2013 Toyota 4Runner Review and Prices

Last Updated: Jun 15, 2013

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2013 Toyota 4Runner Buying Advice

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’s only change is to give the base-level model a more convenient way to engage four-wheel drive. Otherwise, the 4Runner returns as representative of a rapidly disappearing species: the body-on-frame midsize SUV. With the 2013 Nissan Pathfinder’s conversion to a crossover SUV, the 2013 4Runner loses its last direct rival with truck-type construction. If you’d like to experience what the world of midsize SUVs was like before the crossover revolution, this is it.

Should you buy a 2013 Toyota 4Runner or wait for the 2014 Toyota 4Runner? The 2014 4Runner will get a midcycle styling refresh and a few additional features. It won’t change mechanically. Waiting for the 2014 4Runner will get you the styling that will probably carry this SUV through to it next full redesign, likely around model-year 2016. But the 2013 4Runner will match the 2014 for capability and performance. And buying a 2013 will save you some dough, especially as Toyota dealers get anxious to clear inventories before the freshened 2014 model arrives. On the downside, the “old” styling will mean slightly accelerated depreciation, although that’s less of a concern the longer you keep your 2013.

2013 Toyota 4Runner Changes back to top

Styling: The 2013 Toyota 4Runner’s styling is unaltered. It remains 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 on sale for model-year 2013.

Among the tiny number of premium-priced body-on-frame midsize SUVs is the Lexus GX460. No coincidence that the GX460 is essentially a fancied-up 4Runner from Toyota’s luxury division. Toyota’s Highlander, meanwhile, is a seven-passenger midsize crossover with minivan-like styling and no off-road pretensions.

The 2013 4Runner continues as a four-door wagon with a liftgate that boasts the novelty of a power-up/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 is optional, qualifying 4Runner as a seven-passenger vehicle.

The 2013 4Runner lineup again consists of three models. The SR5 is the base version. The midrange 2013 4Runner Trail model is again visually distinguished by front and rear bumpers contoured to more easily clear off-road obstacles. Remaining atop the line is the 2013 4Runner Limited with chrome grillework and 20-inch alloy wheels versus 17s on the other models.

Mechanical: The 2012 Toyota 4Runner is a mechanical rerun. The only powertrain consists of a 4.0-liter V-6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission. Horsepower remains 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 provides 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 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 and Dodge Durango offer a V-8, and they can tow 7,400 pounds versus 4Runner’s 5,000 pounds.

Like most off-road-capable body-on-frame SUVs, the 2013 4Runner isn’t ideally suited to on-road handling. Its weight, tall-sidewall tires, long suspension travel, and slow steering 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 is 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.

Four-wheel drive is optional on the 2013 4Runner SR5 and Limited and standard on the Trail version. The SR5 and Trail retain a basic 4wd system in which the front wheels must be engaged by the driver. On the SR5 model, the driver can now do so via a simple dashboard switch rather than by pulling a floor lever. The 2013 Trail model retains the floor lever. Lever or switch, this is a “part-time” 4wd setup for use off-road or in extremely slippery conditions.

Toyota reserves the “full-time” 4wd system for the 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 are 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 continue with a generous 9.6 inches of ground clearance, downhill assist, and a fuel-tank skid plate.

The 2013 4Runner Trail model earns 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 Trail models is 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, the Trail model is available with Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System. It disconnects 4Runner’s stabilizer bars for more axle travel and better suspension articulation.

Features: Toyota stands pat on 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 returns with such basics as steering-wheel audio controls, USB interface for iPods, and Bluetooth phone and music-streaming connectivity.

Toyota introduced its Entune infotainment system as standard on the 2012 Limited and optional on SR5 and Trail models. Entune returns 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 are running boards that automatically slide in and out from under the body sides. They’re options on the 2013 SR5 and Limited and are unavailable on the rock-bashing Trail version.   

The 2013 4Runner’s standard-equipment list also contains 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 are standard.

Also returning to support outdoor entertaining is a standard “Party Mode” audio setting that biases tailgate-mounted speakers. It teams nicely with the optional slide-out cargo-floor tray that supports up to 440 pounds.

Every 2013 4Runner returns with a 40/20/40 split/folding second-row bench seat with a reclining backrest. A 50/50 split/folding third-row bench is an option exclusive to the SR5 and Limited models. It provides seven-passenger capacity, albeit with rearmost seating with just enough space for children. Third-row head-protecting curtain side airbags are included with this optional seat.

Leather upholstery with heated power front seats are standard on the Limited and optional on the SR5; the Trail model continues with water-resistant fabric upholstery.

Other equipment standard or optional depending on mode are: a power tilt/slide moonroof and a rear-view monitor that displays on the inside mirror. The 2013 4Runner Limited’s standard equipment also includes keyless entry and pushbutton start and Toyota’s X-REAS suspension that automatically adjusts shock-absorber damping over bumps or when cornering.

Also standard on all 2013 4Runners are antilock four-wheel disc brakes and traction and antiskid systems for better control in stops, take-offs, and sharp turns. Front passengers have knee airbags, and all three seating rows have head-protecting side curtain airbags. Toyota’s Safety Connect with automatic collision notification and stolen-vehicle locator services is available by subscription.

2013 Toyota 4Runner Prices back to top

Base-price range for the 2013 Toyota 4Runner is $32,335-$41,875. That’s an increase of no more than $400 versus 2012 4Runner models and keeps base prices of the Toyota a little above those of roughly comparable crossovers. Of course, the point is that 4runner isn’t a crossover, so its heavier-duty hardware – and thin competition – tends to inflate pricing.  

Note that base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandated destination fee. Toyota’s fee for the 2013 4Runner is $845. Toyotas sold in some Southeastern and Gulf states are supplied by independent distributors and may carry different destination fees.

Starting price for the 2013 Toyota 4Runner SR5 is $32,335 with 2wd and $34,210 with 4wd.

Popular SR5 options include the $1,580 Convenience Package, which adds power front seats and the power moonroof. The SR5 Premium Package includes leather upholstery and heated front seats, power moonroof, and Display Audio with Navigation and Entune. It costs $4,775, or $6,140 including the third-row seat (the third-row option alone is $805). The Display Audio with Navigation and Entune alone is $1,520.

The 2013 Toyota 4Runner Trail model is priced from $38,000. The Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System is $1,750 and display with nav and entue is $995

Base price for the 2013 Toyota 4Runner Limited is $39,840 with 2wd and $41,875 with 4wd.

Among 4Runner Limited options is a navigation system in combination with a premium JBL audio system and subwoofer. It costs $1,155, though it does not include Entune. It costs $1,365 to add the third-row seat to the Limited.

The power running boards list for $1,500 as an SR5 or Limited option.  

2013 Toyota 4Runner Fuel Economy back to top

EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2013 Toyota 4Runner are 17/23/19 mpg city/highway/combined with 2wd and 17/22/19 mpg with 4wd.

Those aren’t great numbers, but perfectly in line with the 4Runner’s few other directly comparable rivals, such as the V-6 Grand Cherokee. Again, the penalty of heavy-duty body-on-frame construction is evident, with the 4Runner tipping the scales some 400 pounds heavier than the seven-passenger V-6 Highlander crossover, for example.  

2013 Toyota 4Runner Release Date back to top

The 2013 Toyota 4Runner went on sale in the third quarter of 2012.

What's next for the 2013 Toyota 4Runner back to top

With this fifth-generation 4Runner launched for model-year 2010 and expected to last until at least 2016, the styling updates coming for model-year 2014 amount to what’s known as a midcycle freshening.

In that, they’re typical. The truck’s basic shape and dimensions are unchanged, with visual tweaks limited to the grille, headlamps, front fascia, and some minor changes to the taillamps. Inside, there’s some upgraded materials and revised instrumentation, but no change to the basic dashboard layout.

We think Toyota would have done well to advance 4Runner’s performance and efficiency, primarily with a six-speed automatic transmission. Virtually every midsize SUV has one, and the 2014 Dodge Durango and 2014 Grand Cherokee will have an eight-speed automatic.

Toyota could well have some powertrain improvements planned even before a full redesign. In fact, it may take advantage of 4Runner’s unique place in the market to extend this generation past the traditional seven-model-year cycle. That could give it an opportunity for a second freshening – and some powertrain progress – before a full redesign.

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. The 2013 Grand Cherokee returns with Chrysler’s Pentastar V-6 (290 horsepower, 260 pound-feet of torque), and a Hemi V-8 (360 and 390, respectively). It also offers the high-performance SRT8 model with a 470-horse Hemi. V-6 versions rate 19 mpg city/highway combined, V-8s 16 mpg combined with 2wd and 15 with 4wd. The SRT8 rates 14 mpg combined. Base-price range is $28,120-$44,320 with the V-6 and $29,815-$46,015 with the Hemi; the SRT8 starts at $62,085.  

Dodge Durango: This is essentially a Jeep Grand Cherokee with Dodge 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. It offers the same V-6 and Hemi V-8 as the Grand Cherokee, though there’s no SRT variant. Base-price range for the 2013 Durango is $30,490-$40,990 with 2wd and $32,840-$43,340 with all-wheel drive; adding the Hemi costs around $2,600. With the V-6 EPA ratings are 19 mpg combined with 2wd and 16 with all-wheel drive. With V-8, they’re 19 mpg combined with 2wd and 15 with all-wheel drive.

Ford Explorer: A healthy slice of the 4Runner audience is affluent, 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 237-horsepower turbocharged four-cylinder is available on front-drive models. It starts at $30,955 and rates 23 mpg combined. But it’s slow, so we recommend the standard 290-horsepower V-6. With front drive, it starts at $29,960 and rates 20 mpg combined; with all-wheel drive it starts at $31,960 and rates 19 mpg combined. New for 2013 is the Sport model with a Ford’s 365-horsepower twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6. It comes only with all-wheel drive, starts at $41,545, and rates 18 mpg combined.

2013 Toyota 4Runner Next Steps