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2022 Toyota 4Runner Road Test and Review

Brady Holt
by Brady Holt
November 26, 2021
6 min. Reading Time
2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro ・  Photo by Brady Holt

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro ・ Photo by Brady Holt

The Toyota 4Runner almost didn’t survive. Once the company’s best-selling SUV, its sales had dwindled as customers picked the smoother-riding, more fuel-efficient Toyota Highlander crossover instead of the 4Runner’s heavier-duty off-road capability and towing capacity. During the 2008-2009 recession, with money scarce and gas prices high, it seemed logical that Toyota would discontinue the 4Runner.

Instead, Toyota fully redesigned the vehicle for the 2010 model year and doubled down on its image and capability. Gone was the sleek 4Runner in favor of an aggressive, get-down-to-business box. That flavor was a runaway success. The 4Runner has received few updates over the past decade — revised styling in 2014 and additional safety and infotainment features in 2020 — but sales gradually climbed. Though it’s not cheap, starting at $37,305, it’s one of the best-selling mid-size SUVs today. Whether you’re interested in its go-anywhere capability or just its unique styling statement, let’s go over the 2022 4Runner’s pros and cons to see if it’s the SUV you want to take home.

Aggressive Looks

Toyota made the 4Runner boxy and trucklike at a time when most SUVs were going the other way. The trend hasn’t reversed over the past decade, which means that even eight years after its last styling change, the 4Runner still looks distinctive.

The vertical front of the vehicle looks like a battering ram with headlights, especially on our TRD Pro test vehicle. The bumper curves up and away from under the vehicle to provide more off-road clearance, and protective skid plates are visible underneath. The fenders are squared-off and flared, and the vehicle’s body is a chunky box. Different 4Runner models offer different grille designs; luxury-themed versions break up the big grille into three pieces, while off-road models have a bigger lower area that’s protected. And the TRD Pro replaces the oval Toyota logo with purposeful lettering. It also included unique wheel designs and a rooftop cargo rack that made the vehicle look like a slick custom job, straight off the factory floor. Think hard about the cargo rack, though; it’s too tall for some garages. New for 2022, you can also get the TRD Pro with our test vehicle’s striking Lime Rush green paint.

 Photo by Brady Holt

Photo by Brady Holt

Hardy Dashboard

The 4Runner’s interior is hardy and functional. Extra-large climate-control knobs are both functional and charming; they hearken back to an era when SUVs were simple, honest, utilitarian machines rather than tall family haulers. Yet Toyota has also brought the interior into this decade with an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen that arrived for the 2020 model year. The system works well and supports Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, and it fits cleanly into the dashboard despite being retrofitted into an old interior design. 

Still, we think Toyota could update the cabin without losing the 4Runner’s unique vibe. Silvery plastic dashboard trim was a trendy cue in 2010 that has since run its course; it’s the wrong kind of throwback, not honoring the 4Runner’s legacy. Other cabin materials could also have interesting textures instead of simple hard plastic. And 8 inches is barely acceptable for an infotainment screen by now. Quibbles aside, the 4Runner’s blocky-looking, rugged-feeling dashboard can be a refreshing alternative to luxury-focused car-like SUVs. 

 Photo by Brady Holt

Photo by Brady Holt

Lots of Space

Truck-based SUVs like the Toyota 4Runner typically have less interior room than similarly sized front-wheel-drive crossovers. But the boxy 4Runner acquits itself admirably. In fact, compared with the slightly longer and wider Toyota Highlander, the 4Runner actually has more total cargo capacity — thanks to its boxier styling and higher roof. 

You get an outstanding 47.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind its second-row seat and 89.7 cubic feet behind the front seats. An optional slide-out cargo tray makes it easy to load and unload items weighing up to 440 pounds or can serve as a seat, and the 4Runner is the only current vehicle with a power-retractable rear windshield. The front and second-row seats are also comfortable, with generous space for five passengers. The main issue is if you’re counting on the optional third-row seat. It’s not available on any of the 4Runner’s off-road-focused trim levels (which represent most of the model lineup). This seat is also cramped, and it leaves just 9 cubic feet of cargo space when it’s in use. Some buyers will also miss a power liftgate, but Toyota does provide a dangling strap for short-statured drivers.

 Photo by Brady Holt

Photo by Brady Holt

Genuine Capability

The 2022 Toyota 4Runner isn’t just pretending to be tough. This is a rugged vehicle that can keep up with pretty much any SUV on the market today when the going gets tough. 

Its available gear includes four-wheel drive with a two-speed transfer case, a locking rear differential, selectable off-road driving modes, an adjustable “Crawl Control” feature that maintains your speed automatically as you negotiate obstacles, and a system that can automatically disconnect the suspension sway bars to let the wheels rise up and down more on uneven surfaces. Our tested TRD Pro model has Fox high-performance shocks, retuned springs, an extra-thick front skid plate, and all-terrain tires. But the 4Runner isn’t just about gizmos. It also has the basics of 9.6 inches of ground clearance, a departure angle of 26 degrees, and an approach angle of 33 degrees; this is an SUV that will carry you up, over, and through whatever you throw at it. Towing just matches similarly sized crossovers, though, with a capacity of 5,000 pounds. 

 Photo by Brady Holt

Photo by Brady Holt

Fairly Smooth Ride

Impressively for an off-road-ready SUV, the 4Runner rides pretty well, even in TRD Pro form. It can jostle a bit over certain bumps, while the rugged suspension takes others in stride. It’s a great mix of endearing character with everyday comfort. The 4Runner doesn’t handle with the agility of a lighter-weight car-based crossover, but you don’t have to grip the steering wheel uneasily like in a Jeep Wrangler. A new TRD Sport model has a revised suspension for even better on-road handling. 

Where the 4Runner really shows its age is its 4.0-liter V6 engine and five-speed automatic transmission, which haven’t changed since the truck’s 2010 debut. While some folks swear by this powertrain’s longevity, it has missed more than a decade of engineering progress. Its 270-horsepower rating is still competitive, but this engine’s roar makes it feel like it’s straining even when it’s not. The bigger issue is the gas mileage: an EPA-estimated 16 mpg in the city, 19 mpg on the highway, and 17 mpg combined. Our test vehicle did even worse, averaging just 16 mpg in mostly highway and rural conditions. That’s about the worst mileage you’ll see from any current-model automobile. 

 Photo by Brady Holt

Photo by Brady Holt

Modern Safety Features

Toyota has become a leader in standard safety and driver-assistance technologies, and the 4Runner benefits from this company-wide decision. Every 2022 4Runner includes adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and a lane-departure warning. Newly available this year, blind-spot monitoring comes standard on most trim levels. A surround-view parking camera is another handy feature that’s available on much of the 4Runner lineup; it can help you either squeeze into a tight parking space or fit down a narrow off-road trail. 

Crash-test results lag newer SUVs, though. The 4Runner earned a low Marginal score for small-overlap frontal-impact performance, based on a challenging Insurance Institute for Highway Safety test that the IIHS introduced only after the 4Runner was on sale. Similarly, it earns just three out of five stars for passenger-side protection in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s frontal-impact crash test (and four out of five stars overall) — another test that the 4Runner predates. We wish Toyota had worked harder to retrofit this aging SUV with a stronger, safer body to complement all that excellent technology. 

 Photo by Brady Holt

Photo by Brady Holt

Luxury-Level Prices

The 4Runner doesn’t act like a luxury vehicle, but like many off-road-focused SUVs, it’s priced like one. All that off-roading gear doesn’t come cheap. Even the base two-wheel-drive SR5 model costs $37,305, while the TRD Pro tops $52,000. Excellent projected resale value means you’ll at least recover a big chunk of that cost when you trade in your 4Runner, and Toyota provides two years or 25,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance. 

At least you don’t need a high-end model to get a lot of features. As long as you don’t mind cloth upholstery and are willing to forego some off-road gadgets, the base SR5 has a lot to offer, including a power driver’s seat, push-button starting, and the safety features we mentioned on the previous page. Other 4Runner trim levels include the flashier-looking Trail Special Edition ($39,275), the leatherette-trimmed TRD Sport ($40,150) and SR5 Premium ($40,715), the TRD Off Road that includes four-wheel drive with Crawl Control ($41,135), the TRD Off Road Premium with leatherette ($44,080), the most luxuriously finished Limited ($46,890) and the heavy-duty TRD Pro ($52,120). 

 Photo by Brady Holt

Photo by Brady Holt

Few True Competitors

The 4Runner has few direct rivals in the mid-size SUV world. The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and the newly reintroduced Ford Bronco are about the same size and have a similar off-road focus, but their removable roof and doors give it unique advantages and disadvantages: You can get a lot more fresh air, but it’s a noisier and cruder experience than the solidly built 4Runner. 

The Jeep Grand Cherokee, meanwhile, remains what the 4Runner used to be: a luxurious off-roader. The 4Runner is roomier and has a tougher vibe, while the Grand Cherokee is quieter,  more opulently finished, more economical, and more slickly contemporary. Some folks also like to compare the 4Runner against the Subaru Outback, a capable mid-size crossover with 8.7 inches of ground clearance (or 9.5 inches on this year’s new Wilderness model). If you aren’t in love with the 4Runner’s vibe and just need to tackle some rough outdoor conditions, the Outback is entirely more sensible: affordable, economical, comfortable, and safe. Sensible isn’t exactly charming or fun, though, while the 4Runner — for all its logical drawbacks — can be exactly that.

 Photo by Brady Holt

Photo by Brady Holt

Charting Its Own Course

When you want something like the 2022 Toyota 4Runner, you don’t have a lot of choices. It’s not modern, but you might like that. Its fuel economy is pretty lousy, and its crash-test scores haven’t kept up with the times; it’s hard to imagine liking that, but you can decide to cope. Some of its dashboard trim falls in the uncomfortable middle ground between contemporary and classic, looking merely dated, but lots of folks clearly don’t mind. 

If you’re looking for a smooth, comfortable, luxurious SUV, you’ve come to the wrong place. If you want something with character and capability, the 4Runner delivers a way to steer clear of the crossover herd — delivering a mighty “cool factor” without giving up too much of its everyday comfort and functionality. It may not be perfect, but this old Toyota still has lots of life.

 Photo by Brady Holt

Photo by Brady Holt


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