A phrenologist is one who reads the bumps on your noggin to determine whether your future holds wealth, fame, fortune or more lumps on the head.

Owners of the Toyota 4Runner are the phrenologist’s best customer, or at least they should be based on the weak . . . er, week we spent banging the dome on the Japanese-built sport-utility vehicle.

In just seven days with the machine, we have enough dents and assorted bumps on the noggin to keep a dozen phrenologists employed.

The dimpled dome is a result of the 4Runner standing rather high off the pavement to allow ample clearance for those two or three times in any owner’s lifetime when he or she navigates the machine off the road.

Step on the running board, grab the steering wheel, lift your torso into the air and-“Bong!”-one more point of interest for the phrenologist. Stars appear. Birds start to chatter. Tough way to start your drive to work.

Once seated and the medication takes effect, there are a few other problems with the 4Runner. For one, though most Japanese have adopted the strategy that if you are going to sell here, you should design and build here, 4Runner obviously is the exception to the rule.

It’s traditionally narrow to accommodate the smaller Japanese frame as well as the smaller roadways in the home country. So you suffer a shortage of leg and hip room.

Worse, when your vision clears and you peer at the steering wheel hub there’s no “SRS” advisory staring back at you to inform the driver that a supplemental restraint system, or air bag, is housed there. One is needed.

4Runner has one other annoyance that can prove costly in terms of cleaning bills. It’s easy to rub your legs against the door lip and running board when leaving the front seat. In back you sit over the axle and the door opening exposes the wheel well, which you can rub against when making an exit. You have to wash the vehicle often in the winter when salt and scum cakes up on the body, or wash your clothes a lot if you don’t.

But 4Runner does have its good points, such as a responsive 3-liter, 150-horsepower, V-6 engine that comes alive without too much pedal pressure. The price you pay for above-average performance is a 14 mile-per-gallon city/16 m.p.g. highway fuel economy rating. If only our test vehicle got that good mileage.

Anti-lock brakes as standard, although it is rear-wheel ABS only. But two wheels with ABS are better than none. Think the phrenologist said that.

No qualms with the suspension system, which minimized road harshness. Ride and handling were decent despite having oversized W/31-by-10.5 tires, which on many vehicles only serve to provide a gyroscope ride as you lean and sway in each turn or when stepping out to pass.

Though the vehicle had oversized tires and a high center of gravity, it had more than respectable road manners.

4Runner prov ed especially functional when Ma Nature left many inches of the white stuff on the roadway. While those around us were slipping and sliding and using the ditch for valet parking, 4Runner cruised unimpeded. The only drawback is that when four-wheel-drive is engaged using the floor-mounted transfer case, the ride gets a bit bumpy-especially in the back seat.

That’s the price you pay for the added security. And speaking of price, when you see other cars skating into the ditch ahead of you, you find that the 14/16 mileage rating is a bit more tolerable. You can buy a lot of gas for what it costs to be extracted from a culvert-even if you have to buy it more often.

Our test vehicle was the four-door, four-wheel-drive 4Runner LE, which has a base price of $22,988. Standard equipment included a four-speed automatic, power steering, power brakes, rear window defogger and wiper (a slightly larger and faster sweeping wiper would be nice for a vehicle tha will spend a great deal of time on the road in bad weather), power rear window, AM-FM stereo radio, side door impact beams and cupholders.

Options included a radio upgrade to include cassette, six speakers and power antenna for $675, rear seat heater at $160, power glass moonroof at $810, cloth seats with seven-way driver’s adjustment at $290, bronze privacy glass at $160, chrome running boards at $435, roof rack/towing hitch, cargo mat and rear wind deflector at $625, security system at $695, and a value package consisting of air conditioning, cruise control, power windows/door locks/outside mirrors, carpeted floor mats, chrome wheels and the oversized tires at $3,281. With a $1,000 option package discount, the vehicle stickered at just about $30,000. Add $385 for freight.

Changes we’d like to see on future 4Runners would be more cabin width, lower vehicle stance, redesign of the door lips and openings to keep clothes clean, push-button four-wheel-drive rather than the space-robbing transfer case, and an engine that gets 4 more miles per gallon city and highway.

Oh, and if the engineers and designers can’t come up with a more manageable way to enter the 4Runner as well as making the door opening bigger and/or the roof line taller if not softer, we’d like to see one more standard feature-a helmet.