Behind the Wheel
2020 Toyota 4Runner Review: A modern throwback with so, so much to love
Driving the freshest version of the Toyota 4Runner is like taking a step back in time. There's plenty that will make you think, "Is this really a 2020?" While the automaker has done its best to keep up with an aging platform and design shifts by the rest of the crowd, even the Jeep Wrangler has a sleeker interior at this point.
Still, it makes you yearn a bit for the days when trucks were trucks – when SUV meant body-on-frame and buyers understood what that meant. That's not to say that the newest crop of SUVs are bad or that the average SUV buyers is less informed today than they were two decades ago. They're just differently informed.
The 4Runner Venture is priced around $47,000 all-in. As tested, with added running boards and paint protection film, the cost went up over $48,000.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.
The 4Runner elicits a visceral nostalgic reaction. Moving the gated shifter reminds you that they're nearly extinct in mass production cars. Holding on to the beefy steering wheel leads one to realize how little effort it truly takes to move the Ram 1500 around a parking lot of obstacles. Using your foot to engage the parking brake, hearing the sound of the creaking movement – that's a thing of beauty.
What the 2020 4Runner does most is put the driver in a position to hope that with the redesigned model that is well on its way, Toyota doesn't go so far as to make it too modern. I don't want to change my own oil, but I'd like to know I can if I need to, without taking a masterclass.
There are, however, areas where the 4Runner could stand to be given a thorough update, starting with the powertrain. It comes standard with a 4.0-liter V6 that delivers 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. It does the job. As the old man at the hardware store used to say while looking over the top of his glasses, "there's a different between doing a job and doing a job well."
The 4Runner hasn't lost any capability.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.
Its five-speed automatic transmission spends too much time search for the right gear and not allowing enough torque when needed, even when cruising on the highway.
The SUV's cabin is comfy, especially in top-tier trim levels, with the appropriate amount of ruggedness. Some finishes could stand an upgrade for the $40,000+ price tag as tested but the biggest changes should be the steering wheel and the infotainment system. While the touch screen's OS isn't bad (it's not pretty either), the center stack is simply dated. The wheel has the same affliction. Adding one-touch turn signals is a must, as is deleting the old school digital clock display at the top of the dash.
The 4Runner is still tremendously capable when it comes to traversing terrain, whether you're in the desert or a mud pit. That doesn't mean that it's great at keeping a lane or has a tight turning radius. Still, that's just about what you'd expect from an aging truck.
The SUV rides on 17-inch gunmetal gray TRD alloy wheels.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.
If you're worried about the coming changes to the 4Runner, you will want to keep an eye on dealer inventory for your new model. Don't be the person that ends up shelling out thousands over asking on BringATrailer.com just because you wish you could go back in time.