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The Toyota 4Runner holds a long track record as a sturdy off-roader. Since the ’80s, owners have counted on the midsized SUV’s ruggedness and reliability.

Yet critics have complained that the newer 4Runners, such as the 2017 model year, fall behind in modern features as compared to rivals such as the Dodge Durango, the Ford Explorer, or the Chevrolet Tahoe.

For buyers who want a secondhand off-road-capable SUV, does the 2017 Toyota 4Runner offer good value for less money than a new model? We’ll take a look at what Consumer Reports has to say about it.

One of Consumer Reports’ most reliable three-year-old SUVs

Keith Barry of Consumer Reports writes that a three-year-old SUV offers many of the same features as a new model at a lower price. An added plus is that it’s easier for CR to determine the reliability of these SUVs since they’ve been on the road for a few years.

In order to identify the most reliable used SUVs from 2017, Consumer Reports gathered survey data from owners of over 420,000 vehicles. The three-year-old mid-sized SUVs with the most reliability included the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, the Toyota Highlander, the Lexus RX, the Toyota 4Runner, and the Lexus GX.

Of these five SUVs, only the Toyota 4Runner and the Lexus GX have true off-road capability. And between the two, the 4Runner is more affordable, ranging from $25,500-$35,975, compared to the GX’s price range of $32,950-$35,375. 

The review of the 2017 Toyota 4Runner

An outstanding reliability score of five out of five was the main reason why the Toyota 4Runner made Consumer Reports’ list of most reliable midsized SUVs for the 2017 model year. 

The majority of the most common trouble spots were rated as “better” or five out of five. Only three trouble spots — brakes, body, and in-car electronics — were rated four out of five.

When was the last time Toyota updated the 4Runner?

Despite praising its sterling reliability, CR testers weren’t taken with the Toyota 4Runner’s lack of updates. The last refresh for this Toyota was in 2010, and it shows.

Its oldfangled body-on-frame construction and unpolished suspension also make for a bumpy ride. Routine handling is equally unimpressive and scored a two out of five but braking was generally good at four out of five.

The 4Runner is best suited for off-pavement adventure, as the testers recommend. Ground clearance is respectable at 9.6 inches. Its approach angle is an impressive 33 degrees and its departure angle is 26 degrees. It also comes standard with underbody skid plates.

A part-time four-wheel drive system with low range gives the 4Runner the freedom to take on slick rock, sand, snow, and mud. But only the top-of-the-line Limited trim has an automatic 4WD system.

Testers rated the 4Runner’s lively acceleration a four out of five, thanks to a 4.0-liter V6 engine that makes 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque. CR’s overall gas mileage was 18 mpg.

Its fluid five-speed automatic transmission scored a five out of five, although testers felt that it seemed outmoded compared to modern eight- or nine-speed automatics. Towing capacity for a truck-based SUV of this size is also surprisingly limited at 4,700 pounds.

The Toyota 4Runner‘s front and rear seats adequately support its passengers as well as provide plenty of legroom. Both scored four out of five. The SUV’s driving position is not as good it could be due to limited headroom, a high dash, and low seating. Low-grade materials and slipshod craftsmanship in the 4Runner’s cabin were the interior’s biggest drawbacks, according to the testers.  

Another area where the 4Runner falls behind as compared to rivals is its lack of modern safety features. Only a rearview camera comes standard, along with less advanced features such as ABS, traction control, and daytime running lights.

Why this SUV is still worth buying

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Despite being outshone in handling, ride, and more up-to-date features by its rivals, the 2017 Toyota 4Runner is still a great buy for anyone who wants a solid, capable used SUV that is ideal for off-roading. While the 4Runner is more spartan and less luxurious than CR’s other reliable off-roader, the Lexus GX, it still offers excellent value and costs thousands of dollars less. 

And with the exception of a more modern infotainment system and newer safety features, there haven’t been many changes between a 2017 model and a new 4Runner. But the starting price of a 2020 Toyota 4Runner is $36,020. Again, buyers can save a lot of money by buying a secondhand model.

As for reliability, this Toyota SUV outruns other off-roading contenders such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee or the pricey Land Rover Discovery. If you want a tough midsize SUV that you can count on when you take it off the highway, the 2017 Toyota 4 Runner is a good bet.