First Tests

2015 Toyota 4Runner Limited 4×4 First Test

Luxury Trim Can't Hide Old-School Underpinnings

Luxury Trim Can't Hide Old-School Underpinnings

The last time we tested Toyota‘s midsize body-on-frame SUV, it was a base 2014 4Runner SR5 model. This time around we got our hands on the top-spec 2015 Toyota 4Runner Limited 4×4 V-6. In our previous test, we noted that the 4Runner SR5 stays true to its roots as a capable off-road vehicle, its ride and handling evidence of its off-road prowess. Can the luxuriously appointed 4Runner Limited better mask its trucklike underpinnings? Here’s what we found out.

Inside, perforated leather-trimmed seats with heated and ventilated front seats, an eight-way power driver’s seat with memory and power lumbar, and a four-way power front passenger seat are touches exclusive to the Limited model. The reclining and fold-flat second-row seats feature a 40/20/40 split. The 4Runner Limited comes with Toyota’s Entune Premium JBL sound system with navigation and app suite standard. The system includes a 6.1-inch touchscreen with split-screen display, an aux jack, a USB 2.0 input, iPod connectivity and control, voice recognition, Bluetooth phone and audio, SiriusXM, JBL speakers and a subwoofer, and more.

Other luxury touches include a power moonroof, power rear hatch window, dual-zone climate control, a smartkey with push-button start and remote illuminated entry, HomeLink universal garage door opener, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

Starting at $44,305, options on our 4Runner Limited include $1,500 automatic running boards and a $1,365 leather-trimmed, 50/50 split fold-flat third-row seat. After a $1,000 30th anniversary discount, our Magnetic Gray Metallic over black leather tester came out to $46,170.

Although the front seats in the 4Runner Limited are comfortable enough, I found the seating position slightly odd. Even with the power driver’s seat in the lowest position, the low dashboard makes it feel like you’re sitting on top of the 4Runner rather than in it. Ergonomics overall are well-laid-out, but the dated infotainment system’s small split screen could be more intuitive. The second-row seat is comfortable for most adults, but the third row is tight even with the sliding second row moved forward. With the second row all the way back, most adults have nowhere to put their knees. The third row will work well enough for children, though.

Power for all Toyota 4Runner models comes from a 4.0-liter, DOHC V-6 rated 270 hp at 5,600 rpm and 278 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm and is backed by a five-speed automatic transmission. Although the SR5 model features part-time four-wheel drive with active traction control (A-TRAC), the Limited trim has a full-time four-wheel drive and A-TRAC and a Torsen limited-slip center differential with locking feature.

All 4Runner models feature coil-spring independent A-arms and a stabilizer bar up front and a solid axle out back suspended by a four-link setup with coil springs and a lateral rod and a stabilizer bar. Limited models add Toyota’s X-REAS Sport Enhancement Suspension. The system features a simple hydraulic setup that balances damping pressure to diagonal corners to maintain level ride characteristics. Active reservoirs balance fluid between the bottoms of the front shocks to the top of the rear shocks. The system is said to limit body roll.

The 270-hp V-6, five-speed auto and full-time four-wheel-drive combo is good for 0-60 mph in 7.9 seconds and the quarter mile in 16.0 seconds at 86.4 mph. That’s only 0.2 second and 0.3 second slower than the 4Runner SR5 with the part-time four-wheel-drive system. Braking from 60 mph took 125 feet for the 4Runner Limited, 4 feet longer than the SR5. The 4Runner Limited lapped the figure eight in 29.3 seconds at 0.57g lateral average and pulled 0.73g around the skidpad. Compare that with 28.9 seconds at 0.58g and 0.72g, respectively, for the 4Runner SR5. Overall, the numbers aren’t significantly different between the two trim levels.

Despite the fancy suspension setup, the 4Runner Limited still can’t hide its body-on-frame roots. The three-row SUV doesn’t feel as planted as other SUVs and trucks we’ve driven, including our long-term 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel with the available air suspension. In fact, the full-size pickup has a better handling feel and is more confidence-inspiring at highway speeds when the freeway begins to curve. The 4Runner has lots of motions in its suspension during cornering, acceleration, and braking. On smooth, straight roads, the 4Runner rides well. Although it isn’t as smooth as midsize unit-body crossovers, it’s the only body-on-frame midsize SUV available with a third row.

The optional third-row seat cuts significantly into the cargo area. With the third row up, the Toyota 4Runner has just 9.0 cubic feet of cargo space. With the third row down, though, cargo space increases to an impressive 46.3 cubic feet. Total cargo volume with the second- and third-row seats folded increases to 88.8 cubic feet.

Those looking at a two-row midsize body-on-frame SUV could also take a look at the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited or Nissan Xterra. The Toyota 4Runner offers the highest fuel economy of the trio with an EPA-estimated 17/21/18 mpg city/highway/combined compared with 16/20/18 mpg for the Wrangler Unlimited and 15/20/17 mpg for the Xterra, each with five-speed automatics. The latter two are also available with a six-speed manual transmission, but the 4Runner comes exclusively with an automatic. For those needing a three-row midsize body-on-frame SUV, the Toyota 4Runner would make a solid choice even if it weren’t the only choice.

2015 Toyota 4Runner Limited 4×4 V-6
BASE PRICE $44,305
PRICE AS TESTED $46,170
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, 4WD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 4.0L/270-hp/278-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 5-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4,817 lb (51/49%)
WHEELBASE 109.8 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 190.7 x 75.8 x 70.1 in
0-60 MPH 7.9 sec
QUARTER MILE 16.0 sec @ 86.4 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 125 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.73 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 29.3 sec @ 0.57 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 17/21/18 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 198/160 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 1.04 lb/mile