It’s been an interesting winter to say the very least. Colorado’s been doling out foot thick blankets of snow, freezing rain and 70 degree weather interchangeably and within a weeklong time period on the regular. Perfect weather for a weeklong review period in a brand spankin’ new 2013 Toyota 4Runner Limited, not good for much else.
The 2013 version of the 4Runner brings an improved interior with attractive lighting and a new gauge cluster. Projector headlamps, LED tail-lamps and new front-end treatments for the Trail and SR5 join another new front end for the top-of-the-line Limited, which gets a big, chrome moustache. I’m not sure how I feel about the front end to be honest, it’s hard to tell if it’s tough looking or frowning at me. Regardless, I would say it’s a much needed upgrade. Both the Limited and SR5 can be configured with three rows of seats, but the third row will have you wishing for more legroom and more trunk space simultaneously.
The refreshed 2013 4Runner that arrived at my door was the more luxurious Limited model, which comes with full-time 4WD and a lockable, Torsen center-differential, compared to the transfer case and part-time 4WD on other 4Runner models. The new, softer interior surfaces, chrome finishes and leather seating trick you into thinking this truck is soft, it is not.
Standard power for the 2013 4Runner lineup, a variable-valve-timed (VVT) 4.0-liter V6 engine, remains unchanged from last year. Mated with the standard 5-speed automatic transmission, the surprisingly powerful six-banger puts out 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque, and remains estimated to get 17 mpg city/22 highway in RWD editions and 17/21 in 4WD-equipped variants. Towing maxes out at 4,700 pounds with the standard Class II hitch and wiring.
The base 4Runner SR5 sports standard 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, a roof rack (new for 2013), heated power-adjustable mirrors and skid plates outside to go with its controversial, to say it politely, new look. The SR5 interior, however, remains a palace of cloth upholstery and hard plastic, not a bad thing if you’re really looking for an off-road friend. Upgraded leather and simulated alloy cabin accents are complemented by cruise control, telescoping tilt-wheel steering, a remote garage door opener and rear parking sensors. The center stack houses manually operated air conditioning and a single-CD player with 8 speakers and satellite radio with Entune infotainment and smartphone apps available via a USB connection. Bluetooth hands-free calling also comes standard.
The midlevel 4Runner Trail comes with essentially the same standard equipment as the SR5, with the addition of standard 4WD and a driver-selectable CRAWL system boasting automatic throttle and braking control for heavy-duty off-road travel. In addition, Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, with its articulated suspension technology allows the Trail to tackle some serious rock climbing.
The highest-end of the group, 4Runner Limited gets all the family goodies as well as 20-inch aluminum wheels, leather upholstery, heated power-adjustable front seats, auto dual-zone climate control and suspension damping.
With the differential locked in 4-High, splitting the torque 50/50 to the front and rear wheels the truck powered over a good 16 inches of powder covering another 2 inches of frozen rain during a nice excursion to the foothills outside of Denver. I was never once in fear of getting stuck and never once in jeopardy of scratching the brand new $45,000 SUVs fresh paint job with an inadvertent sideways slide into a tree, something which cannot be said for the CJ that I passed on the way up. The 4Runner also handled more ordinary driving with ease; interstate driving was smooth, comfortable and predictable, there’s plenty of power for safe merging and uphill jaunts, even inner-city driving was a breeze. Even fuel economy proved respectable thanks to the V6 and five-speed automatic transmission.
A lot of the appeal of the 4Runner, is that it remains one of the last of its breed. An unadulterated, true to form SUV. This isn’t a lifted Camry, because Toyota hasn’t yet sold their soul to make it a unibody Mall Runner. The 4Runner remains a body-on-frame SUV. You pay for it a bit with its more truck-like ride, but when it comes to durability and off-road capability you’ll be oh so very thankful.