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2021 Toyota 4Runner Review

The 2021 Toyota 4Runner ranks near the back of the midsize SUV class. The 4Runner’s high predicted reliability rating and strong off-road performance are overshadowed by its unrefined on-road handling, hum-drum interior quality, and meager fuel economy.

Pros & Cons

  • Strong off-roading and towing abilities
  • Good predicted reliability rating
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Busy ride quality
  • Outdated interior

Rankings & Research

The 2021 Toyota 4Runner's #20 ranking is based on its score within the Midsize SUVs category. Currently the Toyota 4Runner has a score of 7.1 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 59 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.




Critics' Rating: 6.7
Performance: 6.2
Interior: 6.3
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 8.7 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

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Is the Toyota 4Runner a Good SUV?

The 2021 Toyota 4Runner is a good SUV in some respects and a bad SUV in others. The 4Runner excels as a workhorse. It’s available in practical five- and seven-seat layouts, it can tow up to 5,000 pounds, and its spacious cargo area makes hauling large items a breeze. The 4Runner’s rugged suspension allows it to cross rough terrain that would sideline most other SUVs, and it has earned a great reputation for reliability over the years.

On the other hand, the current 4Runner is a decade-old design, and it lacks the refinement of today’s car-based crossover SUVs. The 4Runner’s interior looks and feels outdated. Its ride can be harsh and jittery at times, and its handling is cumbersome. The 4Runner returns poor gas mileage as well.

Why You Can Trust Us: 59 Reviews Analyzed

We’ve analyzed 59 Toyota 4Runner reviews, as well as data points like reliability ratings and fuel economy estimates, to help you make the best car-buying decision possible.

This 2021 4Runner review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2010.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the Toyota 4Runner?

You should consider the 2021 Toyota 4Runner if you want a midsize SUV that can perform double duty as a toy hauler or weekend off-roader. Otherwise, there are more comfortable and more affordable SUVs for daily driving in the urban jungle, like the Kia Telluride, Jeep Grand Cherokee, and Toyota’s own Highlander.

Compare the 4Runner, Grand Cherokee, and Highlander »

2020 vs. 2021 Toyota 4Runner: What's the Difference?

There aren’t many differences between the 2020 and 2021 4Runner models. Toyota adds a Trail Special Edition for 2021, but it’s not appreciably different than other trims in the lineup. Also, previously available LED headlights are now standard in all models.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 4Runner »

Here are the key changes for the Toyota 4Runner over the last few years:

  • 2017: TRD trims replaced Trail models
  • 2018: no notable changes
  • 2019: Nightshade Special Edition debuted; Fox suspension added to TRD Pro trim
  • 2020: Venture Special Edition introduced; previously unavailable Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning added to standard features list
  • 2021: Trail Special Edition debuts, and LED headlights now standard in all models

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 4Runner, 2019 4Runner, and 2020 4Runner reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on new vehicles.

How Much Does the Toyota 4Runner Cost?

The 2021 Toyota 4Runner has a $36,340 starting price, which is higher than almost every other midsize SUV. The price rises to $40,305 for the midrange TRD Off-Road trim, and it tops out at $50,470 for the TRD Pro trim.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Toyota dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Toyota deals page.

Toyota 4Runner Versus the Competition

Toyota 4Runner vs. Jeep Grand Cherokee

The Jeep Grand Cherokee is one of the few midsize SUVs that can tackle the same rough terrain as the 4Runner. For everyday driving though, it’s a clear winner. The Grand Cherokee provides better on-road handling, a comfier ride, nicer cabin materials, and better V6 gas mileage. The Grand Cherokee’s starting price is lower as well, and it offers a few convenience features that the 4Runner lacks, such as blind spot monitoring. If you need to carry a lot of passengers or cargo, however, you may want to go with the 4Runner. That’s because the Grand Cherokee isn’t offered with a third-row seat, and its cargo area is considerably smaller.

Compare the 4Runner and Grand Cherokee »

Toyota 4Runner vs. Ford Explorer

The Ford Explorer may have a rugged name, but it isn’t as outdoorsy as the 4Runner. The 4Runner offers superior off-road performance and a higher predicted reliability rating. The Explorer takes the lead in most other areas. It has a smoother ride, stronger and more efficient engine options, a slightly higher 5,600-pound towing capacity, and a lower base price. Notably, both SUVs offer comparable cargo space.

Compare the 4Runner and Explorer »

Compare the 4Runner, Grand Cherokee, and Explorer »

4Runner Interior: Roomy and Well-Built, but Dated

4Runner Cargo Space

The Toyota 4Runner provides 46.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind its second-row seats and 88.8 cubic feet with these seats folded. Models with the optional third row have just 9 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats upright. That’s better than average for a midsize SUV, though rivals like the Chevrolet Traverse and Volkswagen Atlas offer even more room.

How Many People Does the 4Runner Seat?

The Toyota 4Runner is offered in two configurations. All models have five seats as standard. A third-row seat is optional in the SR5, SR5 Premium, Limited, and Nightshade trims, which raises seating capacity to seven. Regardless of layout, the front seats are comfortable, supportive, and roomy enough for taller occupants. The high driving position and large windshield provide an excellent view of the road ahead. Outward visibility to the sides and rear is OK. The spacious second row can comfortably seat adults as well, but the optional third row is cramped and best saved for kids only.

Cloth upholstery, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, and a manually adjustable front passenger seat are standard. Available upgrades include SofTex synthetic leather upholstery, genuine leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, and a power-adjustable front passenger seat.

4Runner and Child Car Seats

The 4Runner has two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the second-row outboard seats and a tether anchor for the rear middle seat.

4Runner Interior Quality

The Toyota 4Runner has a utilitarian interior with many hard plastic surfaces that look outdated by modern standards. On the plus side, the cabin feels sturdy and well-built, and these materials should hold up well over time.

4Runner Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

The Toyota 4Runner comes standard with an 8-inch touch screen. The screen has crisp graphics, an intuitive menu structure, and responds quickly to inputs. It also supports the popular Apple CarPlay and Android Auto systems, allowing users to integrate their smartphone interface on-screen. There are additional buttons and knobs on the dashboard for the main audio and climate controls, and this switchgear is chunky and easy to reach.

  • Standard infotainment features: an 8-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, an eight-speaker stereo, satellite radio, Bluetooth, four USB ports, and a Wi-Fi hot spot
  • Available infotainment features: a navigation system, HD Radio, and a 15-speaker JBL sound system
  • Additional standard features: remote keyless entry, a power liftgate, and a 120-volt household-style power outlet
  • Other available features: dual-zone automatic climate control, proximity keyless entry, a power moonroof, a rear sunshade, and a beverage cooler

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay?, What Is Android Auto?, and What is Amazon Alexa Auto?

Read more about interior »

4Runner Performance: If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

4Runner Engine

The 2021 Toyota 4Runner is equipped with a 4.0-liter V6 engine that produces 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive are standard; four-wheel drive is available.

The V6 engine powering the 4Runner gets the job done. There’s plenty of low-end torque to help the 4Runner accelerate briskly around town and up to highway speeds. The engine groans a bit at higher rpm, but it still provides adequate passing power when required. The five-speed transmission shifts smoothly for the most part, though it’s occasionally reluctant to downshift. The biggest drawback to this engine is its insatiable thirst for gasoline.

4Runner Gas Mileage

The Toyota 4Runner gets an EPA-rated 16 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway, which is one of the worst fuel economy ratings of any midsize SUV. By comparison, the V6-powered Toyota Highlander gets up to 21/29 mpg city/highway.

4Runner Ride and Handling

Thanks to its solid rear axle and body-on-frame construction, the Toyota 4Runner rides more like a truck than most other SUVs in its class. This setup is ideal for off-road driving, but it suffers on road. The steering is light and somewhat ponderous, and the SUV’s tall body tends to sway and lean around tight turns, which can be unnerving. The rugged suspension jitters and jolts over rough road surfaces, resulting in a busy ride quality. The brakes provide fine stopping power, but the brake pedal feels mushy.

4Runner Off-Road Performance

The Toyota 4Runner shines off road. Its suspension articulates nicely over rocks, ruts, and bumps when driven at low speeds. The 4Runner’s high approach and departure angles and 9.6 inches of ground clearance allow it to ride safely up and over larger obstacles. Skid plates come standard. All four-wheel-drive models also feature a two-speed transfer case with high- and low-range gearing to maximize traction on rough terrain.

Opt for one of the TRD models to get even more off-road equipment like additional skid plates, a low-speed crawl control system, and a locking rear differential. The optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) is also worth considering. It can electronically disconnect the sway bars to allow for more wheel travel.

4Runner Towing Capacity

The Toyota 4Runner can tow up to 5,000 pounds when properly equipped.

Read more about performance »

4Runner Reliability

Is the Toyota 4Runner Reliable?

The 2021 Toyota 4Runner has a good predicted reliability rating of four out of five.

Toyota 4Runner Warranty

Toyota covers the 4Runner with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

4Runner Safety

4Runner Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Toyota 4Runner an overall safety rating of four out of five stars. The 4Runner received five stars in the side crash test, four stars in the frontal crash test, and only three stars in the rollover test.

At the time of writing, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not crash tested the 2021 4Runner.

4Runner Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Rearview camera
  • Forward collision warning with pedestrian detection
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane departure warning
  • Automatic high-beam headlights

Available advanced safety features:

  • Front and rear parking sensors

Read more about safety »

4Runner Dimensions and Weight

The Toyota 4Runner is 15.9 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 4,400 to 4,805 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Toyota 4Runner Built?

Toyota builds the 2021 4Runner in Japan.

Which Toyota 4Runner Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 Toyota 4Runner comes in nine trim levels, ranging from the entry-level SR5 to the off-road-conquering TRD Pro. Since the 4Runner’s price point is already at the higher end of this segment, we suggest most shoppers stick with the SR5 model. It has a nice array of standard tech and safety features, and it offers the same engine performance as all higher trims. All models come with a 270-horsepower V6 engine and a five-speed automatic transmission.

Toyota 4Runner SR5 and SR5 Premium

The base 4Runner SR5 starts at $36,340 for rear-wheel-drive models, and upgrading to four-wheel drive costs $1,875.

Standard features include an 8-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, eight speakers, satellite radio, a Wi-Fi hot spot, Bluetooth, four USB ports, a 120-volt household-style power outlet, and remote keyless entry. Cloth upholstery, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, heated side mirrors, a power liftgate with a power-retractable rear window, a tow hitch receiver, skid plates, and 17-inch alloy wheels are also included.

The Toyota Safety Sense P package (TSS-P) is also standard, and it includes forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, and LED headlights with automatic high beams. Options are limited to running boards, a sliding rear cargo deck, a third-row seat, HD Radio, and a navigation system.

The 4Runner SR5 Premium starts at $39,550 for rear-wheel-drive models and $41,425 for four-wheel-drive models. This trim adds synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power-adjustable front passenger seat, HD Radio, navigation, and proximity keyless entry.

Toyota 4Runner Trail Special Edition

The 4Runner Trail Special Edition starts at $38,315 for rear-wheel-drive models and $40,190 for four-wheel-drive models. This trim has the same standard features as the SR5, but it adds a beverage cooler, a sliding cargo deck, and a Yakima LoadWarrior roof rack.

Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road and TRD Off-Road Premium

The 4Runner TRD Off-Road starts at $40,305, and it comes exclusively with four-wheel drive. This trim shares the SR5’s standard features and adds a crawl control system, a TRD shift knob, and all-weather floor mats. The 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium trim ($43,050) bundles those additions with the SR5 Premium's features.

Toyota 4Runner Venture Special Edition

The 4Runner Venture Special Edition only comes with four-wheel drive, and it starts at $44,620. This trim adds crawl control and a Yakima MegaWarrior roof rack to the SR5 Premium trim’s standard features.

Toyota 4Runner Limited and Nightshade Special Edition

The 4Runner Limited starts at $45,395 for rear-wheel-drive models and $47,430 for four-wheel-drive models. This trim adds genuine leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, a JBL 15-speaker stereo, a power moonroof, front and rear parking sensors, cross-linked shock absorbers (X-REAS suspension), and 20-inch wheels.

The 4Runner Nightshade Special Edition is priced at $46,810 for rear-wheel-drive models and $48,845 for four-wheel-drive models. This trim has the same standard features as the Limited but with the addition of black exterior accents in place of chrome.

Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

The 4Runner TRD Pro starts at $50,470. This trim comes only with four-wheel drive and shares the TRD Off-Road Premium’s standard features. It also comes with an upgraded skid plate, FOX shock absorbers, TRD front springs, a TRD-Pro-specific roof rack, a retro TOYOTA script grille, a JBL stereo, a moonroof, and dual-zone automatic climate control.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Toyota dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Toyota deals page.

See 2021 Toyota 4Runner specs and trims »

The Final Call

Most modern SUVs ascribe to the Swiss Army knife principle. They’re pretty good at doing a lot of things but not exceptional in any one area. The 4Runner fits a different mold. It’s a terrific off-road vehicle, it can easily tow a boat trailer, and it has a sterling reputation for reliability. But in almost all other areas, it trails the midsize SUV competition at a distance. There are better SUV options for those looking to stay on paved roads.

Don't just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The 4Runner provides a mix of considerable off-road capability and generous interior dimensions that enables it to perform as an adventurer’s accomplice. As a family vehicle, though, the 4Runner is not such a slam-dunk. It’s less efficient and less comfortable than the crossovers with which it’s often cross-shopped, and offers fewer of their features. Driving a 4Runner requires sacrificing some day-to-day comfort and convenience for off-road chops and an undeniable coolness factor. So if the wildest place it will ever go is a trailhead parking lot, the 4Runner doesn’t make a lot of sense." -- Autotrader
  • "If your lifestyle and geography favors off-road adventure, the 2020 4Runner is as charming and trustworthy as ever. If your lifestyle leans toward commuting, family chauffeuring, or road trips on the Interstate, well, let’s put it charitably: The 4Runner is not the ideal tool for the job." -- Autoblog (2020)
  • "The 4Runner may seem like a throwback machine on paper, but a certain subset of SUV buyers still seek the combination of performance characteristics it can offer. Toyota is building a very good example of this diminishing breed, and it helps that the automaker continues to add improvements to keep it relevant." -- Edmunds (2020)
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2021 Toyota 4Runner

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