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Hot news for 2010: It might seem like an odd time to launch a new 4Runner off-roader, but the thirsty V8 is out of the picture and the V6 actually gets pretty decent fuel economy. Ÿ For the full-size trucks, a new 4.6-liter V8 replaces the 4.7; makes more power and gets better fuel economy. Ÿ Sport Appearance for RAV4. Ÿ FJ Cruiser gets more power, but it trails the same engine in the 4Runner.

Carryover: FJ Cruiser; Highlander; RAV4; Tacoma; Sequoia; Tundra

Starting line

n A brief skim of the lineup here and you begin to realize just how heavily Toyota is invested in trucks, at a time when buyers have fuel economy on the brain. It’s a concern that Toyota has shared as, like most other automakers, it waits for a turnaround in economic fortune. It’s safe to say that plans for the new 4Runner were hatched well before the recent economic turmoil since it still take a few years for a vehicle to get to market.

The 4Runner has always been considered an honest sport utility vehicle that makes no apologies for its extra-firm ride, brutish strength and blue-collar body styling that is anything but downtown trendy. Most of that image still holds true for the new 2010 edition, but it should come as no surprise that the optional 260-horsepower 4.7-liter V8 is out of the picture.

As powerful as it was, the fact remained that the V8 4Runner’s abysmal 14/17 mpg city/high fuel consumption would have likely scared off many prospective buyers during last year’s off-the-scale gas prices, which might have factored into Toyota’s decision to axe the thirsty powerplant. In fact, Toyota has removed the 4.7 from the Sequoia and Tundra lineups and replaced it with a 310-horsepower 4.6-liter V8 that’s also much more efficient.

Replacing the 4.7 atop the 4Runner line, however, is last year’s base 4.0-liter V6 that has been upgraded to 270 horsepower, which is 10 more than to outgoing V8. In addition, the made-over V6 now earns a respectable city/highway mpg rating of 17/23. The new standard motor is a 157-horsepower 2.7-liter four-cylinder that, while not really bettering V6’s fuel-economy rating, should at least provide a lower base price.

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