Back in the 1990s, the Toyota 4Runner was the offroad SUV to get. Everyone wanted one. Over the thirty years or so of its existence, the 4Runner has been a great offroad machine, a capable people mover, and a popular sport utility. In its more recent renditions, however, it’s a truck that often seems to have been left behind.
The 2013 Toyota 4Runner Limited has a lot going for it: great heritage, a body-on-frame pickup truck build, a more than capable engine, and a look that isn’t too boxy but doesn’t have that “offroad wannabe” swayback of a crossover. It retains some of the throwback goodies that are only appreciated when they’re taken away, like the sliding back window, fat, old-school climate control knobs, and the like. It does not, however, retain its former offroad prowess except in the Trail package and it definitely does not have some of the more premium creature comforts that today’s crossovers in this price range usually sport.
The Limited edition is the 4Runner’s premium package and for the 2013 4Runner, it means it has all of the top fittings that Toyota has to offer in this midsized SUV. Sadly, this includes some cheap-feeling plastic, clunky control surfaces, and weird ergonomics. The window controls are high up on the door sill where they’re guaranteed to get wet when the window’s down and it rains and where you have to lift your arm high to get to them. It also means that if you’re a “hang your arm out the door” guy like me, you’ll inadvertently swipe buttons as well. Worse, without the extra suspension goodies and better tires of the Trail edition, the Limited has less than good offroad ability and becomes a bobsled in mud and on ice.
Interestingly, the tradeoffs seem to have been made in the 4Runner Limited in order to improve highway driving and passenger comfort. In this regard, the Limited package is a smooth driver that rides very well and keeps those inside comfortable. This, of course, is what most crossovers can do very well too. The only reason it’s worth noting in the 4Runner is because it’s not a crossover, it’s still a truck-based SUV.
The 4Runner is boxed in by crossovers, with the small (and very well done) 2013 Toyota RAV4 below it and the well-appointed and refined 2013 Toyota Highlander above it. The 4Runner itself is based on the chassis of the very capable Tacoma pickup truck, but the added rear box to make it an SUV means a higher center of gravity and much different driving ergonomics.
As a people mover, the 4Runner works well in some respects, but fails in many others. It is high and hard to climb into for small children and those with less mobility than average. The third row is optional, but fit only for young teenagers and children. The 21 mpg on the highway (2013 4Runner Limited with full-time 4WD) gets expensive quickly as well. Cargo space is cavernous, though, and interior space in the front and second row is excellent.
All in all, it seems that the 2013 Toyota 4Runner Limited has become a little confused about where exactly it fits in the scheme of things. Competition from the very few true SUVs left on the market largely outclasses all but the Trail edition offroad and the comfortable people movers are all crossovers now, sporting better economy and superior passenger ergonomics.
In the 2014 model year, the 4Runner improves in ergonomics and highway drive, so perhaps Toyota is considering the crossover route for the SUV.
The 2013 Toyota 4Runner Limited 4×4 was driven as a manufacturer’s press loan for about a week. A total of 342 miles were put on the truck in that time and driving conditions included town, city, highway, and freeway driving in dry, wet, and frosted (icy) conditions in Southeastern Wyoming.