Toyota is one of the companies which built its reputation on dependable and legendary off-roaders. Models like FJ40 or 4WD Hilux trucks were tough as nails and proven all over the world, from off-road races to the wars in the Middle East. However, like almost all modern car companies, Toyota turned to soft and civilian SUV models, almost completely abandoning the off-road market. Today, the majority of Toyota’s models are urban crossovers, and even the iconic Land Cruiser (add link) is dedicated more to the luxury market than to all out off-road performance.
But all is not lost, and Toyota still offers one very capable model, which is precisely what a modern off-roader should be. Tough, dependable, comfortable enough to be a daily driver but well-equipped and happiest when on the trail. You probably guessed about which Toyota SUV we are talking about. Yes, today we will tell you more about 4Runner.
Toyota 4Runner: What is It?
The 4Runner model was first introduced in 1983 as a capable SUV built on Hilux truck chassis. From the start, 4Runner was aimed at the off-road enthusiast who needed an everyday vehicle but at the same time a weekend toy. That is why Toyota’s engineers worked hard to balance those two functions. The most interesting thing was the fact the all-subsequent generations kept the same idea and added more space, necessary modernization, and equipment. Even though the 4Runner lived through the SUV hype, it didn’t lose its appeal and traded its working boots for Italian shoes as some other models did.
The current generation was introduced in 2009, and while it is one of the oldest models on the market, it still has a lot to offer to the customer. Built on the Toyota FJ Cruiser platform (remember that truck?) and powered by the same 4.0-liter V6 engine, the modern 4Runner comes in several flavors and trim levels. Even though the lineup starts with the 4Runner SR5 model with the base price of $36,000, we will concentrate on the top-of-the-line TRD Pro version, which is most interesting to off-road aficionados.
Engine and Drivetrain
The 4Runner is one of the rare models on the market which still offers body-on-frame construction. This means that underneath the sheet metal lies rugged steel chassis, which offers exceptional strength, which is crucial in off-road use. Although this concept is considered a bit outdated, competitors’ unibody construction rarely can match the durability and toughness of the body on the frame.
The only available engine is said 4.0-liter V6 gasoline engine with 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque. Even though the power and torque are not exceptionally high and cannot be, since the engine is an older generation unit dating from the ’90s, the output is still more than enough for everyday use and off-road work. Proof that this is an older truck lies in the fact that the only available transmission is 5-speed automatic. At the same time, almost all competitors offer eight or even 10-speed boxes, which are far better in coping with daily driving and going off-road.
The suspension design is straightforward, and at the front is double wishbone suspension with coil springs, while at the rear, Toyota installed a four-link setup with lateral rods and coil springs. This combination offers the best of both worlds, comfortable on-road handling, and optimal off-road performance.
Of course, every 4Runner is equipped with a part-time four-wheel-drive system, which can be engaged manually from the cabin. Every 4Runner has a tow rating of 5000 pounds, which is more than enough for most users.
The 4Runner TRD Pro
Starting at $50,000, the TRD Pro is the most expensive 4Runner you can get. But, it is also the most off-road dedicated model, equipped with some advanced features and capable of tackling even the most challenging terrain. There are several key improvements over the standard (and more affordable) versions, and you will easily spot TRD Pro since it has blackout exterior trim, bigger all-terrain tires, running boards, and a cool-looking and functional roof rack, as standard.
Underneath, there are special Fox rear shocks with reservoirs, TRD-tuned front springs, locking rear differential, and 17-inch TRD blackout wheels. However, since the TRD Pro is the dedicated off-road model, it also comes with several electronic systems that are not available on lesser trim levels. Things like Crawl Control System, Multi-Terrain Select, and Hill Distance Control are all standard on this model.
Toyota 4Runner Interior
Even though the interior architecture and layout are over ten years old, the dashboard is still practical and well-designed. Toyota is offering a standard infotainment system as well as few TRD-only details like overhead console and extra storage space. Every 4Runner comes in a 5-seat configuration, but there is an enormous trunk, which is very useful for users looking for an overland vehicle. The TRD Pro also comes with unique all-weather floor mats.
Even though the starting price for 4Runner TRD Pro is quite substantial, this is a very comprehensive package in terms of the build quality, equipment, and off-road hardware. Well-proven and dependable, 4Runner TRD Pro is one of the rare true off-road SUVs you can drive every day and still trash on the trail on the weekend and will excel in both situations. Although a bit outdated, it can still hold its own when the push comes to show, and when asphalt stops. For real off-road enthusiasts, this is all that matters.