I love the Toyota 4Runner. It’s impetuous. It’s old school. It has a ton of space. I’d happily drive one every day – if it wasn’t expensive for what you get and the thought of the planet my kids will inherit, the warming didn’t keep me awake at night.
Even so, there are about five or six snow days a year where I blame myself for not owning a 4Runner. This year, however, the fates aligned – and the press fleet dropped off a 4Runner just as a blizzard was about to hit.
The storm didn’t end up being the great blizzard of 1899 that the media prepared for me, but my kids missed two days of school and I got a $50 bill for not pulling my VW off the street outside my house. So there was enough snowfall to sample the Toyota 4Runner in the winter.
Toyota has winterized the 4Runner well…on paper
At first glance, the 4Runner has just about everything you want for winterizing in the suburbs. You get the right four-wheel drive high and low gears with an easy-to-use button. You get about nine inches of ground clearance, which is all you need if you’re not riding the Rubicon trail. And you get excellent visibility with large vertical windows and (now standard) LED low beam, high beam and fog lamps.
I’ve had the new TRD Sport version, which had 20-inch rims. I would have preferred smaller wheels and a bigger tire, but it was still a solid setup.
But you must equip your 4Runner correctly
There are a few options you want if you’re driving a 4Runner in the winter. The TRD Sport version did not have automatic climate control. I found this out the hard way after setting it to defrost for a bit, going out to take my daughter to daycare and realized I hadn’t turned on the fan for defrosting. The TRD Sport version also lacked a heated steering wheel or heated seats. And the heater didn’t do a great job of reaching my cold, wet, sneaker-clad feet in the floorboards.
An option I would choose do not choosing for winter running would be the automatic running boards, which my tester had fitted for an extra $1,500. These running boards are bound to collect patches of snow and boot sludge in the winter. It happened to me. Then it got colder at night… and that mud of snow and boots turned to ice, which was impossible to get off unless you wore it down with boiling water – and made me makes driving the rest of the week with a warning light.
Four-wheel drive isn’t everything for you
The 4Runner has no trouble starting in four strokes. I got out of my unplowed driveway onto the unplowed street with no problems and was able to drive away several times with half the car parked on a patch of ice. The 4Runner can live up to its reputation and get you home – indeed, probably at a higher speed than the conditions would warrant in most cars.
That said, four-wheel drive makes no difference in helping you Stop in the snow. And the heavy 4Runner can create a head of steam. I had a few minor skids on slippery spots where I lost traction and the ABS kicked in.
So the 4Runner, while capable, is not some mythical rig not subject to the laws of physics. You have to be careful like everyone else.
And, yes, the Toyota 4Runner is still expensive.
The TRD Sport 4Runner 4×4 version starts at $42,025. Options – including $1,585 to upgrade to an 8.0-inch touchscreen. Additions and shipping, handling and processing fees of $1,215 brought the total to $48,631 for an SUV without automatic climate control. And, of course, that’s just the MSRP. The average Toyota is now exit the lot with a profit margin of $1,015and the 4Runner is more popular than the average Toyota.
2022 Toyota 4Runner 4×4 TRD Sport
Price (starting / as tested): $42,025 / $48,631
Powertrain : 4.0 liter V6; 5-speed automatic; 4×4
Power : 270
Torque: 278 lb-ft
EPA Fuel Economy: 16 mpg city, 19 mpg highway
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