$11,566 - $15,895

2009 Toyota 4Runner Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Toyota 4Runner was new.


Performance: 8.3

While reviewers complained about the 2009 4Runner's below-average fuel economy, they raved about the V6 and available V8 engines. Another plus is the smooth handling, which reviewers described as refined and sophisticated. Test drivers were especially impressed with the 4Runner's off-road capabilities.

  • "Despite being based on a traditional truck platform, the 2009 Toyota 4Runner exhibits a very civilized, smooth and controlled ride. When fitted with the X-REAS suspension, the 4Runner delivers reasonably tight and responsive handling. Perhaps more impressive is its off-road ability, as 4WD 4Runners can overcome steep obstacles and navigate wilderness trails with relative ease." -- Edmunds 
  • "We drove V8-equipped 4Runners on roads around the Oregon coast, in both 4x2 and 4x4 configuration. They felt smooth and powerful on both pavement and dirt tracks, and though we didn't have boats or trailers in tow, there seemed to be plenty of grunt to spare." -- AutoWeek 
  • "The Sport Edition gains a new Trail Edition option package, which adds a locking rear differential, 16-inch alloy wheels, Bilstein shocks, tubular side rails, A-TRAC active traction control, and color-keyed handles and grille." -- Car Gurus
  • "Copes well with small bumps, but rough surfaces cause bounce and aftershock jiggle typical of traditional truck-type SUVs. The sport suspension is only a tad stiffer." -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

Under the hood, the 4Runner packs a 4.0-liter, 236-horsepower V6 engine. A more powerful 4.7-liter, 260-horsepower V8 engine is available on all models. Power is excellent from either engine, but fuel economy is less than impressive. According to the EPA, the base two-wheel drive 4Runner achieves 16/21 mpg city/highway, while the four-wheel drive model with the V8 engine achieves only 14/17 mpg. The only transmission available is a five-speed automatic, which most reviewers described as a smooth shifter.

  • "The V6 is more than adequate for most needs, while the V8 has ample, ready power. Both are abetted by a smooth, responsive transmission." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The V6 provides adequate power and torque, but if more potent acceleration is desired, the V8 hits the spot." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "From a standstill, a tap of the gas pedal sends this SUV practically lunging ahead. Acceleration while passing and merging is wholly confident." -- Cars.com
  • "Whether you choose the V6 or the optional V8, power is plentiful -- more than enough to satisfy heavy-footed drivers. If substantial towing capability is required, opting for the V8 is a wise choice; otherwise, the more-fuel-efficient V6 will easily manage any other situation." -- Edmunds  
  • "The 4Runner's V6 is more than adequate to move this vehicle with gusto. For those who need to tow a heavy trailer, the V8 makes perfect sense, but it does use more gas." -- Kelley Blue Book   

Handling and Braking

Critics said the 4Runner rides better than many truck-based SUVs, though it can't match the car-like handling of the crossovers in its class.

  • "It drives like the sophisticated and refined sport-utility vehicle it is. For its class, the 4Runner defines state of the art." -- Car and Driver
  • "Heavy and tall, so cornering lean is marked. Sport's suspension trims it a bit, but all models tend to bob and weave on imperfect pavement. The steering is nicely weighted. Strong brakes are easy to modulate." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The ride in the 4Runner still conveys a bounce now and then on rough off-road terrain and on uneven road pavement ... I felt subtle vibrations and jiggles over road bumps, but none was harsh." -- MSN


In four-wheel-drive trim, the 4Runner nets a ground clearance of 9.1 inches. But reviewers were pleased with the 4Runner's performance off the beaten track, even from two-wheel-drive models.

  • "We found the two-wheel-drive models impressively capable on rugged terrain; indeed, a 2WD 4Runner is more capable off-road than many all-wheel-drive SUVs." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "Taken off-road, this Toyota SUV is right at home, tackling steep passes with little drama and delivering an almost luxurious ride even on rutted trails." -- Edmunds

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