2011 Toyota 4Runner SR5 - Rear

I recently spent 8 days in Wyoming on a fly-fishing trip – each day, we drove several hours each way to different streams in the area, often going up & down mountains, going off-road, and cramming our car full of 5 guys and an abundance of fly fishing gear. We knew we’d need a tough SUV for our needs, and were able to acquire a 2011 Toyota 4Runner SR5 for a relatively cheap car hire fee through the rental car place at the airport. Spending a lot of time in the 4Runner gave me plenty of time to get to know the car, especially the 4 hours I spent sitting in the middle of the back seat going up and down switchbacks!

So after 8 days of abuse & over 1,000 miles added to the odomoter – how did it hold up & what did we think of it?

In a sentence:

It’s a very competent SUV with no major flaws, plenty of power, and a decent interior – it’s not perfect, but for $30k it’s pretty darn good.

Major Likes of the 4Runner SR5:

  • Plenty of legroom, headroom and trunk space
  • Can handle most moderate off-roading fine
  • Decent gas mileage for an SUV (17 city, 23 hwy)
  • Party Mode
  • Quiet ride for a body on frame SUV
  • Good electronics & driver display layout
  • Ability to select your gear for towing or going up/down mountains

Major Dislikes of the 4Runner SR5:

  • Exterior styling – it looks like an over-styled box
  • Back seat space & ergonomics
  • Switching into 4 Low or 4 High is a bit tricky at first

Next we’ll dive deeper into some of these areas…

Offroad capability:
End of Road Sign
We did a fair amount of driving off the paved road, often on trails or through fields. The car did great in these situations. We bottomed out once, but it was just a minor scrape on the rear bumper. For the most part, you can just set the car in 4-Low and just take things slowly through the really rough stuff, and then keep the car in regular drive mode for the rest. While the iconic Explorer and many other SUVs are ditching the body-on-frame approach for the more fuel-efficient & car-like dynamics of a unibody approach, the 4Runner remains true to its roots as an off-road capable SUV, and not a crossover playing dress up as one.


Toyota 4Runner Party ModePerhaps the group’s favorite item was Party Mode – a button that amplifies the stereo out the back gate, perfect for tail gating or just providing some tunes after a long day of fishing. Overall, the electronics and center counsel display were great, easy-to-use, and perfectly acceptable equipment for a $30k SUV.

Rear Seat Space:

Toyota 4Runner SR5The rear seat is great for two people, even if they’re two 6+ foot tall men. When you add a third person to the mix, things get really uncomfortable. The middle seat is very tight, and you’re not going to be comfortable no matter how small the person is sitting there.

The rear seat also gets dinged for lack of cupholders (there are some in the doors, but they’re not easily accessible) and for the arm rests on the doors being too short.

For most people, this won’t matter, but if you have 5 passengers, you might want to consider a SUV another size up like the Sequoia.


Toyota 4Runner SR5
To me, the biggest gripe about this car has to be the styling. While you can still recognize style cues from the previous generation 4Runner, they managed to take everything good about the old model’s styling and ruin it. In my opinon, they tried to make it both boxy (to look rugged) and edgy & stylized (so it didn’t look too boxy & boring), and managed to fail at both.

In a way, the car reminds me of an older women that has had too much plastic surgery – after a while, the plastic surgery starts to look un-natural and strange, which I think is also true of the exterior styling of the 2011 4Runner.

Power & Handling:

Toyota 4Runner SR5 Badge
Despite the 4Runner being a 4,400 lb body-on-frame SUV, it had plenty of power and handled exceptional well with just a 270 horsepower V6 engine. It got great gas mileage all things considered, had a quiet & smooth ride, and did just fine going up and down the mountains. The car handled confidently and no one in our party had any complaints about the power or handling, which says a lot given we were a group of otherwise highly opinionated folk.


The 4Runner is a great truck capable of handling a lot. If you’ve got 4 people who seek adventure, it’s a great bet for the price range.

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