyed bumpers, rockers, and overfenders, then add some chrome accents, front fog lamps, and rear privacy glass.
It gives it a little bit dressier look, but the square lines and macho stance still come through loud and clear.
So, I should expect a vinyl bench seat and an 8-track?
Thankfully, that kind of rugged is long gone. Instead you have modern workhorse. It’s trucky, with straight lines, carrying straight-forward switchgear large enough to adjust with work gloves or winter gloves. The only sour note for us is the power window switches that are high up, and horizontally placed on the window sill. Forces your hand into an odd angle.
Toyota makes up for this on our Limited model by transforming a workhorse into a show pony. You get loads of luxury items, like dual zone climate control, JBL audio, hi-res touchscreen with navi, heated and cooled leather trimmed seats (in a lovely rich brown on our tester) power moonroof, and more.
Because it’s built on a truck chassis, the floor is a little higher than other SUV’s so you feel a bit hunkered down – but it’s not claustrophobic. The rear seat is comfortable, and flips down to give a huge cargo hold. There is an optional third-row seat, but it would be pretty tight. Best for small kids.
Toyota continues the 4Runner tradition of a power-lowering rear window – awesome to hang out extra-long items (longboard dude!), and also a great way to quickly air out a hot interior. Kudos!
Toyota held onto the truck-a-dentials for more than just posing. The 4Runner is incredibly capable, with mountain goat-like off-road abilities, and rough condition capabilities. For those planning to explore lava fields, jungles, and remote desert, you can upgrade to the Off Road trim, or go all the way up to Toyota’s TRD Pro model.
We’re sure our Limited model can handle most moderate off-road conditions, and it’s a pretty livable beast around town. The 4.0-liter V6 makes 270 hp, and with a large heavy vehicle, it has to work hard for best performance. If you do lean into it, acceleration is surprisingly strong, and we even averaged 18 mpg giving it the frequent hiking boot. Impressive.
That full-frame chassis and solid rear axle make for a bit of a bumpy ride, but we think it suits the 4Runner’s honest roots. And it what it may lack in cushy car-like comportment (say that fast three times!), it gives back in a feeling of unburstability.
And Toyota’s reputation for reliability and durability in its trucks are legendary. Take a look at used prices – these things barely depreciate, and you find plenty with 200K-plus miles on them, happily rolling along.
With that kind of depreciation, durability and reliability, Toyota could probably ask whatever they want. But they also keep another 4Runner tradition – value. Your most basic SR5 starts at $34,410, including that strong V6 and your choice of rear-wheel or part-time 4WD.
We’d probably pop for the Off-Road model ($37,535) with all kinds of serious off-road gear like Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control, Lever-type transfer case, 17-inch alloys, and Electronically-controlled locking rear differential. We’d also add in the available Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System that helps the suspension articulate. Thus equipped, you would have an incredibly capable off-road vehicle.
Our Limited tester brings you most of that capability, plus some added bling and luxury, and starts at $44,560. We also had automatic running boards, roof-rack cross bars, and carpeted mats. Yours for a grand total of $46,409.
Speaking of Grand, a quick visit to Jeep, and we find their most lux 6-cylinder Grand Cherokee Summit 4×4 comes in a click over $50,000. Hmmm not so grand…
The 4Runner is a charmer. Sure, there are lots of SUV choices, and a car-based one is a good for people who don’t want to be seen in a minivan, or drive a wagon.
But the 4Runner can do those daily duties, and gives you that added broad-shouldered, I-can-do-anything vibe that makes any trip feel like an adventure. Even if it’s just a Costco run.
Bad weather, Zombies – or just uninvited relatives, when it’s time to head for the hills, there’s no better choice than Toyota’s rugged, reliable, 4Runner.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.