Utilitarian and Rugged in All the Right Ways
There aren’t that many body-on-frame SUVs left on the market, but should you be looking for one, the Toyota 4Runner is a good place to start. Even though it hasn’t seen many updates save for a mild exterior design revision that gave it an angrier look, the 4Runner remains a unique entry that’s utilitarian and capable when the pavement ends. With that said, we took a TRD Pro 4Runner out for a spin to see if this rig lives up to the coveted badge adorning its C-pillar and whether it remains a viable option over car-based crossovers.
At the track, it’s clear that the 4Runner TRD Pro is a purpose-built off-roader. Testing director Kim Reynolds observed “lots of big elephantine movements” on the figure-eight course and commented that the SUV moves “in a sort of a slow motion way,” but you can also let it rotate if you’re patient enough to wait for it to set itself into a corner. The 4Runner TRD Pro finished the figure-eight course in 28.9 seconds with a 0.57 g average and produced 0.71 g of lateral acceleration.
Powering the 4Runner TRD Pro is a 4.0-liter V-6 with 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque paired to a five-speed automatic transmission. At the dragstrip, the 4Runner TRD Pro did the 0 to 60-mpg (3.9 L/100km) spring in 8.0 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 16.1 seconds at 85.8 mph (138 km/h). Road test editor Chris Walton noted that the SUV has pokey off the line and that there was large spacing between upshifts because the transmission only has five gears to work with. Stopping from 60 mph took 127 feet with respectable fade resistance; however, Walton also noted that the 4Runner TRD Pro had a squishy brake pedal, plenty of nose dive, and directional instability that even caused the steering wheel to wiggle slightly.
Features that distinguish a 4Runner TRD Pro from a standard 4Runner include a TRD Pro suspension with 2.5-inch TRD Bilstein shocks and retuned springs. The SUV also gets a raised ride height, 1.0 inch up front and 2.0 inches out back. Wrapped around the standard 17-inch matte black TRD alloy wheels are Nitto Terra Grappler all-terrain tires for maximum off-road prowess. Up front is an aluminum TRD-stamped skidplate to help keep rocks and debris from hitting powertrain components. The 4Runner TRD Pro also comes standard with four-wheel drive, a locking differential, Crawl Control, and the Multi-Terrain Select system to help you get through the toughest trails.
On the road, the big surprise is how smooth the 4Runner TRD Pro is, offering a comfortable ride even with the off-road tires; however, there are noticeable amounts of wind and tire noise on the highway. Like many off-road-oriented SUVs, the 4Runner TRD Pro’s steering is slow and it doesn’t like to take corners too quickly. At 4,631 pounds (2,100 kg) the 4Runner TRD Pro is heavy, and even with 270 hp and 278 lb-ft the 4.0-liter V-6 is barely enough to haul all the weight around. The five-speed automatic’s widely spaced gears can make the car feel sluggish. It’s also slow to respond to inputs when you want more power. Like all four-wheel-drive 4Runners, the TRD Pro is EPA-rated at 17/20 mpg (13.8/11.8 L/100km) city/highway—not the best but with a 23-gallon tank, it should have respectable range.
Off the pavement is where the 4Runner TRD Pro comes alive. On the easier trails at Hungry Valley off-road park in Gorman, California, the 4Runner TRD Pro’s desert running capabilities came into focus where it remained stable through bumpy sections at high speeds. Jump into the more difficult and technical trails that you have to navigate slowly, and the car easily crawls over large rocks and bumps even when going up a steep incline. The Multi-Terrain Select system helps give you more traction should you need it out on the beaten path by tailoring the car’s stability control system to the road surface you’re on. Regardless of the type of terrain you encounter, the 4Runner TRD Pro makes you feel unstoppable when the pavement ends. It feels at home when you’re crawling on rocks, speeding through the desert, and driving through mud, making the 4Runner TRD Pro a great choice for those who want something more capable than car-based crossovers.
Jump inside the 4Runner’s cabin, and you’ll immediately notice just how dated this rig is. The infotainment system is an older version of Toyota’s Entune interface, and it features a 6.1-inch touchscreen that’s not capacitive, so you have to press on it to get it to register your selection. Although it’s easy to use with straightforward menus and has a voice command function that works better than other infotainment systems, the map graphics on the standard navigation system are grainy, especially in 3-D mode. Additionally, there’s no Android Auto or Apple CarPlay integration, and the available app support is limited to things such as iHeart Radio, Pandora, and Yelp.
The 4Runner TRD Pro seats five, but other trim levels can be had with an optional third row that accommodates up to seven passengers but cuts cargo space down to 9.0 cubic feet with all seats up. Two-row 4Runners such as the TRD Pro offers 46.3 cubic feet behind the second row and a generous 88.8 cubic feet behind the front seats. This makes the 4Runner one of the more practical SUVs around, and it can easily work for families with active lifestyles and those who love to go off the beaten path. Both rows of seats offer plenty of support and are comfortable enough for long drives. Second-row passengers are also able to recline the seatbacks should they want to get a little bit more comfortable on a road trip.
Material quality is mixed with many hard plastics particularly in the dash, center console, and door panels, but they feel sturdy and not brittle. Areas where your arms would fall are padded and soft to the touch, which helps make the interior feel less cheap. Unlike some newer cars with small buttons or nearly none at all, the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro sticks with large buttons and knobs, making it easy to interact with the multimedia and HVAC systems even when you’re wearing gloves. Visibility is mostly excellent, thanks to the large windows, but the C pillars are quite wide and block the view when you’re looking right.
Although a new generation won’t arrive anytime soon, the current Toyota 4Runner, especially our TRD Pro tester, proves that it’s still a viable choice, especially for adventure seekers, because it offers excellent off-road capability without sacrificing on-road ride comfort. Except for the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Wrangler Unlimited, not many SUVs can match the 4Runner’s mix of off-road capability, utility, comfort, and practicality. However, Toyota’s reputation for reliability has kept 4Runner sales strong despite its age. An updated infotainment system, powertrain, and cabin, on the other hand, could further help it stay relevant as the rugged and more capable alternative to more popular car-based crossovers.
|2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$43,794|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||4.0L/270-hp/278-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,631 lb (53/47%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||191.3 x 75.8 x 72.0 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.0 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.1 sec @ 85.8 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||127 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.71 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.9 sec @ 0.57 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||17/20/18 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||198/169 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||1.06 lb/mile|