Trucks & SUVs

The Toyota 4Runner’s Third Row Is Pointless But Who Cares?

The Toyota 4Runner SUV is easily one of the most appealing family SUVs on the market. The fifth-generation Toyota 4Runner comes in a wide spectrum of trims and configurations, including some pretty awesome designated off-road packages. But the third row is barely anything besides an absolute joke.

2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro | Toyota

Access is limited, adults don’t really fit, there aren’t any LATCH anchors, and it severely limits cargo space. But if we look at sales numbers, it obviously doesn’t matter. Why doesn’t anyone care about the 4Runner’s pathetic third row?

The Toyota 4Runner is still a great car for families

OK, let’s be real. A lot of families don’t need a third row. In fact, to say the Toyota 4Runner SUV isn’t a good family car because of its pathetic third row would be like saying the Toyota Camry isn’t good for families because it only seats 5. The Toyota 4Runner’s 7 seater configurations may seem silly, but in reality, there are enough compelling family-friendly features to override the less than accomodating third row.

US News and World Report call the third row “too small for adults to ride in comfort.” Car and Driver says of the 2020 4Runner’s third row that they “suspect it’s best for children.” Additionally, The Car Connection notes that the 4Runner’s optional third row feels like an “afterthought.”

a couple loading a cooler in the wide cargo of a red 4runner
Toyota 4Runner rear cargo | Toyota

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The third row is actually only available in the SR5, SR5 Premium, and Limited trim, according to the video above. Supposedly, the more exciting trail-rated trims don’t even have third row availability. US News and World Report, however, reports that it is an available option for all of the trim levels. Which is it? Edmunds says it’s just the SR5 trims and the Limited trim that offer the third row availability. If majority rules, then it looks like it’s not offered across all of the trim levels. Either way, it’s confusing.

An adventurous family of four or five would do just fine in one of these and have plenty of cargo space behind the second row. Even three car seats for adventurous infants or toddlers can fit safely in their seats three across in the configuration that seats five––according to the Car Seat Lady.

2016 Toyota TRD Pro 4Runner is on display at the 108th Annual Chicago Auto Show at McCormick Place
The Toyota 4Runner | Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

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TRD Pro

The designated off-road trim levels for the 2020 Toyota 4Runner SUV are the TRD Off-Roading, TRD Off-Roading Premium, and the range-topping TRD pro trim. According to US News and World Report, these are all standard with all-wheel drive. They each sport levels of off-road prowess that increase with each level.

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It’s the general consensus that there is no third row offered for any of these trim levels. They are arguably the most desirable 4Runner SUV trims, as off-road adventure is the Toyota 4Runner’s calling card. The 4Runner without the third row accommodates up to 47.2 cubic inches of cargo space––according to US News. This ample room for family road tripping, gear toting, and nearly anything else an active family needs to haul around.

The Toyota 4Runner is a safe and reliable off-roader for families

For the duration of its current fifth generation, the Toyota 4Runner SUV has received nothing lower than a 4 out of 5 for reliability from Consumer Reports. Most years it earns a 5 out of 5. It may not have the smoothest most sophisticated pavement manners, but it gets from A to B with the reliability expected from the Toyota brand.

a white off-riding TRD Pro trim Toyota 4Runner splashes through the mud on an off-road trail in the woods
2020 TRD Pro Toyota 4Runner | Toyota

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It’s also received good safety scores, according to CR. The 2020 4Runner comes equipped with the full Toyota safety suite standard across all trims. It’s definitely not refined, but it’s the perfect family hauler for many families. It’s safe, reliable, and capable. The tiny and only partially available third row is pretty much pointless. However, the people who load their families up in these off-roading SUVs to head into the mountains or out for a romp in the desert don’t seem to care.