2010 Toyota 4Runner SR5 4x4 V-6

Last Updated: May 14, 2010

What’s in the driveway? The fully-redesigned version of Toyota’s most rugged SUV. No car-based crossover watering-down for this four-door wagon. Toyota stayed faithful to 4Runner’s stout body-on-frame tradition when it re-engineered this midsize SUV for model-year 2010. With the similarly sized Toyota Highlander and compact-class RAV-4 handling lighter-duty family chores, the Japanese giant has the luxury of sustaining 4Runner’s focus on truck-tough engineering and off-road prowess. In fact, 4Runner’s off-road ability gets even more formidable for 2010 with addition of the four-wheel-drive Trail model; its trick traction system can literally be dialed in via a console knob to tackle mud, boulders, sand, and snow. Size-wise, the 2010 4Runner grows less than an inch in length, width and height from the 2003-2009 generation, and it can still be ordered with a child-sized third-row seat to increase passenger capacity to seven. But the 2010 4Runner looks -- and feels – significantly larger thanks to blockier new sheet metal. That more muscular styling is a little at odds with introduction of a four-cylinder engine to replace a V-6 as the 2010 4Runner’s base powerplant. At least the 157-horsepower 2.7-liter and its four-speed automatic transmission come only on the entry-level two-wheel-drive SR5 model. All other 4Runners use a version of the carry-over 4.0-liter V-6 fortified for 2010 with an additional 35 horsepower and 12 pound-feet of torque for 270 and 278, respectively. It uses a five-speed automatic transmission. The 4.7-liter V-8 has been dropped from the 4Runner line for 2010. It beat the latest V-6 by just 10 more horsepower and 28 pound-feet of torque, but that little extra oomph is missed in an SUV that tips the scales between 4,675 and 4,805 pounds with 4WD. In the driveway this week is a Magnetic Gray 2010 4Runner SR5 V-6 with 4WD.

How much does it cost? Base price of the 2010 Toyota 4Runner SR5 4x4 is $31,715, including Toyota’s $800 destination and delivery fee. As the base-trim 4Runner, the SR5 slots below the Trail model (starting at $38,500) and the Limited (starting at $40,600) in the 2010 lineup. Standard on the 4WD SR5 is the V-6 engine, five-speed automatic, beefy 265/70R17 mud-and-snow tires on alloy wheels, front fog lamps, and an integrated tow hitch receiver. Also included in the base price is a dashboard information screen with fuel-mileage data and outside temperature and compass readouts, remote keyless entry, and a tilt/telescope steering wheel with cruise control buttons. The manually adjustable driver’s seat has a power lumbar support and the rear folding seatback is split 40/40/40. All 4Runners boast a class-exclusive power tailgate window and like the four side windows, it has automatic one-touch up/down control. The SR5’s 4WD system is engaged via a floor-lever and is a part-time setup, meaning it can’t be left engaged on dry pavement without risk of powertrain wear. That’s a bit of a throwback in this age of all-surface full-time systems, but it does include low-range gearing. You have to spring for a Limited model to get flip-a-switch full-time 4WD. Options on our test model include the Premium Package ($2,205) that brings leather upholstery, heated power front seats; the Convenience Package ($1,050) that adds a power tilt/slide moonroof; and an audio upgrade ($585) that retains the basic eight-speaker single-CD, XM-ready sound system but adds a USB iPod port and Bluetooth hands-free audio and cell-phone connectivity with steering-wheel controls. Attached to runners in the cargo bay is the optional ($350) full-width tray that slides out maybe 10 inches beyond the rear bumper to hold up to 440 pounds of tailgate goodies. A rear backup camera adds $525, carpeted floor and cargo mats $204, for a bottom-line sticker price of $36,634.

Is it worth it? Yes, but to enjoy the full value of this SUV you’re going to have to exploit its aptitude for off-roading. Pulling a trailer weighing up to 5,000 pounds would be appropriate, too. For everyday commuting and on-pavement family travel there’s a long list of crossover SUVs that give you similar interior room and the same elevated seating position but with more car-like road manners, a lower step-in height, and likely better fuel economy than this rig’s 17/22 mpg (city/highway) EPA rating. If you’re fond of 4Runner’s chunky styling, we’d look first to the Honda Pilot, which also wraps three rows of seats in a squared-off body but feels more responsive from behind the wheels and less, well, truck-like to live with.

What’s to like? Inspiring refinement for what’s essentially, and proudly, a truck. Road and engine ruckus are subdued. A bit of whistle from the mirrors at highway speed is the only wind noise. Stopping power and brake-pedal feel inspire confidence and a tight turning circle makes city driving a snap. Grab handles are strategically located to hoist yourself into this high-rider and once aboard you’ll enjoy sumptuous leather seating and plenty of space. Rear passengers have especially nice accommodations thanks to a reclining seatback and a theater-style rise over the front seats, though the center rear armrest is too low to be of much use. That retractable tailgate glass is Country-Squire cool and one-touch power for all windows is a thoughtful convenience. So is the presence of no fewer than 10 cup and bottle holders (an even dozen if your order the third-row seat), a household-type three-prong 120-volt outlet in the center console, a trio of 12-volt power outlets, and a plethora of storage bins and nooks.

What does it need? Maybe a V-8. Toyota reserves its smooth 4.6-liter V-8 (301 horsepower, 329 pound-feet of torque) for the redesigned 2010 GX460, which is basically a 4Runner fancied up for sale in the company’s premium Lexus line. The 4.0 V-6 pulls 4Runner around town with little difficulty and cruises with minimal effort. But it yanks the transmission into multiple, frequent, and raucous downshifts when you want to charge into a fast-closing gap in the next lane, merge with merciless freeway traffic, or ascend a long grade. In these situations, the V-6 4Runner simply feels underpowered. Can’t do much about the long-travel suspension, which provides enough articulation to keep the tires in contact with most anything an off-road trail is going to throw your way. It absorbs bumps well but contributes to pronounced body lean in turns and to this SUV’s propensity to toss occupants’ heads side-to-side on uneven pavement. Less syrupy steering would contribute to an improved sense of control, but better directional stability when fighting open-country crosswinds would contribute more. And no modern vehicle should have a hood that flutters in the face of strong highway gusts. A lower cargo floor would help loading (the otherwise handy and cleverly designed slid-out tray raises the surface a few additional inches). Availability of power assist – even just a long strap handle -- would enable the shortest among us to open and close the heavy liftgate without strain. Most dashboard buttons and knobs are large and plainly marked, but some would benefit from more logical organization; the downhill-assist control switch is on the ceiling, for example.

What’s Toyota’s opinion? ““Backed by a quarter-century of heritage combined with the integration of the latest comfort, convenience and performance technologies, the all-new fifth-generation 4Runner has evolved into one of the most advanced midsized truck-based SUV’s on the market while at the same time staying true to its roots as a rugged and durable off-roader.”

What do you say? Swallow your tough-act pride and look to a more accommodating crossover if you’re not going to fully and regularly take advantage of the 2010 4Runner’s trucky talents.       

What’s next? Except for some detail changes, expect Toyota to ride 4Runner’s 2010 redesign for a few years. Tightening fuel-economy regulations may preclude the addition of a V-8 to this SUV, and while Toyota has pledged that each of its model lines will eventually offer a hybrid model, one for the 4Runner is likely a low priority.

Vital statistics
2010 Toyota 4Runner SR5 4x4 V-6

  • Base price: $30,915                   Price of test car including options and destination fee: $36,634
  • Size: 189.9 inches long, 109.8-inch wheelbase, 4,675-pound base curb weight
  • Engine: 270-horsepower 4.0-liter V-6; four-wheel drive
  • Fuel economy: 17 mpg city/ 22 highway (EPA ratings)
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles bumper-to-bumper, 5/60,000 powertrain
  • Safety ratings: four stars out of five for front-passenger protection in a frontal collision in government crash testing; maximum five-star rating for driver and occupant protection in all other government testing  

Automotive journalist Chuck Giametta has covered the auto industry for more than 20 years as a newspaper reporter, Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide books and magazines, and as Managing Editor of Iguida.com. This test vehicle was provided by the manufacturer.