2013 Toyota 4Runner Trail review: Last before the facelift

2013 Toyota 4Runner Trail

2013 Toyota 4Runner Trail

There was a time when the Toyota 4Runner was lean and lanky, yet like many of us, the 4Runner has become—not fat, but bigger and more accustomed to the nicer things.

Why? Because it can. Buyers wanted the taller roofline and more commodious interior, not the lower roof of a sportwagon-on-a-truck-frame of the earlier 4Runners. Yet for all its sophistication, the Toyota 4Runner still shares the unfashionable SUV boxed-frame foundation with the Toyota FJ Cruiser and Toyota Tacoma.

That helps assure a rugged off-road persona—though Jeep has used a unit-body for the Jeep Grand Cherokee for years—but it’s still retrotech.

2013 Toyota 4Runner Trail driver seat view

The lever-type transfer case shift was replaced by a switch-type on the 2013 Toyota 4Runner. (click to enlarge)

That’s likely to continue for  some time, and the facelift due for the 2014 model year won’t change things much. We’ll report on that shortly. In the meantime, a quick look at the last of the 2013 Toyota 4Runners.

Like our review of the 2011 Toyota 4Runner, our current tester was a Trail trim level, between the base 2013 SR5, listing at $31,490 and the premium $41,030 2013 Limited models, though set off a bit to the sport/off-road side.  (For that matter, the 4Runner is just one of seven SUV/crossovers–including for example the Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Highlander–on your friendly Toyota dealer’s lot).

The primary elements haven’t changed since two years ago. The 4Runner Trail is still, to borrow a phrase from Jeep, trail ready, even if, to borrow a site that Jeep made famous, not if that trail is the Rubicon. Most wouldn’t try to take your almost $40,000 4Runner down that gauntlet of boulders. Of course, a Jeep Grand Cherokee would be unlikely to emerge unscathed from such an adventure either. However, the likelihood of the owner of either of these vehicles to take them there is about the same as discovering your next door neighbors are really Martians after all.

Toyota 4Runner Trail engine

2013 Toyota 4Runner Trail has an increasing uncommon view under the hood, longitudinally-mounted engine. (click to enlarge)

The average driver, then, is more likely to be concerned with more mundane subjects, such as a change for the 2013 model year, replacing the lever-type control for the transfer case to a switch-type control. Macho types will regret it. No one else will.

Beyond that, yes, there’s still a lot of room inside. The seats are comfy, front and rear, and the driver’s controls easy to use.

A third row of seats is optional. Our tester wasn’t so equipped. We believe it’s the kind of thing that if you don’t really plan to use it, it’s best just to pass by. Sounds obvious, of course, but it’s an extra expense for something that will seldom be used and won’t be that cheerful place for anyone other than pint-sized passengers.

All trim levels of the Toyota 4Runner come with a standard sliding cargo deck which, naturally enough, is a cargo deck that slides out to make loading cargo easier. Just lift stuff on and roll it in. Perhaps, but it’s one of those things that’s not necessary and, like just about everything, will eventually cause problems. But that’s long after the original owner passes it along, so…

2013 Toyota 4Runner Trail cargo compartment

The sliding load floor, shown here extended, is standard on all trim levels of the 2013 Toyota 4Runner. (click to enlarge)

But thanks to a rear seat bottom that tips forward against the front seatbacks, with the rear seatback folding to where it was, combined with the sliding load floor, the cargo floor is a flat surface from tailgate to front seats. That’s a real bonus, making large items easy to load.

Despite its off-road cred, the 2013 Toyota 4Runner is smooth on the highway and quiet enough for conversation with backs seat passengers, or to enjoy the premium audio. Our test 4Runner Trail was equipped with the $995 Display Audio and Entune and Navigation package which includes an integrated rear-view camera (a real boon with a vehicle this size), just about every kind of device plug-in you could imagine, satellite radio, and excellent navigation system with a 6.1-screen on which to see it all.