Monday, May 20, 2013
- The 2010 Toyota 4Runner SR5 hadn't been in my possession for even 24 hours before I found myself taking advantage of its capabilities, doing something I'd never have considered doing in a car or most crossovers.
Toyota 4Runner 2010
The 4Runner is neither. It is a rugged and robust, midsize, body-on-frame SUV.
It also is one of the most enduring and venerated vehicles in that class. First introduced in 1984, it helped launch the SUV boom of the 1990s. The redesigned 2010 model represents the fifth generation of this Toyota truck.
SUVs such as 4Runner are a dying breed. Some models have disappeared, and sales of those that remain in production have dropped dramatically. There are far fewer on the road than just a few years ago, when it seemed like three out of four vehicles was a conventional SUV.
But the 4Runner remains and remains true to its heritage. It is as rugged and capable as ever, a fact that Toyota stylists seemed to flaunt for the 2010 redesign. Instead of getting sleeker, the 4Runner has muscled up. Instead of the graceful curves and sinuous lines that characterize most crossovers, it has prominent fender flares and other bulges that make it appear anxious for any abuse a driver cares to throw at it.
With its rigid frame and hardy suspension -- there are heavy-duty shocks with double-wishbones up front and a four-link, coil-spring rigid rear -- 4Runner is much more capable than most vehicles of straying far from paved roads and civilization.
It didn't take long before I capitalized on those capabilities. Approaching a traffic light, I found myself in a right lane separated from the left by one of those small concrete berms whose purpose is often as much a nuisance as a mystery.
Since there were no other vehicles in sight and a left turn at the intersection would save me about a mile of circuitous driving, I guided the4Runner up and over the berm.
In truth, the hurdle was less formidable than some unpaved driveways. The berm was low enough to make some curbs seem like Mount Everest by comparison.
But the sense of satisfaction I got from crossing it in the 4Runner was incomparable. I had defied "the man" and stood up for the downtrodden by overcoming one of society's injustices. I'd righted a wrong, using Toyota's 4Runner as my weapon.
Of course that's all a crock, but it made me feel as if I'd at least taken some advantage of what 4Runner does best. With no snow to be found, no trailer to tow and no time to explore unpaved wilderness, that's the closest I came to doing so.
Other than the time I drove the 4Runner down a rough cobblestone street at 20 mph. I know that doesn't seem like a big deal but, hey, it's about 15 mph faster than I would have driven the road in a compact car.
None of this is meant to be facetious. About 15 years ago, I attended a scientific presentation that credited the popularity of SUVs to the feelings of invincibility and unstoppability they give drivers.
When gas prices soared past four bucks a gallon, impracticality overcame unstoppability. Although Toyota did a nice job of boosting fuel economy in the new 4Runner -- its 17 city/22 highway is pretty good for a powerful 4x4 truck and significantly better than the 14 city/20 highway of a similarly robust, recently tested Nissan Pathfinder -- it's not as good as most midsize crossovers.
Of course most crossovers lack the 4Runner's 5,000-pound towing capacity, multi-mode four-wheel drive system that can churn through muck and mud, and automated system that makes it easy to descend safely down steep inclines and prevent backsliding when starting up precarious slopes.
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Toyota 4Runner 2010