The hills are calling and the 2021 Toyota 4Runner is ready to answer the call.
This year, the 4Runner returns with a new special edition but not much else has changed from last year.
The blocky, off-road SUV earns a 5.2 TCC Rating. Its capability and style give it some legs, but outdated safety scores and gas mileage take it down at the kneecaps. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Review continues below
A Trail Special Edition is new for the 4Runner, but not much else is. Toyota charges $37,515 for a base SR5 with rear-wheel drive and more than $50,000 for a four-wheel-drive TRD Pro—if you can find one. We see more value in the middle, with a deference for 4Runners that prefer dirt.
The blocky 4Runner’s truck roots show through in its stance and style. It’s upright, tough, and tall, a welcome throwback to coupe-shaped roofs applying to everything other than coupes.
Inside and under the hood, the 4Runner shows its age. It’s not as spacious as some rivals, and its controls and layout have aged about as well as episodes of “Two and a Half Men.”
Under the hood, the 4Runner relies on a 4.0-liter V-6 and 5-speed automatic transmission that’s up on fuel consumption and down on forward gears compared to others. Its trick is perceived reliability and off-road prowess—other than the Jeep Wrangler, no other SUV does what the 4Runner can.
Rear-drive is standard on SR5, Limited, and Premium models, and four-wheel drive is standard everywhere else. (When it’s not standard, we suggest it be added.)
The four-wheel-drive system is a part-time affair, and not suited to dry pavement. (Limited models get one that is.)
Interior room is on the small side for its size, although its cargo hold is capacious. An optional third-row seat is available but should be skipped.
The 4Runner’s outdated crash-test scores are supplemented with active safety features such as automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and active lane control.
Every 4Runner gets an 8.0-inch touchscreen and smartphone compatibility software. We steer more toward 4Runners with “TRD” in their names because they’re suited to the SUV’s mission: getting dirty.