4Runner is a Tough-Looking SUV That Can Handle the Kids, Too
The 2008 Toyota 4Runner is a seriously cool truck. It's a testosterone-loaded, V-8, 4x4 super truck that just happens to work pretty darn well as a kid-hauler. Just because something can tow 7,300 pounds doesn't mean it can handle my boys, but this SUV wrangles both with authority. And as an added bonus, it makes Mom look tough.
Living with the 4Runner is kind of a power trip. Stepping on the gas produces a muted growl and powerful launch; it's not super quiet, but it's not obnoxiously loud either. The V-8 engine handles hills without a hitch and hauls more than I would ever care to load into an SUV. Turns and curves are handled well, though with a smidge of a roly-poly feeling that reminds you this is a tall SUV. While there's some bounce to the ride, it's not uncomfortable. The cargo area is huge and has a cool double-decker shelf system for even more utility.
I've always wanted to hang with the cool kids, and in the 4Runner, I can. For more than 20 years, this truck has been beloved and, well, popular. The 2008 4Runner will be no different in inspiring a devoted following, and Toyota has added some fab features that are all about now. The thing about being cool, though, is that it comes at a price. The 4Runner doesn't make concessions to anybody: Either you love it, or you get out of its way.
On the inside, the 4Runner doesn't lose its trucky appeal. While the little luxuries are there, the cabin still feels rugged. The controls are a bit esoteric; it took a bit more brain power to understand the air conditioning controls than I usually like to devote to something like that. Once I figured things out, I enjoyed the dual-zone climate control. There's a vent in the rear of the center console to keep the kiddies cool and a filtration system to keep the outside world, well, outside. The Limited 4Runner comes with an upgraded audio system with a CD changer and satellite radio. Because this is a cool truck, of course the stereo rocks! And part of that coolness is the color touch-screen that comes with the navigation system and folds out to load CDs.
Getting in and out of the 4Runner is easy enough, and the seats are plenty comfy. The driver's seat is eight-way power adjustable and has a memory function to make driver changes a breeze. A leather-wrapped steering wheel tilts and telescopes, and also houses controls for the audio system and Bluetooth connection. There's a spacious center console that houses an auxiliary input jack, a 12-volt outlet and a flip-down shelf for easy use of an iPod or phone. Unfortunately, the cupholder situation is something of a disaster. There aren't any; what the 4Runner does have is jugholders, or maybe they're bucket holders. I don't know what sort of beverage container that space is designed for, but it isn't anything I own. Coffee cups, soda cans and water bottles slid around in the cupholders during the best-case scenario, and they leapt out of the cupholders and onto my lap at sharp turns. Not cool.
While the 4Runner can work as a family car, it clearly wasn't designed with little kids as its main cargo. The backseat's two cupholders are in the armrest, so if you have a child in that position there's nowhere to put the kids' juice. Also, in a spectacular example of tempting mischief, the entertainment system (a lovely option that includes jacks for a game system) has a slot for DVDs that's accessible from the backseat. That means that you can't really load it while driving, as you can with entertainment systems that load the DVD into the dash. Also, it means that little fingers can stick anything they like into the slot, so watch those crayons and frozen waffles. Teens, however, can rule the backseat without even speaking to the (lame) adults up front and should enjoy the roominess of their domain.
The 4Runner looks absolutely truck-tastic. It sits up high on big 18-inch wheels, asking, "What are YOU lookin' at?" An intake scoop on the hood adds to its athletic appeal, and a rugged roof rack system offers to carry anything you can think of. The 4Runner's ground clearance of just over 9 inches means that while you can run over a small tree, there's a bit of a climb into the cabin. Lucky for us, the running boards make that climb an easy one, even for little legs. The doors are substantial but not too heavy, and my little guys had no problem managing their ins and outs.
The liftgate is on the heavy side, and there isn't a power option. That's 'cause this isn't a wimpy kind of car. The 4Runner is a tough truck for tough people. If you mind wrestling with a liftgate, then this is not the SUV for you. The 4Runner's large mirrors help with visibility on the sides and in the rear.
The safety of the 4Runner is a bit of a split decision. On one hand, there are plenty of safety features designed to protect you and your precious cargo. On the other, there's a bit of a rollover risk, as there is with any tall SUV. Electronic stability and traction control systems help with that problem, and computerized antilock brakes are also standard. There are airbags all around in case of a collision, but Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ratings for rear-end collisions suggest that taller drivers aren't well-protected. Lucky for me, I'm not that tall. And nobody hit me. Phew!
The nav system comes with a rearview camera, which is absolutely fabulous, especially in a vehicle this big. What I particularly enjoyed, however, were the two mirrors in the cargo area that give a view of the area immediately behind the car. That means that, even without the nav system, you can see where you're going while in Reverse.
In the backseat, the two Latch connectors are somewhat buried and hard to reach. It's not impossible to install a child-safety seat, but it's not something you're going to want to do on a regular basis. The seat belts can also be tricky for little hands. While my older son had no problems with it, he needed to help his little brother get the seat belt "clicked" about half of the time.
*For more information on the 2008 Toyota 4Runner and its safety features, visit Cars.com. With questions or comments regarding this review, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
LET'S TALK NUMBERS
Latch Connectors: 2
Seating Capacity (includes driver): 5-7
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT
Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore
SENSE AND STYLE
Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great
Fun Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove On): Groove On
2008 Toyota 4Runner Limited 4x4 V-8
Price as tested: $44,559
Engine: 260-hp, 4.7-liter V-8
Fuel: 14/17 mpg
Ground Clearance: 9.1"
Turning Radius: 18.7 ft
Cargo space: 40.6-72.4 cu ft
NHTSA Crash-Test Ratings
Driver's side: 4 stars
Passenger's side: 4 stars
Front occupant: 5 stars
Rear occupant: 5 stars
Rollover resistance: 3 stars