Toyota’s latest 2017 4Runner is in our garage this week, and this particular example is one we especially like.
The TRD Off Road is far from top-of-the-line, actually sitting second in a range that includes five trims, but the only one we’d rather have is the top-tier TRD Pro. Why?
They’re both fully optimized for hitting the trail, the TRD Pro a $52,195 4×4 stuffed full of nearly everything Toyota has available for the 4Runner, including an intense new blackened matte grille, blacked out front and rear bumper caps, and 17-inch matte black alloys on 31.5-inch Nitto Terra Grappler off-road rubber hiding beefy Bilstein dampers with remote rear reservoirs behind. It looks best in exclusive Cement Grey Metallic paint, although that’s just how we feel. Toyota offers it in Alpine White and Barcelona Red Metallic too, while all get black SofTex pleather upholstered interiors with plenty of TRD Pro branded details.
That brutish model is actually based on the $46,720 TRD Off Road we’re testing this week. The latter is less intimidating thanks to a body-colour grille and satin silver bumper caps, these latter items a bit harder to make out with our tester’s Classic Silver Metallic paintwork. Toyota offers a wider range of exterior colour options in TRD Off Road trim, but alas no Cement Grey. Its six-spoke machine-finished 17-inch alloys with black painted pockets more than make up for any lack of exclusivity, as does the bulging scoop atop the hood and circular fog lamps integrated into its angularly carved front corner vents.
The latter two items come standard, but Toyota adds a classier chrome-laden grille strikethrough and unique chromed front fascia design for Limited trims, while chrome mouldings wrap around the sides in an attempt to dress this string-tied cowboy up for a tux and tails black-tie dinner, which is why we like the 4Runner’s purer 4×4 body styles best.
We also appreciate that Toyota never tried to neuter the 4Runner into a raised family wagon like Nissan did with the Pathfinder, a model that continues forward in name only. Instead, Toyota allowed the 4Runner to remain true to its 4×4 roots and created a completely new model to attract less adventurous families that nevertheless wouldn’t dare drive a minivan, and in hindsight the bigger Japanese brand benefits from a Highlander that regular outsells the Pathfinder, and a 4Runner that still pulls in plenty of diehard customers all on its own.
The 4Runner isn’t completely alone in the off-road capable segment, but it has fewer competitors now that it endured through the ‘80s and ‘90s. Ford’s Explorer might be based on the same mid-size car platform as the unorthodox Flex, but it offers a Land Rover-style preprogrammed terrain system that does well enough off the beaten path for many, and Dodge’s Durango, also unibody in design, remains off-road ready too. Of course, Jeep’s Grand Cherokee (unibody too) maintains its muddy reputation, and VW’s Touareg isn’t quite the 4×4 beast it was initially, but still offers some semblance of trailblazing prowess (although nobody seems to care anymore). Still, if you ask the majority of brazen bushwhackers which SUV they’d trust to take them 50 miles inland on an unkempt cattle trail, most will choose the 4Runner.
Four-by-four traditionalists won’t be able to complain about too many creature comforts in this TRD Off Road, as there’s no proximity-sensing access, pushbutton ignition, LED ambient lighting, electromechanical parking brake, colour multi-info display, auto HVAC, big screen high-gloss infotainment, brand name audio, heated steering wheel, perforated leather seats with ventilation, panoramic glass roof, powered liftgate, auto high beams, adaptive cruise control, autonomous braking, lane departure warning, etcetera.
Then again it does get classic lever-style secondary gear shifter for its part-time four-wheel drive along with a real bull low range, plus Multi-Terrain Select, a rear differential lock, four-wheel crawl control, an automatic disconnecting differential, Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (I’ll explain this in an upcoming review), Multi-Terrain ABS, downhill assist control, trailer sway control, fuel tank and transfer case protector plates, and plenty of other 4×4 features.
Not to be misunderstood, the TRD Off Road isn’t all about living life in the wild, with additional standard kit including heatable powered side mirrors with integrated turn signals, a tilt and telescopic leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, lots of piano black lacquered trim, a powered moonroof, colourful Optitron primary gauges with a monochrome trip computer at centre, cruise control, air conditioning, a 6.1-inch infotainment touchscreen with a backup camera, navigation with mapping, plenty of stock and downloadable apps, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, SMS/email-to-speech capability, advanced voice recognition, satellite radio, black SofTex leatherette upholstery with red stitching, an eight-way powered driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar support, a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, heated front seats, handy 40/20/40 split-folding second-row seats, a power-sliding tailgate window, silver roof rails with unique black end caps, tire-pressure monitoring, all the usual active and passive safety features, and much more.
Nobody’s going to buy a 4Runner for its claimed 14.2 L/100km city and 11.1 highway fuel economy rating, but its 4.0-litre V6 is robust enough at 270 horsepower and 279 lb-ft of torque. More importantly it’s proven reliable, as has its comparatively archaic five-speed automatic transmission. Don’t laugh. It’s more likely to get you out of the wilderness in one piece than most of the 4Runner’s peers, while its 2,268-kilo (5,000-lb) tow rating is pretty decent for a V6-powered SUV as well.
I’ll explain how its innovative X-REAS suspension with cross-linked dampers works on the road in the aforementioned review, plus discuss ride quality and what this unique 4Runner is like to live with day in and day out, as well as how it’s doing in the market, its reliability, safety, resale value, and more. Stay tuned for the full review…