Toyota ups the ante for its ancient 4Runner
By Jim Bray
One of the original SUV's in the marketplace – and showing its age – still offers a lot of Toyota goodness for folks looking for robust off-road performance.
It's the 4Runner, of course, the bulletproof SUV based off the Tacoma pickup truck. Toyota sent the TRD Sport edition, which isn't really a lot sportier than the "pedestrian" versions, though it does up the off-road ante a tad for those who might want to exploit the 4Runner's legendary prowess away from the asphalt.
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That package adds $3210 CAD to the 4Runner's base prise of $50,270, which is starting to be serious money, especially for a vehicle that feels as if it's 10 years old. I daresay many people don't care about either the price or the "seasoned" feel of the vehicle, because the 4Runner continues to show up in good numbers on the roads around here. And there are reasons for that – ruggedness, reliability, all the stuff like that for which Toyota is known.
For example, my eldest son has a 15 year or so old 4Runner that's still a great vehicle, and he still swears by it.
Meanwhile, the 4Runner plods along as a truck-based dinosaur in a market dominated by (less capable, perhaps?) car-based SUV's and Crossovers.
Still, there's lots to like. As mentioned, 4Runners started life pretty well as a Tacoma with a bum (probably a HiLux with a bum back then, but what's in a name?). And that's a pretty good foundation: the midsized (formerly compact) pickup truck is also legendary around the world.
Heck, we had a Toyota pickup back around 1983 that we fitted out with a camper loaded with VCR's and VHS movies, sending it up the twisting highways of British Columbia's famous Slocan Valley twice a week to expand the global influence of our budding video store empire. And it was perfect!
If there'd been a 4Runner back then it would have fit the bill even better, eschewing the high, tippy camper with a much more capable – and less scary in the twisties – vehicle.
Today's 4Runner is a lot different and a lot more capable, even if the TRD stuff adds mostly creature comforts rather than upping the 4Runner's already prodigious off-road talent.
Toyota Canada's sample 4Runner featured a Lunar Rock exterior paint scheme, with a SofTex,Black interior. It's powered by a four litre, DOHC V6 with variable valve timing and part-time 4WD, which means you have to activate the front wheels via controls inside the cabin. Toyota rates the engine's output as 270-horsepower and 278 lb.-ft. of peak torque.
During my week with the 4Runner the roads were slippery, but the 4Runner was capable enough that I didn't need to activate the four-wheel drive mode even under those conditions. In fact, leaving it in two wheel (rear wheel drive) let me have some fun on those slippery roads, though the inclusion of a hand brake would have been even more interesting.
Power gets to whatever wheels you're using via a five-speed automatic with a manual mode for better control. This might seem – and probably is – quite old tech but I liked it. Too many of today's automatic transmissions use up to 10 speeds, to save fuel, but it also decreases the driveability because when you want to accelerate the thing has to downshift multiple times to get into the power band. Having only five speeds gets around this – at the expense of gas mileage but I daresay folks concerned with saving gas are looking for something like a Venza or a Highlander hybrid.
Or maybe even a Sienna.
Anyway, the 4Runner also comes with Active Traction Control (A-TRAC), a Class IV Towing Receiver hitch (the vehicle is rated with a 5,000 pound towing capability), X-REAS "Sport Enhancement" Suspension (it ain't particularly sporting, but it's plenty fine for this type of "truck"), front and rear ventilated disc brakes on the 20-inch wheels and old fashioned (but perfectly fine) hydraulic power steering.
The TRD Sport package gets you stuff like Apple CarPlay compatibility, Android Auto compatibility, an eight-inch touch screen, anti-theft system, push button start/stop, eight Speakers, satellite radio with a three-month trial, a 4.2-inch colour display in the instrument panel, dual-zone automatic climate control garage door opener and a power tilt/slide moonroof.
Nice stuff, but "Racing Development?" Hardly. They might as well have just called it their Premium Edition and been done with it. This, however, is nothing new for Toyota and their TRD packages.
Here's what you don't get for your 53 and a half grand: such modern niceties as a power tailgate, heated steering wheel and a three blink "lane change" feature for the signal light stalk. Little nits, indeed, but when your competitors are offering such things (practically every vehicle I drive these days has at least the three blink signal lights) it might behoove one to try remaining competitive.
At least you get LED lights.
I guess it helps that there isn't a lot of competition in this niche for Toyota to worry about.
All isn't completely Spartan with the TRD Sport 4Runner, fortunately. You get an eight-way power driver's seat, leather-trimmed tilt/telescopic steering wheel, air conditioning with rear seat vents and pollen filter, and a power-sliding liftgate window. The multi-information display can give readouts for outside temperature, odometer, trip meters, fuel economy estimate averages, etc. You also get Lane Departure Alert and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.
Toyota also includes Toyota Safety Sense P (Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Sway Warning System, Automatic High Beams, and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control). There's also Toyota's Star Safety System that includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) with traction control (TRAC, or A-TRAC with 4WD) and Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), and the Smart Stop Technology (SST) brake-override system.
Yeah, you have to pay for all that even if you don't want it. But this isn't a 4Runner thing, it's an industry wide thing spurred by the nanny state.
How unique is the 4Runner in the marketplace these days? Well, as a body-on-frame vehicle (as opposed to the unibody structure of nearly every other vehicle these days), you really only have the Jeep Wrangler and the Ford Bronco to compare it with. Such former competitors as Nissan's Pathfinder and the Ford Explorer have gone the unibody route and that does seem to be the trend.
But if you're looking for a rock-solid off-road performer that won't annoy you too much while on the pavement, the 4Runner – as ancient as it seems – could still be a good choice.
Copyright 2022 Jim Bray