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2010 Four Wheeler Of The Year - 2010 Toyota 4Runner

Sand Dune Test
Sean P. Holman | Writer
Posted April 1, 2010
Photographers: Ken Brubaker

Land Cruiser Technology Makes For A Better 4Runner

Entering its fifth generation with a redesign for 2010, the 4Runner has been a Toyota staple ever since its introduction way back in 1984. Since then, 1.5 million of the popular SUVs have been sold. Part of the popularity of the 4Runner is due to the rugged body-on-frame construction, which it continues despite an industry trend toward more car-like vehicles. With truck-based toughness and car-like comfort, the latest 4Runner remains true to what a 4Runner should be.

Fifth-generation styling gets decidedly more aggressive, with a more upright windshield and a sportier interior. The new model is slightly larger and has a bigger interior, but still retains the previous model's 109.8-inch wheelbase. For 2010, the 4Runner is available in three trim levels: SR5, Limited, and the dedicated Trail model for enthusiasts. The V-8 option has been dropped, but 4x4s get the familiar 4.0L DOHC V-6, which has been upgraded and now puts out 270hp and 278 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard on 4x4 models. On 4x2 models, a 2.7L DOHC I-4 is available. An optional third row with the ability to seat seven is also new.

Maintaining body-on-frame construction was key in preserving the 4Runner's robust foundation. The 2010 4Runner shares the same basic platform as the FJ Cruiser, and gets a double wishbone front suspension and solid rear axle with coil springs over gas shocks at all four corners. That rear axle is also stronger than before, now sporting an 8.18-inch ring gear, up from the 7.87-inch ring gear of the previous model. Body reinforcements that are unique to the 4Runner add to the stiffness of the structure.

On the 4x4 front, Toyota offers a suite of technologies to help the 4Runner excel on the trail. While both the SR5 and Trail models include a lever-actuated transfer case, the Trail-grade 4Runner takes it a step further with more aggressive 32-inch tires and a rear locker. A-TRAC is now standard equipment on all 4x4 4Runners and can distribute power to just one wheel with traction, ensuring that the 4Runner can keep going.

Trickling down from the Land Cruiser is the optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS). KDSS improves suspension articulation by automatically disconnecting the stabilizer bars in slow, uneven terrain. Another Land Cruiser technology that benefits the 4Runner is Crawl Control (CRAWL). CRAWL is an electro-mechanical system that controls the speed of the vehicle while minimizing the load on drivetrain components in technical, low range situations. Think of it as cruise control for rock crawling.

In addition to CRAWL, the 4Runner Trail also gets a Multi-Terrain Select system which is similar to Land Rover's Terrain Response and allows the driver to fine-tune vehicle performance to match the terrain. In mud or sand, wheel slip is allowed to work in the vehicle's favor. On rocks or in bumpy terrain, the system operates more like a limited slip, minimizing wheel slip for maximum traction.

Standard to all 4Runner 4x4s is Downhill Assist Control (DAC), which increases the ability of low range to hold a driver-determined downhill speed without any driver intervention. And lastly, all V-6 4Runners come equipped with Hill-start Assist Control (HAC). HAC keeps the vehicle stopped when the engine needs to be restarted on steep inclines or slippery surfaces.

Specific to our testing was the Trail grade model, which has increased approach and departure angles, higher ground clearance, and a unique wheel and tire package targeted at those who intend to use their 4Runner in the dirt.

Our Trail-grade tester came to us with a base price of $35,700. Options included KDSS ($1,750), Navigation and upgraded stereo ($2,420), and carpet floor mats and cargo mat ($204.00), bringing our as-tested price to $40,874, including an $800 delivery and processing charge.

Trail-grade models can be distinguished from other 4Runners by a hood scoop, different front and rear fascia styling, and smoked lenses on the headlight and tail lamps.

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