For those of you that know us personally, you likely know that this has been coming for quite some time. For those that only follow the Seven Slot Syndicate blog or other social media stuff, it may come as quite a surprise that our next project vehicle is a Toyota.
There are lots of reasons for this, but the largest is the fact that it wasn’t until very recently that Jeep reintroduced a fleet vehicle package. This is why my last company car was also not a Jeep… With the 4-Runner’s high residual value (similar to the Jeep Wrangler), and Toyota having a fleet offering the decision was pretty clear. The 4-Runner suits our personal uses very well, and was the most bang for the buck.
Additionally, (this may be tough for many die-hard Jeeple to read) Jeep doesn’t really have a vehicle that is well suited for overlanding. Stay with me here; The Wrangler is great on the trail and it’s pretty easy to build it up, but it’s horribly lacking when it comes to storage and gear space. This lack of storage space hold true in about every model, with the possible exception being the Grand Cherokee. While I love the Grand Cherokee, it’s not overly supported by aftermarket and is a little too fancy for us to want to push it into the deep woods and be miles off the grid with. What Jeep desperately needs is a full framed larger capacity SUV or small truck. I know Jeep is finally working on the latter, but Toyota has had this for years and if you can put aside some Jeep arrogance they are pretty good at it.
I know for many of you I’m pushing the word count, so check out the video below which is a quick run-down of Road Runner….
If you are still with me and are interested in a mit more info and thoughts, I’ll break it down for you! ~ 😛
Driving & Handling
The 4-Runner’s general road manners are very similar to a stock JKU. Steering is light and very responsive. My initial thoughts on the suspension was that it was quite firm, but this seems to be settling in and softening and with ~1400 miles now on it is very nice. While some bumps and holes on the interstate are more harsh than in Klondike, washboards and gravel roads seem to be vastly smoother.
All in all, I really like how the 4-Runner drives. If I were to make any complaint in this area it would be directed at the brakes. They are certainly capable of stopping… but the pedal is VERY touchy. I am finding it very difficult to make smooth stops. An issue worsened after a drive in Dirty that really could use a bit more braking power.
The engine performance is adequate, but nothing amazing. I can see why it is recommended by many to do a gear swap when running more than a 33″ tire. In truth, I think it could use a bit more gearing stock.
So far, it’s far better than I had imagined… I’m averaging between 19.8 and 21.3 MPG with a mix of highway and city (slightly biased toward highway). On one rural road commute (60 MPH) I saw as high as 23 and change.
Given this and the fuel capacity, I am seeing real world ranges north of 400 miles. Another HUGE advantage when it comes to overlanding.
I’ll also point out that this is the first vehicle I have ever been in that it’s calculated versus my measures fuel economy actually matched! If anything, The vehicle’s average has been 0.1 MPG less. Every Jeep I have ever owned or driven lied about it’s economy, always reporting better than actual.
Interior and Storage
As I mentioned in the video and to put it simply, it’s amazing! From legroom to cargo space, it’s all plentiful.
While this may skirt more on tech… It is a total bummer that all of the rear accessory outlets are only powered while the ignition is on. When it comes to travel and overlanding, this is one that goes to Jeep. Our Wrangler came from the factory with full time powered accessory outlets, and the Cherokee only needed a fuse location swap to accommodate this. I haven’t fully investigated this, but I think I will need to run a new power source entirely for the Yota.
Seat comfort is not as good as either of our Jeeps, but it’s not bad either. I was able to make a 5 hour drive comfortably. It did take some fiddling with the seat adjustments to get here though.
Tech is where The 4-Runner is VERY lacking. It’s not that it’s bad, but it’s very outdated. I’ve had trouble getting my bluetooth to work correctly, and general phone integration (even when it is working) is nowhere near that of our Cherokee which is a year older (models released at the same time).
The Navigation seems to work well, but the screen on my phone is larger and there is almost too much information packed into the display. This causes far more “eyes off the road” time than I would like. I do really like the ability to add things like fuel stops and food to the view though. This helps be see where things are when I dive off an exit ramp for a quick stop.
Beyond the phone and bluetooth issues, everything else seems to work very well. Even things like the cruise control lever that seemed like a total afterthought to me at first has turned out to be the most functional and easy to use controls I have ever had on any vehicle.
I’m sure I’m missing some things, so please feel free to comment or send us an ask on anything. We are always completely honest about our thoughts and never sugar coat anything.
Hopefully you are excited to watch this build!