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Old 02-01-2007, 07:25 PM   #1
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Thumbs down 2007 Toyota 4Runner SR5 4WD

2007 Toyota 4Runner

+ Spacious Cargo Capacity
+ More Refined than other SUVs
+ Off-Road Capability

- Un-Toyota-like Behavior
- Dumpy FE
- Really Bad Brakes

Introduction: The 4Runner has long since been the icon of reliable, tough Toyota trucks. With that in mind, I may have held it to some higher standards. First off, I get in and it won’t start. It cranks for about 5 seconds (count out loud), sputters, and high-idles (it was about 15F out, but we shouldn’t have to worry about this kind of thing in an ’07 Toyota with 12K miles on the clock). I know it had been driven in the last 24-hours as it wasn’t on the lot as I drove by the day before. So, we’re off to a crummy start already.

You’re probably asking why I had such a gas-guzzler to begin with. You deserve an explanation. Every 3-months or so, I rent a larger vehicle and take the family on a scenic trip through wine country (not California – the other one: Missouri). I could get into the history of why MO is the #2 wine producing State in the U.S., and was #1 before Prohibition, but perhaps upon request. Since the in-Laws’ Civic, or our TSX or Integra aren’t really suited for hauling cases of wine and luggage for 4, I generally rent a larger CAR. Having switched car agencies for work, I get free days at a place where I just can’t go out to the lot and choose one. I booked a Crown-Vic or Toyota Avalon kind of car, and they “upgrade” me to the 4Runner. It’s a small lot and there’s slim pickins. So, off I go. That’s the philosophy – instead of owning an SUV, we rent a larger vehicle when we need it. I get home and need the 4-wheel drive to get up the 5-degree slope on some ice (I didn’t need it, but it was there – what the heck).

Back to the Toyota’s history. Around the world, this vehicle can be found performing rough tasks from the plains of Africa to the Middle-East and on farms in the U.S. I can see this truck with a big “UN” sticker on the side. The four-wheel drive component is a true locking differential with low-range and hill-descent control. You can trace its long history in the U.S. back to 80’s, where you could get one with a 4-cylinder and manual transmission. A lot of those are still on the road today with well over 200,000 miles. What happened? That question is pondered further…

On the Outside:
The exterior looks like any premium SUV with chrome accents and a high stance. Alloy rims give the vehicle an aggressive look with some style. The rest is typical fare.

On the inside: Believe it or not it seats 7 people with its 1/1-3-1/1 arrangement (more like 4 adults and 2 pets). The 2 rear “seats” essentially sit on the floor and are suited for kids. These were promptly removed as they are right in the cargo bay. I will say that the removal of the jumpseats are simple and were quite light-weight. Replacement was as easy as removal.

The 4Runner contains little things here and there that do impress. There’s no need to slam the tailgate – a light push engages a motorized locking mechanism. A trip computer with Avg. MPG was included, as was automatic climate control (why does climate control always turn on the A/C? Nearly every vehicle driven with this system does this. If you don’t notice it, it’ll wreck a decent tank if you didn’t intend on it kicking-on when the sun heats-up the cabin). Speaking of Climate Control – what’s up with this quasi-futuristic “3-propeller” design?

I chalked it up to Toyota truck-ness. A carry-over is the rear window that slides up and down at the touch of a button. Anyways, the seats were comfortable for all passengers and conveniences like a small shelf in the console...

...and conveniently located power points were nice. Judging by the classy exterior, I guess I expected a little more from the interior. Instead, it looked like they took a standard pickup, enclosed it, and put some fancy touches here-and-there. The truck roots showed through.

The drive: This is where everything goes haywire. Don’t get me wrong….it does cruise along the Interstate with a soft ride, and toodles around town with relative ease, but secondary roads and rough streets remind you that this is indeed a truck. On the plus-side, the 4-Liter VVT-i V-6 pulled with minimal fuss and was more than suited for the job. A V-8 is available in case even more power is required (probably for towing or pulling a house off its foundation – stuff like that).

I have to explain the braking comment in the “Plus and Minus” section. The braking system is perhaps the worst tested. There were 2 incident reports to file:

1. Proceeding down “Main St.” in a small town, a vehicle started backing out of an angled parking spot and wasn’t stopping (blocked view). We were traveling at about 20-25 mph when instinct took over and I hit the brakes. I trust the brakes better than the horn, so a hard stop ensued. The ABS kicked-in as it should, but then it began to buck and lurch about 2-3 times. Pedal feel was spongy and no feedback was given as to why this happened. There were passenger comments like “what was that”, and “now I have a headache”. I blame a faulty ABS design on a large vehicle or the stability control not interpreting the situation properly. I’ve had safer emergency stops in the Chevy Trailblazer and Ford Explorer (both with similar systems).

2. We must’ve had a huge bulls-eye on the side, as another vehicle incursion was imminent. Our vehicle speed: 30-35 mph. Bogey 2 o-clock: an old Caprice Classic that flew around a corner and wasn’t about to stop as it came towards our roadway (they were supposed to stop, but it looked like a movie chase scene with no chaser). I hit the brakes as hard as I could and sounded the horn while the Caprice slid into the intersection. The 4Runner took it’s time slowing down and didn’t modulate well at all – a lighter vehicle would’ve stopped sooner and I wouldn’t have had to go into the opposing lane. So now we’re all stopped and everything in the back is now up front (except for the belted passengers). The Caprice driver must’ve been running from something as he put his head down and stayed put. I figured that we had better get the heck out of there, so off we went. Passenger comments: “This has to go in your review” and “I can’t wait to hear about the brakes in the write-up”. The fam rarely takes an interest my “gassavin’ stuff”, but felt the need to include voice their concerns for this vehicle’s design (when all 4 of us agree on a vehicles problems, then it has to be reported). Another moral of the story is just to keep an eye out while driving – if we didn’t stop, items from the “Safety” column would have deployed. Crash tests show that the passengers on that side may have faired badly, and may have caused a rollover with all of its fun injuries included.

Like the seatbelt tensioners. A great idea: but not when they tug at your belt every time you shut off the vehicle. Traction and Stability control was provided and kicked-in now-and-then as indicated by the blinking “!”.

I really tried to drive efficiently on hills but the mass just outweighed that option. Back roads required considerable input on both the braking and accelerator sides. Steering was actually pretty good, but the most fun was fording a stream (an entrance to a winery – but I recall the Malibu Maxx doing the same thing).

In total, the driving experience is more refined until evasive action is required.

Safety: In crash tests, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 4-Runner a “Good” rating in all tests. The gub’ment tested it and gave it 5-stars of 5 for the side-impact and 4/5 for frontal offset. Rollovers are still a concern – traction/stability control is standard, standard front and optional side curtain airbags for the first 2 rows are available (so if the Caprice got too close). Seatbelt tensioners were there and you knew it.

Efficiency: (or lack thereof). With a 10-mph tailwind and 65-70 mph, the MPG-O-meter nearly hit 24 mpg, but cutting into 20-mph headwinds and the hills of the Ozarks took its toll down to 20.3.

Conclusion: I won’t be renting this again, if at all possible. Too many quirks, too inefficient, and doesn’t suit the purpose. Perhaps it would be a good beater farm truck in 15-years, or if you need to do some serious off-roading like mountain rescue. It did come with “Hill Decent Control and Climb” which automatically holds the vehicle at a crawl down slippery surfaces or up hills similarly. So I can see this serving a purpose other than “Mall Runner” – but 90%+ of U.S. buyers won’t.

Raw Data:

Model: 2007 Toyota 4Runner
Trim: SR5 4WD
EPA Class: Special-Purpose Vehicle - S.U.V. - 4WD
Transmission: 5-Speed Automatic with LUTC
Engine: DOHC, 24-valve, 4.0L V-6 with variable valve timing (VVT-i), rated at 236 HP, and 266 lb-ft torque
Drivetrain: 4WD with low-range (RWD 2-Hi)
Gross Weight: 5520 lb.
EPA: 17/19/21
GasSavers Tested Mileage: 20.3 MPG
Gallons Consumed: Too many
Speed Avg: 50 MPH
Miles: ~530
Ambient Outside Temp: 15-35F
FE Conclusion: Insert your own comments here. It held up to the EPA, but that’s all I’m saying.

For the Hypermiler: Forget about it. (Unless you have a farm or you’re part of the UN special envoy)


rh77 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 02-02-2007, 03:00 PM   #2
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Nice review! I miss those older 4cyl 5 spd toyota trucks. I guess they still sell the tacoma with a 4cyl?
I was just driving a suv today...a 99 Grand cherokee with 4.0 I-6, with 2 goats in the back over a mountain pass, average speed about 45, squeezed 23.0 indicated MPG out of it.
It is kind of depressing, even if you try and hypermile them, you maybe squeeze an extra 4 MPG out of them. I guess that does turn out to be a fair amount of gas saved.

I hate those climate controls that automatically turn on the A/C. My parent's 06 civic hybrid does that. It seems like their mpg has gone up about 4 since I told them about that wonderful feature.

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Old 02-07-2007, 06:20 AM   #3
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4mpg is a pretty large %-wise gain at lower FE numbers.

The auto climate controlls run the AC to keep the cabin air dehumidified. Think large office building - they typically run AC to remove humidity then heat to the desired temp as well. Perhaps in the future we'll see in-car humidity sensors to reduce automatic AC use?
Cadillac put an "auto-econ" setting on their climate controll in the mid 70's that would leave the AC off. Not been in a new one to see if it is still there.

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Old 02-07-2007, 11:48 AM   #4
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Just the A/C Button

Originally Posted by BluEyes View Post
4mpg is a pretty large %-wise gain at lower FE numbers.

The auto climate controlls run the AC to keep the cabin air dehumidified. Think large office building - they typically run AC to remove humidity then heat to the desired temp as well. Perhaps in the future we'll see in-car humidity sensors to reduce automatic AC use?
Cadillac put an "auto-econ" setting on their climate controll in the mid 70's that would leave the AC off. Not been in a new one to see if it is still there.
For GM lately, from the Corvette to the Cobalt, and in-between -- auto climate control engages the A/C on every start -- they've kept just the A/C button to disengage -- no econ setting unfortunately.

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Old 07-17-2009, 11:16 PM   #5
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It's a good looking car and very competent, an off road hauler just enough to win over customers. The most interesting features for me was the third-row foldaway 50/50 split fold-down removable seats, silver and black wood-grain-style interior trim and its remote keyless entry system with rear window power-down operation. But, I just don't like the electronic rear hatch locking system I find it very unreliable.

Btw, I was having hard times looking for a very cheap toyota parts, partly looking for toyota discount parts. any ideas? thanks.
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Old 08-29-2009, 01:51 AM   #6
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Nice review. That car is marketed here (Australia) as the "Landcruiser Prado", but isn't offered with the V8.

My father has the previous generation model of the Landcruiser Prado with a 3.4 V6 petrol auto. Driving without concern for economy, it can dip into the 10-11L/100kms on the highway (22-23MPG), in the city with a bit of boat towing, anywhere between around 13-18MPG. Good thing it has 150L (40 gallons) of tank capacity.

It also has a very firm ride over ruts and corrugations.
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Old 07-20-2010, 11:59 PM   #7
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Nice review. Ive always liked the 4 runners sorry to see you had a bad experience with them.


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