Toyota last redesigned its midsize 4Runner SUV for 2003, making a V-8 engine available for the first time. At that time, Toyota wanted to make the truck-based 4Runner larger, roomier and more fuel-efficient, yet still retain its offroad capability. After a drivetrain update in 2005 and a face-lift for 2006, the 2008 4Runner is largely unchanged. Similar truck-based SUVs include the Chevrolet TrailBlazer, Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder, which also have optional V-8 engines.
Three trim levels are available: SR5, Sport Edition and Limited. Four-wheel-drive-equipped 4Runners feature Downhill Assist Control that restricts speed when going down a steep grade. Hill-start Assist Control works to keep the sport utility vehicle from rolling backward on an upgrade.
Built on a 109.8-inch wheelbase, the 4Runner measures 189 inches long overall. Body-on-frame construction uses full-length, boxed-section frame rails. The rear liftgate contains a power window.
Standard SR5 equipment includes 16-inch tires. The Sport Edition features a hood scoop, sport suspension, smoked chrome grille and 17-inch wheels. The Limited includes illuminated running boards and 18-inch rims.
Without the available third-row seat, the 4Runner seats five people on front buckets and a three-place, fold-down 60/40-split rear bench. Seven occupants fit inside models equipped with a third-row seat.
Power front seats are standard in all but the base model. Limited trim levels add leather upholstery and heated front seats. Cargo-area backup mirrors mounted in the rear pillars allow the driver to see oncoming vehicles when backing out of a parking stall. SR5 trim levels feature two 12-volt outlets and remote keyless entry. Sport models add a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and Limited editions have black wood-grain interior trim.
Under the Hood
Toyota's 4.7-liter V-8 is rated at 260 horsepower and 306 pounds-feet of torque. The 4.0-liter V-6 produces 236 hp. Both engines team with a five-speed automatic transmission. Rear- and four-wheel-drive models are available.
All-disc antilock brakes are standard. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtain airbags with rollover sensors are standard for 2008. An electronic stability system is standard.
Performance is a big plus when the 4Runner is equipped with the available, quiet V-8. From a standstill, a tap of the gas pedal sends this SUV practically lunging ahead. Acceleration while passing and merging is wholly confident.
The 4Runner steers easily and with a reasonably good feel, which is a cut above the truck-based SUV norm. Handling skills also rank above average. For this type of vehicle, the ride is pleasantly soft — not really cushy, but the suspension absorbs quite a few bumps. The Sport Edition feels a bit tauter, and its ride quality is a tad stiffer.