Not many sport utility vehicles live up to their expectations. Most of what you see on the road are soft-roaders, wholly incapable of going anywhere but the mall with any sort of competence. That has to do with their family-friendly designs, limited suspension travel and ground clearance, and eco-minded tires.
By the mechanical specs alone, the 4Runner is anachronistic. A big displacement, naturally-aspirated V6? A five-speed automatic? Body-on-frame construction? In 2019? If any automaker can pull this off, it’s Toyota, and anywhere around the world, Toyota’s off-roaders are known for their prowess off the pavement.
Surprisingly, this basic recipe for this generation 4Runner has worked for the last ten years, and I suppose it’s a case of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but it’s been updated with modern safety along the way, as you’d expect from Toyota.
With the enhancements of the TRD Pro package, however, this 4Runner is one massively formidable off-roader. Technically, the TRD Pro is not a model, but rather an option package for the base model. It’s a fully resolved set of components that transform the 4Runner into the ultimate off-roader in the segment.
Mechanically, the TRD Pro package adds a revised four-wheel drive set up with a manual transfer case lever, more skid plates than the base 4Runner, 17-inch wheels with Nitto Terra Grappler tires, the roof rack, and the excellent remote-reservoir Bilstein dampers.
In the real world, this is the kind of SUV that literally can go anywhere, right out of the box. It’ll conquer nearly every terrain you can imagine. Whether it’s exploring difficult off-road trails or even the worst that winter can throw at you, the TRD Pro doesn’t flinch. Even Toronto’s worst roads are no match for this one and it soaks up potholes like it does your average speed bump. This is a proper, go-anywhere sport utility.
There is another practical consideration about daily driving this TRD Pro, however. That pesky roof rack that overlanders love so much becomes a problem when parking underground. If you plan to park yours in any spot where height is a concern, you’ll want to get your measurements right before parking it.
Ride comfort on the road is excellent with much of the credit due to the Bilstein dampers and the tires. My test included the worst of Toronto roads, which do an excellent job mimicking a rough off-road trail with their broken pavement and uneven surfaces, as well as a couple of hundred highway kilometres.
The interior is modestly spacious and the TRD Pro package removes any option of a third row, but the upside is cavernous cargo room. Like the Tacoma, the driver’s seating position is a bit compromised and the seat-to-controls spacing is not optimal, but that’s part of the legacy of this older platform. A lower seating position would help for daily driving and long-distance comfort.
I can do without the SofTex (faux leather, but much more durable) and much prefer a high tech cloth because whether it’s leather or pleather, it’s still cold in the winter and hot in the summer. Plus, a good cloth upholstery will hold the driver and passengers better in the seats.
If you’re married to your smartphone, the 4Runner only has basic connectivity via USB and Bluetooth, and if you demand Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, you’ll have to wait for the 2020 model year.
The TRD Pro is one of a handful of sport utilities that can you can take straight from the showroom and hit the most challenging trails. If your needs demand legitimate off-road capability and you value Toyota safety and dependability, the 4Runner TRD Pro is an awesome choice.
2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD PRO
Base Price: $56,580
As Tested: $56,580, plus $1,815 delivery
Drivetrain: 4.0-litre V6, 270 horsepower, 278 lb-ft, 5-speed automatic transmission, part-time four-wheel drive
Performance: 16.7 litres per 100 km in mixed driving
The VVUZZ Verdict: A legitimate off-roader that’s ready to go straight out of the showroom.
Images courtesy of Toyota and the author.