The Toyota 4Runner has a boxy form with a wide stance, with wide fenders to suggest muscularity. The wheelwells are squared off and generously sized for larger tires, like the FJ Cruiser. The bumpers add a sense of heft. Roof rails are standard on all models, emphasizing the 4Runner's potential as a recreational gear transporter.
Projection-beam headlights lend a technical appearance, with high-tech taillights distinguished by unusually conspicuous lens bulges. The effect is contemporary, advanced, and yet in keeping with 4Runner's five-generation tradition of body-on-frame construction.
The Trail Edition is styled to project rugged good looks, a sense of mystery, and a sporting nature. It has a sporty hood scoop, blacked-out mirrors and bumpers, and a dark smoke treatment on the headlights and tail lights.
Trail Edition and SR5 have similarly styled overfenders and mud guards, and both have 17-inch alloy wheels as standard equipment, although each grade has its own distinctive wheel. On the SR5, there is greater use of chrome accents, and the roof rack is silver with black end caps. Heated exterior mirrors have turn signal indicators and puddle lamps.
The Limited comes on lower-profile P245/60R20 tires mounted on 20-inch alloy wheels. All models come with a full-size spare, and the Limited has a matching alloy spare. Like the SR5 and Trail grade, the Limited has a rear spoiler that houses the rear wiper, keeping it tucked away when not in use.
The Toyota 4Runner interior was designed with an eye toward practicality, comfort, and utility. All rows are relatively roomy. The cabin is trimmed in textured materials with silver trim accents, creating a modern, high-tech environment.
The steering wheel is thick, with a technical four-spoke design. The instrument cluster is bright with large dials. The standard three-gauge cluster combines orange-numeral speedometer and tachometer with temperature and fuel meters; on Trail and Limited, white-numeral Optitron gauges are used. All grades share an accessory meter that displays time, average fuel consumption, range, compass direction, and outside temperature.
An automatic dual-zone climate controlled air conditioning system is standard on the Limited; SR5 and Trail Edition have manual climate control.
Three 12-volt outlets are located in the glove box, the center console sack, and the cargo area. Optional 120-volt AC outlets, useful for charging batteries or running appliances at the campsite, are located in the center console box and cargo area.
On the Trail Edition, there is an overhead panel with two dials that house the Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select System. The Trail Edition gets water-resistant seat fabric in a charcoal gray color.
The front seats in the 4Runner are comfortable and supportive, with a lot of adjustability. The standard SR5 cloth seat adjusts six ways manually; Trail and Limited models get eight-way power adjustments. Limited features flawless leather, heated seats. Active headrests are standard for all front seats. The seats are easily wide enough for an average-size body, with low bolsters on the seat cushion and taller side bolstering on the seat back. We found they provide cornering support on winding roads, without making the driver's seat hard to get into. The leather seating material on our Limited was conspicuously fragrant, and remarkably free of blemishes or imperfections.
Second-row seats fold completely flat to maximize interior cargo area. With everything folded flat, cargo volume is just short of 90 cubic feet, or 88.8 cubic feet on models with third-row seating.
The third-row seating is functional for everyday use. The seats are realistically sized and there's a livable amount of space. Access to the third row is made easier with second-row seats split into a 40/20/40 configuration, so it's possible to enter the third row from either side using a one-touch walk-in feature.
The rear hatch has a power window that can be controlled from an interior switch, or at the rear door using the key. By lowering the window, efficient flow-through ventilation becomes possible. Not many vehicles have this feature these days. We tried the retractable rear tailgate window underway. By opening the vents in the front, and cracking the rear window, a real breeze can be allowed to flow from front to rear. On a nice day, it might be the best ventilation system of any SUV, as airflow is maximized and wind noise is minimal, much less than from a sunroof. Smokers love it, and it can be handy when hauling smelly cargo, such as a wet dog, dead fish, a deer, fertilizer, tires.
Three audio systems are available for 2012. Standard on both SR5 and Trail models is an AM/FM/CD/MP3 system with eight speakers, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, USB port with iPod connectivity, hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth.
Standard on Limited, and optional on the other models, is a 6.1-inch touch-screen audio/navigation system that incorporates an integrated backup camera display; all of the features of the standard audio system; plus HD Radio with iTunes Tagging, vehicle information with customizable settings; phonebook access; advanced voice recognition; and text-to-voice with programmed and customizable text responses. Also included is Toyota Entune, a collection of popular mobile applications and data services, with three years of complimentary access. Once a smart phone is connected to the vehicle using Bluetooth or a USB cable, Entune's features are operated using the 4Runner's controls or, for some services, by voice recognition. Entune offers mobile apps for Bing, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, and Pandora; while Entune data services include a fuel price guide, sports scores, stocks, traffic and weather.
The third system, optional on Limited only, combines all of the above with a premium 15-speaker JBL sound system.