Like most Toyota models, the 4Runner has a lasting and distinct legacy. Based on the Hilux truck platform, Toyota first introduced 4Runner in 1984.
The Nissan Pathfinder has been around a while, too, as it was introduced in 1985. It was originally offered as a two-door SUV based on Nissan’s truck platform. Since 1995, the Pathfinder body construction has switched back and forth between unibody and body-on-frame. It is now back to a unibody crossover for its fourth generation. The 4Runner stayed consistent with body-on-frame construction throughout its production years.
In this head-to-head comparison, we'll look at the Toyota 4Runner and Nissan Pathfinder to see who takes the lead in categories like interior features and comfort, performance, and reliability.
The 4Runner Limited cranks tunes through a 15-speaker JBL® audio system. In comparison, the Pathfinder Platinum is equipped with a 13-speaker Bose® system.
With its second and available third-row seats folded down, the 4Runner boasts a whopping 88.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity. The Pathfinder offers only 78.9 cubic feet of cargo space with the second and third-row seats down. Both vehicles offer seating for up to 7 people.
Heated seats come standard for both passenger and driver with the SR5 Premium 4Runner. Drivers wanting the same feature for the Pathfinder will have to upgrade to the SL trim, as heated seats are not available on the Pathfinder S FWD. Heated seats are available on the Pathfinder SV Rock Creek™ Edition as an extra-cost option.
The 4Runner is ready for off-roading with its body-on-frame construction and 4X4 trims which have 9.6-inches of ground clearance. Pathfinder is built on a unibody chassis with a smaller 7.0-inches of ground clearance.
The 4Runner TRD Off-Road models use a part-time 4WD with Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) for a better off-roading experience. The Pathfinder SL and Rock CreekTM trims utilize a comparable Intelligent 4X4.
The Pathfinder’s HP of 284 is slightly better than the 4Runner’s 270 HP, but the 4Runner makes up for that in torque. Torque on the 4Runner SR5 Premium 4x4 is 278 lb.-ft. @4400 RPM while the Pathfinder S 4x4 is 259 lb.-ft. @4400 RPM.
The Toyota 4Runner is a great on and off-road vehicle. If you're looking for an upgraded model, the 4Runner TRD Pro helps drivers get off-the-grid more easily with an assortment of helpful off-road features like FOX® high-performance shocks, all-terrain tires, and TRD tuned front springs. Many of the other 4Runner trims, starting with the TRD Off-Road, also offer helpful features such as protective skid plates, electronic-locking rear differential, Multi-terrain Select, and CRAWL Control (CRAWL). The Pathfinder has 4WD and Hill-Descent Control as options. However, even the top SL 4WD Rock CreekTM Edition and Platinum 4WD trims do not come with comparable off-road-focused features.
ToyotaCare is a major advantage for Toyota. All leases and purchases of new Toyota vehicles receive factory-scheduled maintenance for 2 years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first, plus 24-hour Roadside Assistance for two years/unlimited miles. Nissan includes 24-hour Roadside Assistance for 3 years/36,000 miles, but Nissan only offers paid maintenance programs like Security+Plus which comes at an additional cost.
Toyota won the title for Best Resale Value Brand for 2019 and the Tacoma, Tundra, and 4Runner all won Best Resale Value in their respective categories according to Kelley Blue Book®. Impressively, the 4Runner has won Best Resale Value: Top 10 for eight years in a row (2013-2020) by Kelley Blue Book’s® KBB.com. With Toyota’s major focus on reliability, it comes as no surprise that the 4Runner is among one of the many Toyota vehicles to be awarded in this category. Comparatively, the 2019 Nissan Pathfinder was named "one of Parents magazine’s 10 Best Family Cars of 2020."
The 4Runner and Pathfinder are both fierce competitors. Each SUV has its pluses. However, 4Runner offers more cargo space and greater interior comforts such as standard heated seats on the SR5 Premium model.
The 4Runner Limited trim is great for music lovers too with a 15-speaker JBL® audio system, compared to the Pathfinder Platinum’s 13-speaker Bose® system. You can crank up the tunes as you drive to your next adventure.
The 4Runner is also an off-road machine. To keep things steady, the 4Runner is made with classic body-on-frame construction and has 9.6-inches of ground clearance. The Pathfinder has just 7-inches of ground clearance and uses a unibody construction.
Not to mention, there are added costs for extra safety features. Nissan’s Security+Plus maintenance program costs extra while ToyotaCare is included.
For these reasons and more, the winner of this head-to-head comparison is clear: the 2020 Toyota 4Runner.