The Toyota 4Runner has impressively earned a Consumer Reports Recommendation every year from 2010 through 2020. The popular consumer site gave the latest 4Runner a decent review, but it didn’t give its recommendation to the 2021 model. What happened there?
We’re going to take a closer look at the 2021 Toyota 4Runner and what the CR team had to say about it. We’ll zero in on why the 2021 model didn’t earn the coveted distinction.
The 2021 Toyota 4Runner
The Toyota 4Runner is one of the more rough-and-tumble midsize SUVs you can get. It’s also showing its age, and as a result, isn’t as refined as many of its peers. But it’s a wonderful SUV for off-roading, comes with a ton of standard driver-assist features, and has lots of cargo room.
One of the reasons it’s so great on roads less traveled is its rugged body-on-frame construction. The TRD Off-Road model is the one Car and Driver recommends for its value and ability to take on almost any terrain. The model’s V6 engine and automatic transmission combination get 270 hp in its four-wheel-drive configuration.
Overall, the 4Runner has some faults. The 4.0-liter V6 base engine lacks oomph and the interior is riddled with hard plastic and cheap materials. Toyota updated it with a slew of infotainment and popular driver-assist features. You can even put a cramped third row in the back.
But its driving ethics are uncouth for an SUV in its price range. It’s still considered to be key competition for the Jeep Wrangler, another capable off-roading SUV. But it’s falling behind its other rivals on the market.
What Consumer Reports said about the Toyota 4Runner
While the Toyota 4Runner’s old-school configuration lends itself well to off-roading, most of its peers have moved on to a car-based construction. The 4Runner excels at off-roading but on the regular road, it’s awkward and sloppy.
Consumer Reports likes the roar of the standard V6 when accelerating but aren’t fans of its older five-speed automatic transmission. The latest 4Runner gets 18 mpg overall which isn’t terrible, but its towing is limited to just 5,000 pounds.
It’s also not the most user-friendly SUV available. You have to climb to get in it and the ceiling is low. You’d expect ample passenger space in an SUV of that size but inside it’s a little tight. There are, however, big easy-to-use controls in the cabin.
Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) is now standard across the lineup, and it gives you forward collision alerts with automatic braking and pedestrian detection. There’s adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and lane departure warning too.
Why it wasn’t recommended
It’s notable when an SUV that’s earned the coveted Consumer Reports’ recommendation so many consecutive times doesn’t with its latest model.
CR points out that while the 4Runner is a great partner on your back-road adventures, it’s lacking the refinement of its classmates. The ride is awkward and unsettled with noticeable lean in the corners.
The latest Toyota 4Runner does offer good ground clearance, and it features standard underbody skid plates. There’s a low range on the 4WD system that lets you navigate tougher roads, at least part-time. You have to move up to the Limited trim to get full-time 4WD.
You get standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay with a power-retractable window in the back that’s pretty convenient. There’s also an 8-inch touchscreen for operating the infotainment system across the lineup. In 2021, there’s a new Trail Special Edition trim, and new standard LED headlights.
What the 2021 Toyota 4Runner doesn’t have? A recommendation from Consumer Reports despite the largely favorable review they gave it. It scored a two out of five rating on drive experience and a mere 55 out of 100 on the road test. The 4Runner didn’t earn the CR recommendation this year over a lack of ride quality. Hopefully, the folks at Toyota will take note.