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Toyota techs up the 2008 Toyota 4Runner with an available Urban Runner Package, an experiment in integrating a portable navigation device into the car's dashboard. The navigation device is a TomTom, branded as a TomTom Toyota, and it does much more than simple navigation, potentially catapulting the 4Runner into the ranks of the most technically advanced cars. But the inclusion of the Urban Runner Package affects the 4Runner's electronics and cosmetic details, without changing the SUV's off-road capabilities. The ride height is unchanged, and our four-wheel-drive version included a locking center differential and a hill descent program.
Test the tech: TomTom integration
Rather than just mounting a clamp on the dashboard, Toyota fits a new head unit where the stereo would normally go, and it's designed to fit the TomTom. Along with the TomTom, the faceplate includes its own very small display, a number of function buttons, a dial, and a USB port. Push the button labeled Tilt, and the faceplate motors out, revealing a CD slot. This unit is designed so you can take the TomTom out, either for security or to use in another car. With the unit we had in our test car, we couldn't actually get the TomTom out. The button that is supposed to release it didn't work.
But not being able to remove it didn't affect its functionality. For our first test, we used its navigation features. This particular TomTom isn't the most advanced model, and seems like an older TomTom GO. The model it seems to come closest to is the TomTom GO 910. Its touch screen makes inputting destinations easy, and its flash memory for map and data storage means fast route calculations and response. The maps on the device look good, but the small, 3.5 inch screen is difficult to read at a glance, especially as we are more used to the larger screens found in factory installed systems. The TomTom's voice prompts for turns are fed through the car's speakers, a nice touch, but this device doesn't do text-to-speech, so it won't read out street names. However, it does have a traffic service. One problem we found was that it only paused music that was playing off a thumbdrive when it gave voice prompts. With a CD playing, the route guidance prompt had to compete with the music.
For our second test, we tried various music sources with the system. We were immediately pleased to see the radio display appear on the TomTom screen, complete with six preset buttons. When we tried an MP3 CD with the system, the TomTom display showed the currently playing track, but the interface for choosing music from an MP3 CD is terrible. You can't browse through folders, but only push the directional buttons on the unit's dial to go up or down one track at a time. We were much happier with the USB interface. We plugged a USB drive loaded with MP3s into the port on the front of the unit, and we got an interface on the TomTom screen that let us choose music by artist, album, playlist, and genre.
For our final integration test, we used the TomTom's Bluetooth hands-free cell phone feature. We had no problem pairing our phone to the TomTom, and we were also able to import our phonebook. Using the touch-screen TomTom, we could dial numbers easily and choose contacts from our phonebook. The call quality was good, and it played through the 4Runner's speakers. When we received a call while listening to music on a USB drive, the system paused the music.
In the cabin
The Urban Runner Package covers the 2008 Toyota 4Runner's seats in gray Alcantara, with darker leather bolsters, and this color scheme is repeated through the cabin. Our 4Runner came with other niceties such as an autodimming mirror, climate control, and a multifunction steering wheel, with controls for the audio system.