The 2012 Toyota 4Runner earns a below average Total Car Score for the segment. Though it is a very capable off-roader, that quality doesn't seem to figure in a crossover buyer's priorities. This is an old-school SUV with traditional body-on-frame, truck-like construction and available four-wheel drive hardware, as opposed to the predominantly car-based crossover competition.
This kind of construction allows for plenty of suspension travel. The 4Runner has the optional ability to disconnect its anti-roll bars for even greater axle articulation. The steering feels somewhat remote, but the 4Runner's composure on the road wins the respect of reviewers -- especially when it has electronically adjusting dampers.
The cabin is most commonly described as utilitarian, which translates to cheap, hard plastics and cloth seat coverings. Maximum cargo space is a generous 89.7 cubic feet, and towing capacity is 5,000 pounds. The 4Runner has done fairly well in crash tests carried out by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS), getting "Good" grades for side impact and front offset collision plus an "Acceptable" for rollover roof strength.
This generation (the fifth) debuted two years ago. The only changes for 2012 are new audio and connectivity choices, while automatic running boards are now optional for SR5 and Limited trim levels.
The 2012 Toyota 4Runner can seat up to seven and comes in SR5, Limited and Trail trim levels. All versions use a 4.0-liter V6 engine making 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque and linked to a five-speed automatic transmission.
The basic configuration is rear-wheel-drive. There are two forms of four-wheel drive available: SR5 and Limited versions can have a part-time setup, while the Trail comes standard with a full-time system featuring a locking center differential.
The SR5 is well equipped with skid plates, heated mirrors, air conditioning, rear parking sensors, power accessories (including the rear window), a trip computer, Bluetooth, satellite radio, iPod interface and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Limited trim brings 20-inch alloys, adaptive suspension, keyless ignition, automatic on/off headlights, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a rearview camera and Entune, Toyota's smartphone-based infotainment system.
The Trail model is the outdoorsman of the group. It features water-resistant seat fabric, all-terrain tires, roof rack, a sliding cargo deck (that can carry 440 pounds), a sunroof, rearview camera and two 120-volt power outlets.
Options include third-row seating, up/down automatic running boards (SR5 and Limited), navigation, and a dedicated off-road suspension for the Trail model.
Standard safety equipment includes traction and stability controls, eight airbags (including front-row knee airbags), hill start and hill descent controls, ABS with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution, and active front head restraints.
EPA ratings for the 2012 4Runner are 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined for rear-wheel drive models; 4WD versions are just a tad thirstier on the highway to the tune of one mile per gallon.
Properly equipped, the 2012 Toyota 4Runner can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
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