Let’s be clear. The 2021 Toyota 4Runner is such a great vehicle because the back window goes up and down. This feature, that the 4Runner has had for decades, is just plain cool. Ok, there’s a lot more to why the 2021 4Runner is a solid SUV but I had to point that out. Butch styling, body-on-frame toughness and a legendary powertrain are other major factors in the 4Runner’s long run of greatness.
The 4Runner is one of the few true foils to Jeep’s Wrangler. It remains steadfastly old school with legit off-road chops. While Toyota offers trim levels for those that appreciate the iconic styling but prefer luxury touches, they also tout serious off-road options like the TRD Pro model. It is pricey at 50 large but this top-tier 4Runner has been honed for 2021. Retuned Fox shocks improve trail driving isolation while new TRD wheels are stronger and more rigid.
If you’re looking to spend time on unpaved surfaces but don’t want to break the bank, the 4Runner TRD Off-Road comes in around $40,000 with plenty of features to get you off the reservation. The part-time 4WD system uses an Active Traction Control system in concert with a locking rear differential to keep things moving. There is also the intelligent Crawl Control, which automatically modulates throttle and braking in low-speed trail situations so drivers can focus on driving. Hill Start and Downhill Assist step in to keep the TRD Off-Road moving safely up and down steep, slippery grades. Keep in mind that the Limited trim comes with full-time 4WD if you’re looking for that combo of more luxury without having to think about switching out of two-wheel drive.
Moving all this metal is the 4.0-liter V6 and 5-speed automatic that’s been around for quite a while. As George points out in the video above, this powertrain may be long in the tooth but it will also go forever. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, is a phrase that comes to mind. Putting out 270 horsepower, you’ll find lively acceleration with a quiet and comfortable ride. The fuel economy is nothing to write home about but if you’re planning to spend a lot of time off-road, that figure may not be a top concern.
The exterior of the 4Runner is all about masculinity. No one is going to confuse this truck-ish SUV with your neighbor’s cute-ute. For 2021, all models come with LED headlamps and fog lights while LED high beams are optional on upper level trims. The Nightshade edition, made for Darth Vader, comes with blacked out trim, black 20” wheels and pretty much blacked out everything. If you opt for the Trail Special Edition, check out the killer TRD Off-Road wheels and rooftop mounted Yakima LoadWarrior cargo basket.
Stepping inside, you’ll want the power moonroof to go with the aforementioned power rear window. Better to enjoy the great outdoors with. While you’ve got ALL the glass open, hook up to the 8” Entune touchscreen interface with Apple Car Play or Android Auto and blast tunes through the available JBL audio system’s 15 speakers. And you’ll be ready to enjoy your campsite with the 40 quart, color-keyed, freezer-grade cooler and heavy-duty slide out cargo tray available on certain models.
Toyota positions the 4Runner as the ultimate off-road tool, which it is. But they also equip it with the Toyota Safety Sense-P (TSS-P) suite of systems for when you’re on paved roads. Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection will warn the driver of impending impacts and can apply the brakes in an emergency. The Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Lane Departure Alert is just the thing for the highway run enroute to the trail. And the Automatic High Beams make life easier on the driver and oncoming traffic in nighttime conditions. TSS-P is standard across the 2021 4Runner range.
To summarize, the 2021 Toyota 4Runner continues its legacy of having the looks of an off-road beast with the capability to back it up. You’ll find solid acceleration, supportive seats and go-anywhere 4WD. On the downside, the fuel economy is not very good, the 3rd row is cramped and the brake pedal feels soft. But overall, it’s fantastic. Be sure to check out the review video above for more of George’s thoughts. Drivers Only ranks the 2021 Toyota 4Runner 98. To see how it ranks amongst its peers please click here: Best Midsize SUVs for 2020 & 2021.
Front-engine, rear- or all-wheel drive, 5- or 7-passenger, 4-door SUV
24-valve DOHC 4.0-liter, V6: 270 hp, 278 lb-ft
Wheelbase: 109.8 in
L/W/H: 191.3/75.8/71.5 in
Curb Weight: 4796 lb
0-60 mph: 7.7 sec
¼ mile: 16.0 sec @ 88 mph
Top Speed: 114 mph
EPA FUEL ECONOMY