The 2013 Toyota 4Runner stands tall as one of the last truck-based SUV’s available in the mid-sized segment at any price. It still has a solid axle, heavy duty suspension and a true off-road capability.

So the first thing this red-blooded American male did with the 4Runner is toss the instruction manual and take it to my favorite mud hole for some fun. As expected it didn’t disappoint. Its 9.6” of ground clearance and short overhangs made for easy navigating in the rough.

While all three trim grades of 4Runner are more than capable, our Limited model had a unique X-REAS suspension which connects the front and rear shocks hydraulically to reduce pitching forward and back.

Additionally even left in the consumer grade 4 wheel high drive mode, the traction control system did a good job of keeping a free wheel from spinning. We never had to resort to using its locking center Torsen differential, which is good because we didn’t read the instructions.

If you really get into this kind of driving the 4Runner Trail might be more to your liking. It has a more off-road oriented suspension, electronically locking rear differential, a true crawl mode and water resistant seating surfaces.

Regardless of which model you get, you arent likely to get yourself stuck very easily

The interior of the 4Runner has a nice old school vibe. It’s truck through and through yet has all the quality fit and finish you expect in a Toyota. The seating position and view over the hood is classic SUV and brings back shades of the original Land Cruiser before it got big and yacht like.

Our Limited model was fully loaded with touch screen audio and navigation, leather seats and top trim all around. It never felt over done with needless nanny features like lake keeping or blind spot control, though the back-up camera did prove useful.

The air-conditioning worked exceptionally well in the Arizona heat. Its controls are still simple enough to use and has large knobs and buttons that are more than glove friendly. Sound from the optional JBL stereo was also well worth the upgrade.

While the 4Runner can be optioned with a third row seat, ours enjoyed full use of its large cargo hold. The rear lift gate isn’t power operated like many in its class, but still has its unique roll down rear window for the dog to hang his head out of.

Behind the wheel the 4Runner is quiet and refined even on the rougher washboard gravel roads. As we rolled out into the mountains the body and interior was free of the expected rattles and thumps, giving the cabin a nice quiet and solid feel.

The suspension and chassis never seemed to get flustered, offering up excellent isolation from the path as well as directional stability at speed. The four-wheel disc brakes seem well balanced and the ABS well programmed for loose surfaces.

The 270 horsepower 4.0 liter V6 did its job with surprisingly little drama pulling the 4800 lb 4Runner around. It never seemed to be out of breath and remained refined even under full throttle.

Best of all it got us around this week averaging 18 mpg combined city and highway, just as the window sticker promises. We suspect if the 4Runner had a 6 or 8 speed automatic transmission instead of its 5 speed it could do even better.

If you like the style of the current Toyota 4Runner, now is the time to get one as a freshened 2014 model will be out by the end of the year with the company’s latest styling touches and improved interior technologies.

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