Behind the Wheel

2020 Toyota 4Runner Review: A modern throwback with so, so much to love

Toyota sells the 4Runner in an available Venture grade, which adds black accents and a handy roof basket.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

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.

2020 Toyota 4Runner venture 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."

2020 Toyota 4Runner venture 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.

2020 Toyota 4Runner Venture 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.

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New hot hatch

Toyota teases GR Corolla hatchback

The Instagram teaser contains many hints at the new GR Corolla.

Toyota

Toyota isn't always top of mind when it comes to performance cars, but the Japanese giant has a few tricks up its sleeve. There's the Supra, which the automaker partnered with BMW to produce and there's also the not-for-the-U.S. GR Yaris. The hotted-up hatchback features tremendous power and a four-wheel drive system, but buyers here can only watch jealously as our friends in Europe and elsewhere get all the fun. That's about to change for U.S. buyers, however, as Toyota has begun teasing the GR Corolla hatchback, which we will get.

The automaker posted a cryptic image to Instagram a month ago, but it's still making the rounds on the internet today, with users of the GR Corolla Forum still discussing the post today. The teaser, which is of the Corolla's interior, features hints as to what we might see when the car debuts. The navigation screen shows GR Four road, which points to the car's four-wheel drive system, while a G:16 on the clock in the gauge cluster represents the G16E-GTS engine that the car is expected to get. The GR Yaris also sports that engine, where it produces 268 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque.

Toyota GR Corolla GR, or Gazoo Racing, is Toyota's motorsport armToyota Europe

The GR Corolla should break cover next year, but we don't yet know if it will be a 2022 or 2023 model. As far as pricing goes, Toyota may pull out some surprises, but the car will likely be far more expensive than an everyday Corolla. The smaller GR Yaris is priced starting at nearly $40,000 in Europe, so the Corolla's price tag should be around or slightly above that number.

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The CX-50 features body cladding and rugged styling.

Mazda

Mazda's got a busy 2021 and 2022 as it gears up to release several new vehicles. The first is almost here, and today the automaker shared preliminary details. The CX-50 is an all-new SUV that shares a platform with the Mazda 3 and CX-30.

2023 Mazda CX-50 Production begins in January 2022. Mazda

At first, the CX-50 will be offered with Mazda's 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines, one of which is turbocharged, but electrified powertrain options will join the lineup down the road, including a traditional hybrid. Both gas engines come with a six-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive. A new drive mode select system is also standard that allows the driver to change the CX-50's behavior to match road and driving conditions such as towing and off-roading.

2023 Mazda CX-50 A new drive mode selection feature allows the driver to change vehicle behavior. Mazda

The new SUV's styling is a departure from the norm for Mazda, whose typical designs are sleek and elegant but far from rugged. That changes with the CX-50. Mazda installed beefy fender flares, body cladding, and a chunky front bumper that make the SUV look ready for the trail. New colors debut with the CX-50 as well, including Zircon Sand for the exterior and a terracotta upholstery option for the interior. The SUV will be the first Mazda to be offered with a panoramic sunroof.

2023 Mazda CX-50 New color schemes are available for both the interior and exterior. Mazda

We don't have full pricing or options details yet, but Mazda says that the CX-50 will be built at the facility in Huntsville, Alabama that it shares with Toyota. Production is scheduled for January 2022.

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