Weidel on Wheels: Meet the two sides of Toyota’s SUVs

There’s the brawny with 4Runner and the refined with the Lexus RX 350
By: Jeffrey Weidel
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Under the Toyota umbrella, a great number of high quality sport utility vehicles have been produced over the years.

Two of the most popular SUV offerings, the Toyota 4Runner and the Lexus RX 350, attract diverse buyers for obvious reasons.

The 4Runner has been around for more than 25 years and still provides its original appeal — a mid-size SUV with off-road capability.

In contrast, the RX 350 is a sleek, sophisticated crossover model from Toyota’s luxury division that continues to please car shoppers who want the blend of a fine sedan and the versatility of an SUV.

Here’s a look at both vehicles:

Toyota 4Runner

In driving the 4Runner, one understands it has the ability to satisfy most off-road enthusiasts.

Although it still resides on a truck-based platform (shared by the rugged FJ Cruiser), the 2010 4Runner also has a more refined ride than any truck can deliver.

Because of that quality, the 4Runner has a versatility that will please both the person looking for off-road adventure and the one who is seeking a somewhat rugged SUV that won’t be uncomfortable in everyday driving situations.

Redesigned for 2010, the 4Runner looks different. It’s taller, longer, wider, and the fenders are more flared, while the front grille is somewhat blocky.

While these are all good changes, some other ones have me questioning Toyota’s thinking.

This year the base model has a wimpy 2.7-liter, four-cylinder engine with a lackluster 157 horsepower. I don’t get that. I also don’t get why Toyota decided to do away with the V-8 option.

The 4Runner driven here featured ample power with a 4.0-liter, V-6 with 270 horsepower. It ironically gets the same gas mileage (17 to 23 miles per gallon) as the four-cylinder.

This year’s version maintains its third-row seating, which adds two passengers, and has plenty of cargo space.

Lexus RX 350

Redesigned for 2010 as well, this crossover is slightly wider, has larger wheels, increased braking capability and added a new six-speed automatic transmission.
One more thing about the changes — the RX 350 added 400 pounds. Still, one can hardly notice the weight gain.

Hard to believe, but the RX models have been around since 1990. However, through the years these popular SUVs haven’t strayed too far from their original successful formula.

They deliver a pleasant, composed ride and solid power, feature a luxury cabin with plenty of extras, and look classy.

This year’s RX 350 has a 3.5-lier, V-6 engine that delivers 275 horsepower. Car buyers have their choice of either all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive in a vehicle that goes an estimated 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds. The acceleration is rapid and also relatively quiet, which is a Lexus trait.

One of the few knocks on the RX 350 is some of its rivals are more athletic and provide a sportier ride.

The cabin has a richness that any driver can appreciate. The inside features real wood and leather trim. With 40 cubic feet of space, the cargo area is more than adequate for a mid-size luxury crossover.


2010 Toyota 4Runner

Price: $35,700

Mileage estimate: 17 mpg city; 23 mpg highway

Power: 4.0-liter, V-6 engine with 270 horsepower

Standard features include:
 Four-wheel-drive; anti-lock disc brakes (with brake assist); stability, traction control; audio system with satellite radio, CD/MP3, auxiliary audio jack; chrome roof rails and grille; tow hitch receiver; locking rear differential; off-road-oriented tires; back-up camera; power front seats; USB port with iPod connectivity and Bluetooth phone and audio functions

Where to buy

Get it here: Magnussen’s Auburn Toyota

Where: 800 Nevada St., Auburn

Call: (530) 885-8484

On the Web:


2010 Lexus RX 350

Price: $36,800

Mileage estimate: 18 mpg city; 25 mpg highway

Power: 3.5-liter, V-6 engine with 275 horsepower
Standard features include: Stability, traction control; anti-lock brakes with brake assist; keyless ignition and entry; six-speed automatic transmission with snow mode; 10-way power front seats; wood interior trim; dual-zone automatic climate control; Bluetooth, a nine-speaker stereo with a CD changer, steering-wheel-mounted controls, auxiliary audio jack; Homelink system; roof rack; sliding center console