Thursday, January 17, 2008

2008 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Sport Road Test

The wind, the snow, the cold, the reduced visibility, the snow... did I mention the snow? Contrary to our Northwest office, which has seen above seasonal temperatures and is currently having a Green Christmas, we here in the Midwest most certainly aren't. Old Man Winter is out in full force, and it's been quite some time since I've seen a storm like this. Well, to be honest, it wasn't that long ago - last week - that the weather was this frightful, but it's never a worry when you're in something as sturdy, as capable and as dead reliable as Toyota's 4Runner.

4Runners are hearty machines, tough, well-built and well-engineered. Little has changed conceptually since they first hit the market in the mid '80s, which might have a little something to do with this fact. So, the two-door body style isn't around anymore (it's been absent since '92, and there aren't any plans to bring it back), but the body-on-frame structure has lasted (it's significantly more modern though, with frame rails that are fully boxed for improved rigidity), and has its proper four wheel drive system, transfer case and solid rear axle. This latest 4Runner shares its underpinnings with a great number of different SUVs and pickup trucks, ranging from the Lexus GX / Land Cruiser Prado to the FJ Cruiser, some of the best off roading vehicles in the world. In fact, when you're at the far stretches of the earth, the vehicles you're most likely to see are Toyotas, and relatives of the 4Runner no less.

This year, Toyota has consolidated the range for 4Runners into fewer models. Both the V6 and V8 are available in SR5, Sport and Limited guises. V6 models outfitted with the Sport package are well worth the extra $4,585. It's much more than an appearance package which is the case for most Toyota products, as it includes bigger wheels and tires, a front skid plate, bigger brakes and a host of little features, but most importantly it includes the wonderful X-REAS suspension system. Unfortunately, it also features a really dorky fake hood scoop. Just about the only thing missing from the 4Runner is the availability of a heated seat on the cloth-trimmed buckets. Mind you, with cloth, the seats don't get as cold to begin with, so Toyota's reasoning for excluding them is understandable.

When snow covers the ground, it's usually playtime when it comes to vehicles - but not for the 4Runner. To it, slippery stuff is serious business. Under these conditions, it's easy to see the advantadoing so, and it also helps prevent the back end from slipping out easily even when rounding slight corners. With the exception of when the vehicle is in low-range settings, VSC stability control will always remain on. Even with traction control disengaged, VSC will kick in and prevent the tires from slipping, getting it out of slippery situations

For the time well being, as it stands, the 4Runner is a fantastic SUV. While change may be inevitable, there is something to be said for tried and tested techniques and equipment. Importantly, Toyota has built its name building tough as nails vehicles like this one. So don't let its classic suspension and tough physical demeanor get in your way of your consideration, as this is a seriously good SUV

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