First the Earth cooled and shortly thereafter Toyota introduced the current generation of the 4Runner. OK, so it’s not that old, but in car terms, 13 years ago might as well be prehistoric. Now, the 2022 Toyota 4Runner does benefit from key updates done in recent years, especially to its infotainment and safety tech, and various new trim levels were introduced to keep things fresh. For 2022, there’s the new TRD Sport, which might as well be dubbed TRD On-Road with its big 20-inch wheels and adaptive suspension borrowed from the Limited.
Being ancient also isn’t all bad: It has the same rugged truck-based chassis, capable suspension, ample clearances and bulletproof reliability that make it a darling among off-roaders everywhere (and keep its residual values sky-high). Its abundant interior space has also allowed it to be a realistic alternative to more family-friendly midsize crossovers. And, frankly, new cars can be awfully complicated. A simpler one will be mighty appealing to a lot of people.
On the other hand, there’s no escaping the ravages of father time (and all its competitors being redesigned/introduced in the past few years). Its V6 engine has less power than a Camry’s, the transmission has five (!) fewer gears than a Ford Bronco’s, the fuel economy of 17 mpg combined is dismal even when compared to Broncos and Wranglers, and calling the handling “imprecise” would be an understatement. The interior, despite those updates and its generous space, is still a relic of another time. As such, the 4Runner won’t make sense for everyone, and the introduction of the Bronco (if you can actually get one) means there’s one more competitor to make the 4Runner look like it was around for the construction of the pyramids.
What’s new for 2022?
The new TRD Sport trim level is a 4Runner more intended for on-road use (pictured above right). It’s basically a de-contented Limited, sharing its general styling, big wheel size and Cross-Linked Relative Absorber System (or X-REAS) that is for all intents and purposes an adaptive damper system. Its equipment is comparable to the base SR5. There are other noteworthy features updates. Blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning are finally available, but only come as standard equipment on the TRD Pro, Limited and Premium trims. The Limited and TRD models get an upgraded instrument panel, and a multi-camera off-road monitor is added to the TRD Pro. That also gets a new signature color for 2022. Pictured above left, the eye-searing Lime Rush replaces the tastefully subdued Lunar Rock.
After significant upgrades two years ago, the 4Runner cabin’s feature content and technology are reasonably consistent with what you might find in cars designed during this decade. That said, this remains an antiquated interior with its blocky design that dates back to Barack Obama’s first year in office. The plastics quality is also subpar for a vehicle that easily crests $40,000 and can top $50,000 – a RAV4 is nicer in some places. The various small bins and cubbies are also just a little too small for modern devices, having clearly been designed when we carried flip phones and iPods. There’s even old-school switchgear like the roller heated seat controls and one-blink-only turn signals. The SR5, Trail Edition and TRD Sport don’t even have automatic headlights or climate controls.
Nevertheless, it’s all put together quite well, controls are logically placed and there’s certainly something to be said for a rugged off-road vehicle that has a rugged interior. The standard 8-inch touchscreen is also of a typical size and has an acceptable amount of feature content, with standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa integration. Simple tasks like changing radio stations are generally easy to perform, but it’s not the quickest system nor the most modern in appearance. The Jeep Wrangler, and to a lesser extent Ford Bronco, put this infotainment system to shame.
Here is an area where the 4Runner is perfectly fine as-is. The cargo area floor is quite low for a truck-based SUV, while the space beyond is a big, boxy 47.2 cubic feet. Even when you add the novel slide-out cargo floor that reduces capacity, there’s still a gigantic amount of space. We know, we filled it up in our cargo area Luggage Test review, and then found that it smoked its off-roader competition. Maximum cargo capacity with the back seat lowered is 89.7 cubic feet, which rivals many three-row crossovers (the Highlander has only 84.3) and surpasses various two-row models.
There are also clever cargo area features. The optional slide-out cargo floor makes loading and unloading super-simple, while the 4Runner-trademark power rear window allows you to secure long items like surf boards or lumber out the back while keeping the rest of the liftgate closed. It also allows for freer airflow in the cabin, and dogs typically love it as well (that big boxy area in general is dog friendly).
Human legroom is quite good all around. The standard power driver seat offers plenty of adjustment, while the back seat is mounted at a nice height and reclines to an almost absurd degree. That said, headroom can be a bit tight up front should you opt for the sunroof. There’s a third-row seat available, but its space is extremely limited and it reduces cargo space. Really, if you want a third-row seat, crossovers like the Kia Telluride would be a better family-hauling choice.
The 4Runner is only offered with a 4.0-liter V6 that produces 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. That’s not a lot given how much the 4Runner can weigh (especially the TRD Pro) and the fact that the lighter Toyota Highlander produces more than 300 horsepower. As such, the 4Runner is quite slow, and it’s not helped by a standard five-speed automatic transmission that does it no favors in terms of fuel economy.
According the EPA, the 4Runner returns 16 mpg city, 19 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined regardless of drivetrain, which is pretty bad given its weak-sauce power output. And it gets worse. The TRD Pro’s off-road tires, heavier weight and blunter aerodynamics resulted in us averaging only 17 mpg in about 250 miles of highway driving in a TRD Pro. We saw the low teens around town. By contrast, we were seeing 18 to 19 mpg on the highway in the Trail Edition, which might not seem like a big difference, but it is.
The optional four-wheel drive system provides high and low range. It is selected with a traditional mechanical shifter on TRD models, while the SR5, TRD Sport and Trail Edition utilize a knob that engages the same transfer case with a servo. Basically, it’s simpler to use and therefore friendlier for the less off-roading-versed owners more likely to buy those trim levels. The Limited also has the knob, but it controls a full-time four-wheel-drive system that includes a locking center differential.
Despite its rugged body-on-frame construction, every 4Runner’s towing capacity is only 5,000 pounds.
Terrible. And also awesome. It really depends on how you look at it. Should you compare the 4Runner to another midsize SUV like the Honda Passport, you’ll find this rugged Toyota to be slow and noisy, with ponderous handling that actually gets worse when you opt for a more off-road-oriented model (the all-terrain tires make the steering in particular sloppy and vague). On the other hand, should you compare it to a Jeep Wrangler or Ford Bronco, the 4Runner will be comfier, substantially quieter and just generally more civilized. At the same time, it’s much slower than both, with a transmission that does the engine no favors with its insufficient number of gears.
Off-road, the 4Runner is a monster, and you don’t have to get the top-of-the-line TRD Pro to realize its potential. Any 4×4 versions will do the job just fine, though the sweet spot is certainly the TRD Off-Road that goes beyond the SR5 and Trail Edition with a locking rear differential, wider tires, Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select system, Crawl Control (essentially a low-speed cruise control for getting out of especially tricky off-road situations) and the optional KDSS disconnecting sway bars that improve both off-road wheel articulation and on-road handling. The latter actually aren’t available on the TRD Pro, which only ups the ante slightly with upgraded shocks and tires. Then again, both the Trail Edition and TRD Off-Road offer unique colors and equipment, which may ultimately sway the needle in their favor.
What other Toyota 4Runner reviews can I read?
Engineer Dan Edmunds takes you under the 4Runner for an in-depth look at how the TRD Off-Road and the KDSS suspension option does what it does.
Here’s another deep dive of a different variety. We find out just how much you can stuff into the back of the 4Runner while also testing the optional pull-out cargo tray.
We broadly go over last year’s significant revisions after giving the 4Runner a thorough workout in Moab, Utah.
We test the TRD Off-Road Premium, which is pretty much the sweet spot in the lineup.
The new kid on the block takes on grandpa as we compare the dimensions and engine specs of the 4Runner with the all-new Ford Bronco.
2022 4Runner pricing starts at $38,520, including the $1,215 destination charge, for the base SR5 with rear-wheel drive. The 4×4 SR5 model starts at $40,395. Notable standard features include 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a windshield wiper de-icer, rear privacy glass, skid plates (4×4 models), adaptive cruise control, accident avoidance tech (see safety section), an eight-way power driver seat, 40/20/40-split reclining and folding back seat, cloth upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power rear liftgate window, a 100W house-style outlet, three USB ports, an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Amazon Alexa compatibility, satellite radio and an eight-speaker sound system.
The Trail Edition ($40,490 4×2 or $42,365 4×4) builds on the SR5 with unique 17-inch wheels, a Yakima roof basket, a custom cooler and special color choices: Army Green and Cement.
The new TRD Sport ($41,365 4×2 or $43,240 4×4) builds on the SR5 in a more on-road way with 20-inch wheels and the Limited’s X-REAS adaptive damper system.
The TRD Off-Road pictured above left ($42,350) builds off the SR5 with standard four-wheel drive, a locking rear differential, wider tires, Multi-terrain Select off-road settings, Crawl Control (a sort of off-road cruise control), and different exterior trim. The KDSS suspension upgrade is exclusive to the TRD Off-R From there, the SR5 Premium ($40,725 4×2 or $45,575 4×4) and TRD Off-Road Premium ($43,690) add proximity entry and push-button start, more easily cleaned SofTex vinyl upholstery, heated front seats, and a few extra infotainment features. The TRD Off-Road Premium also gains a sunroof.
At this point, things diverge. The Limited pictured above right ($48,105 4×2 or $50,140 4×4) is a more luxury-oriented version of the 4Runner that gains 20-inch wheels, a limited-slip center differential (4×4 models), the X-REAS adaptive suspension, fancier exterior trim (chrome on the Limited, black on the Nightshade), dual-zone auto climate control, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a four-way power passenger seat, HD radio and a JBL sound system.
Then there’s the TRD Pro ($53,335) that adds to the TRD Off-Road Premium equipment Fox shocks, TRD-tuned front springs, a TRD cat-back exhaust (it’s loud and annoying), a huge roof rack, LED foglights, 1/4-inch thick front skid plate, unique styling, 17-inch matte black wheels, Nitto Grappler all-terrain tires (they make the steering worse), special floor mats and the JBL sound system (it isn’t very good). This is also the only trim available in Lime Rush.
Besides ABS and eight airbags, every 2022 4Runner comes standard with forward collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and automatic high beams. Blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning are available for the first time in 2022, and are included on the TRD Pro, Limited and Premium trims.
In government crash tests, the 4Runner received four out of five stars for overall and frontal crash protection, five stars for side protection and a three-star rollover rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave it the best-possible rating of “Good” in all crash categories except the newest “small overlap front: driver side” category where it got a second-worst “Marginal.” This isn’t surprising given that the 4Runner was engineered long before this test was devised and manufacturers were obliged to design crash structures to accommodate it. The IIHS hasn’t updated its headlight rating yet for the ’21 4Runner and its newly standard LEDs. It previously got a “Poor” rating, making the change not especially surprising.