The Toyota 4Runner is back and this time Toyota is taking a three-pronged approach with a basic SR5 model, a road capable Limited model, and a rugged Trail model.
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While the new 4Runner is a beefier-looking vehicle overall, it's most obvious when looking a the front end: larger headlamps and an industrial-looking grill.
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Helping to fill out the new front end are these blocky headlamps that feature turn indicators that bulge out from the vehicle's body.
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The 4Runner is a beefy machine. Even the nameplate looks like it's machined from a block of metal.
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The Toyota 4Runner is powered by a single option 270-horsepower V-6 engine that puts 278 pound-feet of torque to either the rear pair or all four wheels. We're told that a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine will be available on the 2WD SR5, but it's hard to get excited about less power.
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Five-speed automatic transmission
The only transmission option is a five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. Users can exercise a small degree of control using the sequential shift mode.
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The SR5 is the most basic of the 4Runner trim levels.
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Basic stereo rig
In SR5 trim, the best stereo that you can get is this single-disc MP3 CD player with eight speakers. The system features integrated XM Satellite Radio, a USB port with iPod connectivity, and Bluetooth hands-free calling and music streaming.
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Although there is no in-dash LCD screen, the 4Runner SR5 can still be equipped with a backup camera. A tiny LCD is hidden in the rearview mirror.
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We've already confessed our love for the gimmicky feature known as party mode. This oddly named feature automatically adjusts the balance to the rear and boosts the bass levels for optimal listening with the rear hatch open.
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The SR5 trim level features a simple three-gauge instrument cluster with orange illumination and an odd faux-carbon-fiber texture.
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The 4Runner is once again available with optional third-row seating.
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Fold flat seats
The optional third-row seats and the permanent second row all fold flat to create a huge rear storage space.
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Fold flat seats
Here's a closer look at how the second-row seats fold flat.
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The Limited trim level ups the luxury considerably over the SR5.
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Many of the features that are optional on the SR5 are standard on the Limited model. Other features such as standard 20-inch wheels or optional navigation aren't even available until this trim level.
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X-REAS Sport Enhancement Suspension
Standard and available only on the Limited trim level is the X-REAS Sport Enhancement Suspension, which acts as a pneumatic sway bar of sorts linking each front wheel with the the rear wheel on the opposite side of the body for a more stable and car-like on-road handling.
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Limited cabin tech
Inside of the Limited model, we find that the cabin tech has been improved dramatically over the SR5 trim.
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Starting with the instrument cluster, the SR5's chintzy gauges have been replaced with these more grown-up electroluminescent models.
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The 4Runner's navigation system features voice activation, XM Satellite Radio and XM NavTraffic, and iPod and Bluetooth connectivity. Unfortunately, the system is still DVD-based. It's 2010, Toyota. Where's the hard drive?
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The Limited 4WD model is the only 4Runner that features full-time all-wheel drive and a locking center differential. All models feature Active Traction Control. While SR5 model and Trail trims switch modes with a lever, the Limited trim gets this classy mode select dial.
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Back up camera redux
When equipped with the DVD Navigation system, the rearview camera's video feed is piped through the larger LCD touch screen.
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At the Limited trim level, push-button start is available.
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Trail trim level
Taking the 4Runner in a different direction is the Trail trim level. Rather than add more luxury, the Trail model strips back and adds ruggedness.
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Looking the part
The Trail model features black trim where the SR5 and Limited feature color-matched parts. Toyota has also decided to omit the rocker panels on the Trail model, which should increase ground clearance.
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Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System
Optional only on the Trail model is the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), which allows the front and rear sway bars to be pneumatically decoupled to allow more wheel articulation for off-roading and rock-crawling.
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This single line monochromatic multi-information display alternates between displaying time, compass, temperature, and terrain data.
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The roof console features dials for the crawl control--which is a low-speed (below 3 mph) off-road cruise control)--and the terrain select dial.
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Trail and SR5 4WD trim 4Runners feature part-time 4WD systems that change modes with a lever instead of a button or a dial. How beefy is that?