2013 Toyota 4Runner Review and Prices
The 2013 Toyota 4Runner is the best SUV for you if you’re a survivor -- and want to drive one, too.
The 2013 Toyota 4Runner won’t change significantly from the 2012 Toyota 4Runner but it will represent a rapidly disappearing species. With the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder’s conversion to a crossover SUV, the 2013 4Runner loses its last direct rival with body-on-frame construction. If you’d like to experience what the world of midsize SUVs was like before the crossover revolution, Toyota’s truck-based passenger wagon is among your quickly disappearing opportunities. Thankfully, the 2013 4Runner will defend the old school with excellent off-road ability, rock-solid construction, and a roomy cabin with seating for up to seven.
Should you wait for the 2013 Toyota 4Runner or buy a 2012 Toyota 4Runner? Buy a 2012 4Runner. The 2013 4Runner isn’t apt to change in any way worth waiting for, but almost certainly will suffer model-year price inflation.
2013 Toyota 4Runner Changes back to top
Styling: The 2013 Toyota 4Runner could get a couple of new color choices and maybe some tweaked trim. But its basic broad-shouldered size and shape won’t be altered. It’ll remain proudly square-rigged, tall-riding, and bulging-fendered -- a throwback to the dawn of the SUV age.
Some other midsize SUVs mimic this look – the 2013 Ford Explorer and 2013 GMC Terrain come to mind. But virtually all of them are crossovers. That is, they’re built like cars, with body and frame essentially a single unit. By contrast, the 2013 4Runner has a separate frame with body attached. This type of construction is well suited to severe off-road duty but generally is heavier and less space-efficient than a “unibody” crossover design.
Full-size SUVs such as the Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition are commonly body-on-frame. But holdouts in the midsize-SUV class are few. 4Runner is by far the best seller and with the future of the Nissan Xterra and Toyota’s own FJ Cruiser uncertain at the time of this review, it’s the only non premium-class entry sure to be on sale for model-year 2013.
Among the tiny number of premium-priced body-on-frame midsize SUVs with a solid future is the Lexus GX460, and it’s essentially a fancied-up 4Runner from Toyota’s upscale division. The Toyota Highlander, meanwhile, will return for model-year 2013 as a seven-passenger midsize crossover with minivan-like styling and no off-road pretensions.
The 2013 4Runner will continue as a four-door wagon with a liftgate that boasts the novelty of a power-down rear window. Two front bucket seats and a three-passenger fold-down second-row bench are standard. A child-sized fold-down third-row bench should again be optional.
Expect the 2013 4Runner lineup to again consist of three models. The base version will likely keep its SR5 label. The midrange 2013 4Runner Trail model ought to return visually distinguished by front and rear bumpers contoured to more easily clear off-road obstacles. Remaining atop the line should be the 2013 4Runner Limited model with chrome grillework and 20-inch alloy wheels versus 17s on the other models.
Mechanical: The 2012 Toyota 4Runner is likely to be mechanically unchanged, though it could use more power and a more modern transmission. The carryover powertrain would consist of a 4.0-liter V-6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. Expect horsepower to remain 270 and torque 278 pound-feet. (Think of torque as the prime force behind acceleration and particularly important in a heavy vehicle such as the 4Runner.)
This V-6 should again provide the 2013 4Runner adequate acceleration. But this heavy SUV’s passing response and highway-merging ability would benefit greatly from more power and the efficiency of an automatic transmission with at least six speeds. Ample evidence of this is on hand in the Lexus GX460. It has a V-8 with 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque, a six-speed automatic, and performance that leaves the 4Runner feeling anemic. Among the 2013 4Runner’s direct competitors only the Jeep Grand Cherokee offers a V-8, and it can tow 7,400 pounds versus the 2013 4Runner’s expected 5,000 pounds.
Like most off-road-capable body-on-frame SUVs, the 2013 4Runner won’t be ideally suited to on-road handling. Its weight, tall-sidewall tires, long suspension travel, and slow steering likely will again combine to dull responses and promote body lean in changes of direction. The 4Runner’s bricky body shape leaves it susceptible to wander in strong crosswinds, too. To Toyota’s credit, however, ride comfort should remain competitive with many more carlike crossover SUVs.
Crossovers typically are based on front-wheel-drive engineering and have light-duty all-wheel-drive systems. By contrast, the 4Runner is based on a genuine-SUV rear-wheel drive (2wd) design and employs four-wheel drive (4wd) to share power with the front wheels.
Expect 4wd to remain optional on the 2013 4Runner SR5 and Limited models and standard on the Trail version. The SR5 and Trail probably will retain a basic 4wd system in which the front wheels engage after a driver pulls a floor lever. It’s a “part-time” 4wd setup for use off-road or in extremely slippery conditions. Expect “full-time” 4wd to remain reserved for the 2013 4Runner Limited model. This more sophisticated system can remain engaged on any surface and is activated by a center-console switch.
Both 2013 4Runner 4wd systems will again be suited for serious off-roading thanks to standard low-range gearing and Toyota’s Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) system. A-TRAC is designed to maintain progress on irregular or slippery terrain by distributing driving force to any wheel in contact with the ground. And all 2013 4wd 4Runners will continue with a generous 9.6 inches of ground clearance, downhill assist, and a fuel-tank skid plate.
The 2013 4Runner Trail model will again defend its hard-core credentials with an electronic-locking rear differential and Toyota’s Multi-Terrain Select. The latter automatically provides an appropriate degree of wheel slip to sustain progress in sand or mud, over dry rock, or on other challenging surfaces. Also standard on 2013 Trail models will be Toyota’s Crawl Control. This is in effect off-road cruise control with five driver-selectable speeds. It automatically maintains slow, constant progress to minimize suspension and drivetrain loads. As a final touch, expect the 2013 Trail model to again be available with Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System. It disconnects 4Runner’s stabilizer bars for more axle travel and better suspension articulation.
Features: Toyota isn’t apt to add significantly to the 2013 4Runner’s available features after important connectivity upgrades brought the 2012 model in step with the expectations of today’s tech-savvy buyers.
Every 2013 4Runner will return with such basics as steering-wheel audio controls, USB interface for iPods, and Bluetooth phone and music-streaming connectivity. Toyota also introduced its Entune infotainment system as standard on the 2012 Limited and optional on SR5 and Trail models. Entune will return for model-year 2013 as a smartphone-enabled link to such Internet apps as Bing, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, and Pandora. The option also includes a voice-activated navigation system with a 7-inch dashboard touchscreen and can convert incoming text and email messages to speech.
Also returning to take some strain out of climbing into and out of this tall-riding wagon will be running boards that automatically slide in and out from under the bodysides. They were options on the 2012 SR5 and Limited models but unavailable on the rock-bashing Trail version; that distribution ought to repeat for the 2013 runner.
Expect the 2013 4Runner’s standard-equipment list to again include air conditioning, a tilt/telescope steering wheel, power locks, and power windows – including the power tailgate window. Cruise control, remote keyless entry, and 10 beverage holders also will be standard. Also returning to support outdoor entertaining will be a standard “Party Mode” audio setting that feeds tailgate-mounted speakers and a slide-out cargo-floor tray that supports up to 440 pounds.
Every 2013 4Runner will return with a 40/20/40 split/folding second-row bench seat with a reclining backrest. Expect a 50/50 split/folding third-row bench to be an option exclusive to the SR5 and Limited models. It’ll provide seven-passenger capacity, albeit with rearmost seating with only enough space for children. Leather upholstery with heated power front seats will likely be standard on the Limited and optional on the SR5; the Trail model should continue with water-resistant fabric upholstery.
Other equipment standard or optional depending on model will again include a power tilt/slide moonroof and a rear-view monitor that displays on the inside mirror. Expect the 2013 4Runner Limited’s standard equipment to again include keyless entry and pushbutton start and Toyota’s X-REAS suspension that automatically adjusts shock-absorber damping over bumps or when cornering.
Standard equipment on all 2013 4Runners will again include antilock four-wheel disc brakes and traction and antiskid systems for better control in stops, take-offs, and sharp turns. Front passengers will again have knee airbags, and all three seating rows will have head-protecting side curtain airbags. Toyota’s Safety Connect with automatic collision notification and stolen-vehicle locator services will again be available by subscription.
2013 Toyota 4Runner Prices back to top
Prices for the 2013 Toyota 4Runner were not announced in time for this review but based on this SUV’s history expect a 2013 Toyota 4Runner base-price range of roughly $32,100-$41,600. (Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee. Toyota’s fee for the 2012 4Runner was $810. Toyotas sold in some Southeastern and Gulf states are supplied by independent distributors and may carry different destination fees.)
Estimated starting price for the 2013 Toyota 4Runner SR5 is $32,100 with 2wd and $33,850 with 4wd. The 2013 Toyota 4Runner Trail model will be priced from an estimated $37,850. Estimated starting price for the 2013 Toyota 4Runner Limited is $39,600 with 2wd and $41,600 with 4wd.
2013 Toyota 4Runner Fuel Economy back to top
EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2013 Toyota 4Runner were not released in time for this review but expect them to change little from those of the 2012 model.
That suggests fuel-economy ratings for the 2013 Toyota 4Runner of 17/23/19 mpg city/highway/combined with 2wd and 17/22/19 mpg with 4wd.
2013 Toyota 4Runner Release Date back to top
The 2013 Toyota 4Runner should go on sale by autumn 2012.
What's next for the 2013 Toyota 4Runner back to top
Toyota typically redesigns its trucks every seven model years, which means an all-new sixth-generation 4Runner would be due as a 2016 model. That timing could of course be altered by economic, competitive, marketing and other factors. And with direct competitors falling left and right, Toyota might be satisfied to save development costs and prolong this fifth-generation 4Runner. It has, after all, sold the same version of the Tacoma compact pickup truck since model-year 2005.
Toyota well may give the 4Runner a midcycle freshening around model-year 2014. That would likely entail minor styling revisions, maybe some new cabin surfaces, and perhaps a bit of features-sharing among trim levels. Wild speculation would involve the addition of a turbocharged four-cylinder to hike power without too much penalty in fuel economy. Slightly less wild speculation would envision the return of a V-8 engine option. More reasonable conjecture has Toyota tweaking 4Runner’s existing V-6 to improve fuel economy and, if possible, for a bit more power. An upgrade in transmissions – to a six-speed automatic – would be our recommendation.
As for the sixth-generation 2016 4Runner, we think Toyota is loyal enough to this shrinking niche to stick with body-on-frame construction. It offers a sufficient range of crossover alternatives within its own showrooms to satisfy SUV buyers who don’t care about going off-road (or projecting an off-roader image). And it has a portfolio of rear-drive trucks roughly this size – including America’s best-selling compact pickup in the Tacoma -- from which it could draw components and realize cost efficiencies.
It’s a good bet the next-generation 4Runner will be smaller than today’s model. We’re not convinced it needs three rows of seats, but it certainly it needs to be lighter. It’ll probably retain four- and six-cylinder power, and if Toyota holds true to its promise to offer a hybrid version of every vehicle it makes, the next-generation 4Runner lineup will include a gas-electric model.
2013 Toyota 4Runner Competition back to top
Jeep Grand Cherokee: This five-seat midsize SUV proves that off-road excellence doesn’t require body-on-frame construction. A fortified unibody structure, long-travel suspension, and a range of 4wd systems, including one with automatic terrain-response, make this a genuine Jeep. Expect the 2013 Grand Cherokee to return with Chrysler’s Pentastar V-6 and Hemi V-8 and to add a diesel six-cylinder option. An eight-speed automatic transmission to replace the V-6’s five-speed automatic also is on tap.
Dodge Durango: With the defection of the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder to the crossover camp we’ll add the Durango to 4Runner’s list of worthwhile alternatives. It’s essentially a Jeep Grand Cherokee with different styling and a structure elongated enough to accommodate a third-row seat. That rearmost bench offers far more room than the one in the 4Runner. And while Durango won’t match the Toyota’s ultimate off-road prowess it’s still very capable thanks to many of the same 4wd tricks employed by the Grand Cherokee. And because it’s based on a rear-drive platform, Durango handles better than many front-drive crossovers.
Ford Explorer: A healthy slice of the 4Runner audience represents a solidly upscale demographic and so its competitive set can be stretched to include the Land Rover LR4 -- at least the base $50,000 model. But a good portion of 4Runner owners also are attracted by the Toyota’s rugged image and seldom exploit its off-road ability. The Explorer is for those with a more realistic view of how they’ll actually use their seven-seat midsize SUV. It’s a crossover with traditional-SUV styling. All-wheel-drive versions have as much off-pavement capability as most drivers will ever need thanks to Ford’s Terrain Management System, which automatically adjusts to suit a multitude of slippery conditions. A turbocharged four-cylinder is available on front-drive models, but we recommend the standard V-6.