Of course, as Isaac Newton lamented, "What goes up must come down." And so must I in Toyota's 4Runner. Just as the bow of the 4Runner crested the incline, as instructed, I depressed the console-mounted button that activated the Downhill Assist Control. And with rapid and alternating applications of the anti-lock braking system, the Downhill Assist Control held the 4Runner to a speed of 3 to 6 km/h (2 to 4 mph) down my steep and precarious descent - talk about maintaining control and inspiring driver confidence! With this system activated all the driver need do is point and steer, the 4Runner will do the rest. If the holdback speed is too slow for a particular descent, a slight application of throttle will disengage the system until the driver's foot is removed from the accelerator.
|The Downhill Assist Control held the 4Runner to a speed of 3 to 6 km/h (2 to 4 mph) down my steep and precarious descent. (Photo: Rob Rothwell, Canadian Auto Press)|
In addition to Downhill Assist Control, the 4Runner aids its driver with a Hill-Start Assist Control system. This is a feature that ensures the vehicle doesn't roll back or shift sideways when the driver's foot is removed from the accelerator. The product of these uphill and downhill electronic assistants is the ability for novice off-roaders to competently tackle hair raising 4x4 adventures, and hopefully live to spin a tall yarn about the experience. That being said, technology is not a replacement for skill and education. Anyone embarking upon an off-roading stint sans experience and know-how should only do so under the tutelage of a competent mentor.
|The 4Runner's Vehicle Skid Control system can pull drivers back from the brink of disaster when a loss of control is imminent. (Photo: Rob Rothwell, Canadian Auto Press)|
With or without a mentor, drivers finding themselves in trouble with the laws of physics will appreciate the 4Runner's Vehicle Skid Control system. This system can pull drivers back from the brink of disaster when a loss of control is imminent due to rapidly diminishing adhesion to the road's surface - as can be the case on wet or icy highways. And when traction becomes an issue during acceleration, the 4Runner will again step up to the plate and offer technological assistance in the way of ATRAC, Toyota's Active Traction Control System. With so much technology on board, it makes a person wonder who's really in control of our vehicles. Are we or the collective artificial intelligence of these computer-managed systems? It reminds me of the adage that "computers are not smart - they only think they are." With that in mind, drivers ought to rely more on driving skill and prudence than electronic systems to keep them from harm's way.