We tested our 4Runner at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, where it clicked off an 8.92 second 0-60 run, while crossing the quarter mile threshold in 16.8 seconds at 85.46 mph. The 4.0L DOHC V-6, which makes 34 more horsepower more than last year's model, felt strong and worked well with the five-speed automatic transmission, although we wished that the exhaust note was a little more assertive.
From 60 mph, the 4,750-pound 4Runner came to a stop in just 126.76 feet. Pedal feel was firm and confidence inspiring. We noted very little brake fade.
On the road, the 4Runner is fairly unremarkable. It rides and handles more like a crossover than a truck and has a comfortable, smooth ride. The steering feels isolated and the driving position offers excellent visibility from all sides. It does feel more substantial than the previous model, and isn't unlike its Land Cruiser big brother in many respects.
The larger interior does feel roomier than before, just as advertised. The second row seats fold flat without necessitating the removal of the headrests, and the rear cargo area has a slide-out tray that can hold up to 400-pounds and makes the process of loading and removing cargo a breeze. The 4Runner interior is well laid out, with only the four-wheel drive controls remaining hidden initially.
The interior materials in our preproduction model lacked the Land Cruiser touches. At this price point, almost all of our staffers were unanimous in wondering why there was a mouse fur headliner instead of the generally accepted woven style, and why the front seats looked like they came out of a base model Tacoma. The seats do offer more adjustments than before, but could benefit from a bit more padding.
That aside, the navigation system offers a large, bright screen and the stereo was judged to be one of the best available in the class. We especially liked the USB iPod integration. Our tester also offered "Party Mode," which when activated by a button on the dash, directs the music to the rear for tailgating enjoyment.
Our 4Runner was rated at 17mpg in the city and 22mpg in the highway, but we observed an impressive 17.62mpg average during our test.
The point of all this scrutiny, of course, is to see how well a vehicle performs in the dirt. So off we went to our favorite desert test venues, where we put the 4Runner through its paces in sand, dirt, rocks, and washes. At the end of the trail portion of our test, we came away impressed. Clearly, the 2010 4Runner can be mentioned in the same breath as such segment stalwarts as the Jeep Wrangler, Hummer H3, Nissan Xterra, and FJ Cruiser.
Whether on fast dirt roads or in deep rutted sand, we found the body structure to be solid, with no squeaks or rattles. The chassis, which is appliance-like on the highway, really comes to life in the dirt, with supple suspension that enjoys slow or fast trails.
The placement of the controls for the trail functions, which are mounted overhead, took some time to get used to. Once we figured out how everything worked, we aimed the 4Runner at our favorite hill climb and let the vehicle drive us right up. We found that the Multi-Terrain select allows for the appropriate amount of wheel slip in deep sand to keep the 4Runner moving forward, and worked well on rocks with CRAWL to prevent wheel slip and the loss of forward progress. We did not get a chance to test the 4Runner in mud, but we expect that function to work just as well there.