$31,090 - $40,630

2012 Toyota 4Runner Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Toyota 4Runner was new.


Performance: 7.1

While there’s no doubt that the Toyota 4Runner is a competent off-roader, reviewers can’t agree on whether it’s an acceptable commuter as well. Some say it’s refined for a truck-based SUV, while others mention that the 4Runner’s handling is sub-par compared with the competition. Opting for a 4Runner in Trail trim will beef up its already burly off-road capabilities even more, though it diminishes its on-road handling.

  • "Besides ample horsepower and impressive off-road prowess, the 4Runner counts a civilized driving demeanor and a spacious interior among its other strengths.” -- Edmunds
  • "In fact, the 4Runner's commendable on-road behavior impressed (surprised, really) every editor. Sure, its body-on-frame build and live rear axle translated to a rather bouncy ride and some chassis shivers not associated with today's unibody offerings, but its steering was linear and responsive, its brakes stout and easy to modulate, and its balance, in light of its six-foot height, buttoned down." -- Truck Trend
  • "As you might expect, the Trail Edition rides and handles like a 4x4. The suspension permits a fair amount of vibration on the highway; contact with cracks and small imperfections are noticed in the cabin. On the other hand, larger irregularities - washed out dirt roads, speed bumps or dips at intersections - tend to disappear, soaked up by springs, shocks and bushings tuned to handle tough terrain." -- Cars.com
  • "The latest iteration of Toyota's traditional truck-type SUV doesn't make much sense as an on-road vehicle because it handles clumsily, wallows on the highway, and is difficult to get in and out of. Despite its body-on-frame design, it doesn't make much sense as a workhorse because of its unimpressive 5,000-pound maximum towing capacity.” -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

All models come with a 4.0-liter V6 engine that makes 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. It’s mated to a five-speed automatic transmission with manual mode. According to the EPA, two-wheel drive models get 17/23 mpg city/highway, while four-wheel drive models get 17/22 mpg. This is about average for a midsize SUV, especially one that’s truck-based.

Reviewers say that the V6 offers plenty of power no matter the task, so most drivers won’t mind that a V8 engine isn’t available. One reviewer notes that the 4Runner feels a bit sluggish when in Eco mode, though that’s what Eco mode is supposed to do: slow throttle responses and keep the transmission in a higher gear, sacrificing a bit of performance for fuel economy.

  • "Though no V8 engine is offered, the standard V6 provides plenty of grunt and should be suitable for just about any driver.” -- Edmunds
  • "4Runner has sufficient power in any situation. All have an ‘Eco’ mode designed to improve fuel economy. Transmission and throttle response are slightly dull at times with Eco mode enabled, and improve marginally with it disabled.” -- Consumer Guide

Handling and Braking

Reviewers say that depending on your driving preferences, you can use the 4Runner SR5 and 4Runner Limited as daily drivers, though one tester says that the 4Runner’s handling is disappointing. They’re relatively comfortable to drive, and the 4Runner’s light steering effort makes it easier to maneuver around small spaces like parking lots. Keep in mind, though, that the Trail trim is tailored specifically to hard-core off-roading and might make your commute less comfortable.

  • "Cruising around town, the … Toyota 4Runner is surprisingly smooth and comfortable. Despite being built on a truck chassis, there is very little of the bouncy, over-sprung ride you expect from a body-on-frame vehicle capable of serious off-roading.” -- Edmunds
  • "Steering is easy and reasonably accurate in the 4Runner, and it's easy to keep on-center while cruising on the highway. It takes minimal effort to maneuver in tight spaces. We think the 4Runner would readily out-handle and ride more smoothly than most full-size SUVs, but car-based unibody SUVs would be noticeably more precise, with better on-road manners." -- Cars.com
  • "Handling is disappointing, even for a vehicle of this stripe. Body lean is prevalent, even in modest corners. The steering feels sloppy, and nosedive is pronounced, even when braking normally.” -- Consumer Guide


The Toyota 4Runner is a true off-road SUV, especially the Trail trim. Opting for a Trail model will upgrade it with performance features like part-time four-wheel drive and a multi-terrain select knob with rock crawl mode. The 4Runner also comes standard with hill ascent and descent control, which take over the throttle at low speeds so that the driver can concentrate on steering the 4Runner down trails or over obstacles.

Reviewers say that on the trail, the Toyota 4Runner is tough to beat. Though it may be a bit more expensive than other small and midsize off-road SUVs, keep in mind that most of those options don’t offer third-row seating like the 4Runner.

  • "4Runner works as an off-road SUV, albeit one that carries a stiff price tag compared to the similar-purpose Nissan Xterra and slightly smaller Suzuki Grand Vitara.” -- Consumer Guide  

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