Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro review: The go-anywhere adventurer

2015 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2015 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

Take one look at those big knobby tires, or stare head-on at the menacing front end and you know right away that the 2015 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 TRD Pro is a no-nonsense, all-terrain conqueror.

Say you are headed for that favorite fishing stream deep in the wilderness? No problem. Planning an excursion through the desert wastelands of Arizona? No problem. Looking to climb mountainous terrain for a ski adventure where the snow is deep and powdery? No problem.

But what if you just want to go to the local supermarket for a week’s worth of groceries, or motor over to the local middle school to pick up the kids. Must you endure the kidney pounding of a seriously sturdy sport-utility vehicle, a no-holds barred truck meant primarily for serious off-roading excursions?

Actually, no

Toyota 4Runner instruments

Toyota 4Runner instruments

Sure, the 4Runner 4X4 TRD Pro can conquer feats no ordinary car would ever attempt. But the engineers at Toyota know that this 4Runner needs to do more than that. So, they have managed to combine reasonable comfort with mountain-goat capability.

The key here, of course, is reasonable. If the road has turned rough like, say, the pothole-ridden streets of an urban area caught in the icy grip of a long winter, the TDRD Pro will quickly remind you that the 4Runner really is a truck.

But, if the roads are mostly smooth, like the ones on which I travel in generally mild South Carolina, this most rugged of 4Runners will treat you kindly, and it will even allow you to cover mind-dulling miles of interstate without undue distress.

But don’t expect any sport in this sport-utility vehicle. With its body-on-frame construction, specially tuned springs, increased ride height, Nitto Terra Grappler tires, Bilstein high-performances shock absorbers and the TRD Pro 4Runner handles like, well, a truck. You can ford streams and go rock hopping, but you won’t want to try zooming around the two-lane back roads.

Before we take a closer look at what makes this rugged truck tick, a mild disclaimer is in order. The tested 4Runner TRD Pro is a 2015 model. It is identical to the 2016 sport-utility vehicle, except that the new ones have an updated version of the Entune infotainment system.

Toyota 4Runner front seats

Toyota 4Runner front seats

So, let’s get on with the details.

Like all 4Runners, the TRD Pro is powered by a 4-liter V-6 engine that generates 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. It’s not super powerful, but it is adequate for all off-road adventures and it comes standard with a tow hitch and wiring harness for towing trailers or boats weighing up to 5,000 pounds.

Combined with the standard 5-speed automatic transmission it will return an EPA-estimated 17 miles per gallon of regular unleaded gasoline around town and 21 mpg on the open road.
In my week of mostly mild-mannered driving, it averaged about 19 mpg. Expect that figure to drop when the TRD Pro is mostly used for towing and off-roading.

Toyota 4Runner back seats

Toyota 4Runner back seats

Four-wheel vented disc brakes provide the stopping power. Power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering makes the sport-utility vehicle go where it is pointed.

While certain 4Runner models offer three-row seating, the TRD Pro offers only two rows with room for five adult-size passengers. In the test truck, which had the optional ($350) sliding rear cargo deck to making loading the truck easier, there were 46.3 cubic feet of cargo space behind the second row and 88.8 cubic feet available with the second-row seat backs folded forward.

The Toyota’s back-woods prowess is made possible with a part-time four wheel-drive system plus traction control, locking rear differential, Crawl Control, hill-start assist, a front skid plate and a Multi-Terrain SelectSystem.

Crawl Control helps to maintain a constant slow speed for driving through challenging terrain. When 4-wheel-drive system is in low range, Crawl Control regulates engine speed and braking force in one of five selectable settings.

4Runner cargo area with sliding deck

4Runner cargo area with sliding deck

The Multi-Terrain Select System allows the driver to dial in the amount of wheel spin that works best in various off-road conditions. An example cited was a muddy or sandy trail. In that situation the system would allow more than normal wheel spin.

The TRD Pro also has increased ground clearance of 9.6 inches and approach and departure angles that provide greater visibility than is available on other 4Runner models.

Safety features include a full complement of airbags and side curtains, stability control, traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, emergency brake assist and a back-up camera

Obviously aware that most 4Runner TRD Pros will spend more time on paved roads than on white-knuckle off-road adventures, the folks at Toyota have installed a variety of comfort and convenience features on the tough truck.

4Runner's menacing grille

4Runner’s menacing grille

They include air conditioning with a rear-seat vent, a premium sound system, 6.1-inch touch screen, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, navigation, satellite radio availability, leatherette upholstery, power front seats, power sliding rear window and an Entune infotainment system.

Base price of the 2015 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 TRD Pro was $41,110. Add the sliding rear cargo deck and the $885 delivery charge and the total came to $42,345. You can expect to pay about$500 more for a 2016 model.

The Toyota 4 Runner is one of the few sport-utility vehicles still built with body-on-frame construction, which makes it ideal for anyone who regularly ventures into territory not meant for mere passenger vehicles.

But it also features a soft enough ride and enough premium features to make it a daily driver for the bulk of buyers whose busy lives allow only for weekend or occasional forays on to the trails less traveled.

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