2019 Toyota 4Runner vs. 2019 Ford Explorer

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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The 4Runner has standard Active Headrests, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Active Headrests system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The Explorer doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

Both the 4Runner and the Explorer have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available four-wheel drive and rear parking sensors.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH, results indicate that the Toyota 4Runner is safer than the Ford Explorer:





Front Seat


5 Stars

5 Stars





Rear Seat


5 Stars

5 Stars




Spine Acceleration

36 G’s

36 G’s

Hip Force

381 lbs.

713 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.


Toyota pays for scheduled maintenance on the 4Runner for 2 years and 25000 miles. Toyota will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Ford doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Explorer.


A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the 4Runner’s reliability 43 points higher than the Explorer.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Toyota vehicles are more reliable than Ford vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Toyota second in reliability, above the industry average. With 38 more problems per 100 vehicles, Ford is ranked 16th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Toyota vehicles are more reliable than Ford vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Toyota second in reliability. Ford is ranked 18th.


As tested in Motor Trend the Toyota 4Runner is faster than the Ford Explorer turbo 4 cyl.:




Zero to 60 MPH

7.6 sec

8.2 sec

Quarter Mile

15.8 sec

16.3 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

88 MPH

84.5 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Toyota 4Runner uses regular unleaded gasoline. The Explorer Sport/Platinum requires premium for maximum efficiency, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

The 4Runner has 4.4 gallons more fuel capacity than the Explorer (23 vs. 18.6 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the 4Runner’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Explorer (265/70R17 vs. 255/50R20).

The Toyota 4Runner’s wheels have 6 lugs for longer wheel bearing life, less chance of rotor warping and greater strength. The Ford Explorer only has 5 wheel lugs per wheel.

Suspension and Handling

The 4Runner TRD Off-Road offers active sway bars, which help keep it flat and controlled during cornering, but disconnect at lower speeds to smooth the ride and offer greater off-road suspension articulation. This helps keep the tires glued to the road on-road and off. The Explorer doesn’t offer an active sway bar system.

The 4Runner’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (53.6% to 46.4%) than the Explorer’s (55.1% to 44.9%). This gives the 4Runner more stable handling and braking.

For better maneuverability, the 4Runner’s turning circle is 1.5 feet tighter than the Explorer Base/XLT/Limited’s (37.4 feet vs. 38.9 feet). The 4Runner’s turning circle is 2.6 feet tighter than the Explorer Sport’s (37.4 feet vs. 40 feet).

For greater off-road capability the 4Runner has a 1.8 inches greater minimum ground clearance than the Explorer (9.6 vs. 7.8 inches), allowing the 4Runner to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged.


The 4Runner SR5 is 8.5 inches shorter than the Explorer, making the 4Runner easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

As tested by Car and Driver while cruising at 70 MPH, the interior of the 4Runner TRD Off-Road is quieter than the Explorer Sport 4WD (67 vs. 70 dB).

Passenger Space

The 4Runner has 2.6 inches more third row hip room and 6.9 inches more third row shoulder room than the Explorer.

Cargo Capacity

The 4Runner’s cargo area provides more volume than the Explorer.




Third Seat Folded

46.3 cubic feet

43.9 cubic feet

Third Seat Removed

47.2 cubic feet


Second Seat Folded

89.7 cubic feet

81.7 cubic feet

The 4Runner’s optional sliding cargo floor is capable of supporting 440 pounds, to make loading and unloading cargo easier and safer. The Explorer doesn’t offer a sliding load floor.

The 4Runner’s rear cargo window opens separately from the rest of the liftgate door to allow quicker loading of small packages. The Explorer’s rear cargo window doesn’t open.


The 4Runner’s standard towing capacity is much higher than the Explorer’s (5000 vs. 2000 pounds).

Servicing Ease

The 4Runner uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Explorer uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

The engine in the 4Runner is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the Explorer. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because there are no rear spark plugs and the accessory belts are in front.


The 4Runner’s front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Explorer’s rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to open or close them fully.

If the windows are left open on the 4Runner the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. (Your Toyota service department must activate this window function.) The driver of the Explorer can only close the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the 4Runner owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the 4Runner will cost $370 less than the Explorer over a five-year period.

The 4Runner will cost the buyer less in the long run because of its superior resale value. The IntelliChoice estimates that the 4Runner will retain 64.99% to 80.19% of its original price after five years, while the Explorer only retains 49.2% to 53.91%.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the 4Runner is less expensive to operate than the Explorer because it costs $351 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the 4Runner than the Explorer, including $276 less for a muffler, $12 less for front brake pads, $10 less for front struts and $703 less for a power steering pump.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Toyota 4Runner will be $8990 to $14643 less than for the Ford Explorer.


The TRD Pro was selected by Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road magazine as their 2015 4x4 of the Year. The Explorer has never been chosen.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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