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#8

in 2011 Affordable Midsize SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $26,623 - $33,020
Original MSRP: $30,305 - $40,435
MPG: 17 City / 23 Hwy
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2011 Toyota 4Runner Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

While there’s no doubt that the Toyota 4Runner is a competent off-roader, reviewers can’t agree on whether it’s an acceptable commuter as well. Some say it’s refined for a truck-based SUV, while others mention that the 4Runner’s handling is sub-par compared with the competition. Opting for a 4Runner in Trail trim will beef up its already-burly off-roading capabilities even more.

  • "Besides ample horsepower and impressive off-road prowess, the 4Runner counts a civilized driving demeanor and a spacious interior among its other strengths." -- Edmunds
  • "As you might expect, the Trail Edition rides and handles like a 4x4. The suspension permits a fair amount of vibration on the highway; contact with cracks and small imperfections are noticed in the cabin. On the other hand, larger irregularities - washed out dirt roads, speed bumps or dips at intersections - tend to disappear, soaked up by springs, shocks and bushings tuned to handle tough terrain." -- Cars.com
  • "The latest iteration of Toyota's traditional truck-type SUV doesn't make much sense as an on-road vehicle because it handles clumsily, wallows on the highway, and is difficult to get in and out of. Despite its body-on-frame design, it doesn't make much sense as a workhorse because of its unimpressive 5,000-pound maximum towing capacity." -- Consumer Guide
  • "In fact, the 4Runner's commendable on-road behavior impressed (surprised, really) every editor. Sure, its body-on-frame build and live rear axle translated to a rather bouncy ride and some chassis shivers not associated with today's unibody offerings, but its steering was linear and responsive, its brakes stout and easy to modulate, and its balance, in light of its six-foot height, buttoned down." -- Truck Trend

Acceleration and Power

The 4Runner comes with a 4.0-liter V6 engine that makes 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with manual mode. Rear-wheel drive models get 17/23 mpg city/highway, while four-wheel drive models get 17/22 mpg.

Reviewers say that the V6 offers plenty of power no matter the task, so most drivers won’t mind that a V8 engine isn’t available. One reviewer notes that the 4Runner feels a bit sluggish when in Eco mode, though that’s technically what Eco mode is supposed to do: slow throttle responses and keep the transmission in a higher gear, sacrificing a bit of performance for fuel economy.

  • "Though no V8 engine is offered, the standard V6 provides plenty of grunt and should be suitable for just about any driver." -- Edmunds
  • "Transmission and throttle response are slightly dull at times with Eco mode enabled, and improve marginally with it disabled." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The 4Runner feels quicker than ever before, with stronger response. We had ample high-speed passing power and on-ramp acceleration - even with a full load, and there's enough power to pass on the highway without forcing a downshift." -- Cars.com
  • "When overtaking slower vehicles on the highway, where the 4.0-liter strains through a downshift and some heavy breathing, Toyota's new 4.6-liter 310-horse 327-pound-foot V-8, which debuted in the 2011 Tundra, would have made a welcome option, especially for towing or carrying a full load." -- Truck Trend

Handling and Braking

Reviewers say that depending on your driving preferences, you can use the 4Runner SR5 and 4Runner Limited as daily drivers. They’re relatively comfortable to drive, and the 4Runner’s light steering effort makes it easier to maneuver around small spaces like parking lots. Keep in mind, though, that the Trail trim is tailored specifically to hard-core off-roading and might make your commute less comfortable.

  • "Cruising around town, the 2011 Toyota 4Runner is surprisingly smooth and comfortable. Despite being built on a truck chassis, there is very little of the bouncy, over-sprung ride you expect from a body-on-frame vehicle capable of serious off-roading." -- Edmunds
  • "Steering is easy and reasonably accurate in the 4Runner, and it's easy to keep on-center while cruising on the highway. It takes minimal effort to maneuver in tight spaces. We think the 4Runner would readily out-handle and ride more smoothly than most full-size SUVs, but car-based unibody SUVs would be noticeably more precise, with better on-road manners." -- Cars.com
  • "Handling is disappointing, even for a vehicle of this stripe. Body lean is prevalent, even in modest corners. The steering feels sloppy, and nosedive is pronounced, even when braking normally." -- Consumer Guide

Off-Roading

The Toyota 4Runner is a true off-road SUV, especially in Trail trim. Opting for a Trail model will add to your 4Runner’s price tag, but will also upgrade it with performance features like part-time four-wheel drive and a multi-terrain select knob with rock crawl mode. Reviewers say that on the trail, the Toyota 4Runner is tough to beat.

  • "While the 4Runner might be so-so when it comes to on-road manners, it clearly excels in off-road capability. The frame is as rugged as they come, and the driveline has been strengthened all the way back to the rear differential." -- Cars.com
  • "Those who are buying it because it is tough, will want the Trail grade, which includes the KDSS kinetic dynamic suspension which allows for more axle travel over tough terrain by disconnecting the stabilizer bars." -- Jalopnik 

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