Toyota’s moniker ‘Let’s Go Places’ works for the 4Runner
The 2016 Toyota 4Runner is definitely a vehicle one can take many places, from easily maneuvering city streets to traversing mountain roads. And we did just that with our tested 4x4 TRD Pro model.
The 4Runner has been around for some 30 years, but this totally redesigned 2016 unit has a lot to like from several perspectives. We got a lot of second takes from people who liked the new, aggressive exterior design and the 17-inch matte black TRD alloy wheel that house rugged 17-inch all-terrain tires.
The TRD Pro is the top trim of four models (SR5 4x2 has a start price of $33,510) and is powered by a new 4.0-L DOHC V-6 engine. It’s a 24-valve power plant with Dual Independent Variable Valve Timing (VVT-i) that produces 270 HP at 5,600 RPM and 278 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,400 RPM. Mated to a five-speed Electronically Controlled automatic Transmission with intelligence (ECT-i), the pair provided more than adequate power and acceleration. In more than 500 miles of testing we drove city streets, freeways, and mountain roads and found it reliable in all cases, though the EPA/DOT fuel ratings of 17 MPG/city and 21 MPG/highway (overall 18) were less than hoped for; we averaged 18.1 overall.
With a part-time 4WD system with Active Traction Control (A-TRAC), the towing capacity on the midsize SUV is 5,000 pounds (all 4Runner models) and it worked well when we used the rear tow hooks to pull a neighbor’s pickup out of a small ditch.
In addition to generous seating front and rear, one likeable feature is the 4Runner’s tight suspension system. While the standard on the other three models includes front and rear coil springs, the TRD Pro also has TRD Bilstein high-performance shocks with rear remote reservoirs and TRD-tuned front springs, as well as front and rear stabilizer bars. It creates a magnificent feel for both on- and especially off-road driving.
Other very likeable attributes on the TRD Pro include Crawl Control, Hill Start Assist Control (very usable off-road), bright fog lamps, locking rear differential, TRD-stamped aluminum front skid plate (very handy for off-roading), rear mud guards, an exceptional integrated navigation system, and up to 88.8 cubic feet of cargo space, though the rear gate remains manual.
Our model had advanced airbags (including knee and side impact bags) and the Star Safety System that includes stability control and Smart Stop Technology among other features.
We found the new 4Runner to be ruggedly attractive, comfortable, and just plain enjoyable to drive. Our tested TRD Pro model, with lots of technology features, had a MSRP of $41,550 with no options.
Mazda CX-3 offers lots for little money
The 2016 Mazda CX-3 subcompact crossover is a very usable vehicle and our loaded Touring AWD model had a final price of $25,170 with options (including a very nice seven-speaker Bose audio system).
With its SKYACTIV TECHNOLOGY, the CX-3 has a 2.0-L SKYACTIV-G DOHC engine and a very reactive six-speed auto transmission with manual shift and sport modes. The combo allows for overall rated fuel economy of 29 MPG (27/city and 32/highway) on the AWD model and we garnered 30 MPG during our test.
For the price, the CX-3 Touring (the middle of three trims) is loaded with likeable features such as heated front seats, heated power outside mirrors, halogen headlamps, rear-view camera, Hill Launch Assist, rear roof spoiler, Dynamic Stability Control, traction control, blind spot monitoring, cross-traffic alert, seven-inch color touchscreen, plus dozens of other safety and convenience items.
With an independent front suspension with MacPherson struts and a stabilizer bar, the rear is a torsion beam construction. The CX-3 rides tight and offers commendable control with its 16-inch all-season tires.
Using the Mazda SKTACTIV-Body system, the CX-3 has improved body rigidity with less weight, all the while improving crash and safety performance. The body combines high-tensile steel and what Mazda calls “optimized cross section shapes” to produce high body rigidity.
We liked the 60/40 fold down rear seats for cargo hauling and loaded this little beast up, using most of the 44.5 cubic feet of space (rear seats down).
Another favorable feature on the CX-3 is the Mazda Radar Cruise Control with Close Proximity Warning. The system allows a driver to preset the desired vehicle speed and the system works within the speed range and will maintain a safe distance to vehicles in front (down to 19 MPH).
The CX-3 is a stylish and surprisingly sophisticated crossover that handles well, offers great fuel economy, and is competitively priced. The cockpit is clean and offers very easy-to-use controls with limited driver distraction.