By on November 26, 2015

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Editor’s note: This is TTAC’s second-most popular review of the last 12 months. It originally ran February 26th, 2015. You guys (and gals, I assume) sure love your SUVs.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are road tests, and then there are off-road tests. In a typical road test, writers use the car on their daily commute, playing with all the features and determine which bother them and which don’t. There may be some family activities thrown in, like going on a weekend trip or driving around the soccer team carpool. Sometimes, they might attempt to verify the manufacturer-reported performance numbers and use their smartphone to record 0-60 acceleration times and lateral g-forces in the corners. Other times they might go to the hardware store and fill the trunk with bricks to cargo volume and payload capacity. But most of the time, writers just utilize the car for day-to-day activities, evaluating a product in the most mundane of circumstances.

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In an off-road test, the writer has to set aside a day or two of his or her time and plan an excursion that doesn’t involve driving on paved roads. Their smartphone probably won’t work unless they’ve scaled the top of a hill with their vehicle. The only features worth using are the radio (if it can pick up any stations), and the transfer case to shift into low range so you can climb up the nearest mountain for the ultimate photo of your off-road test car. There won’t be any other people, let alone cars, for miles, meaning you can avoid loud stereos and your carpooling buddies’ conversations about how they now have to watch Birdman since it won a lot of Oscars. You won’t have people staring at you in the Home Depot parking lot with a stack of bricks that can collapse on you at any time. Nothing around you during the test is ordinary.

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Such was the case I was presented with when I found out I’d be getting the 4Runner TRD Pro for a week. Beyond driving on the road, I had to discover how the truck performed off the concrete, since that’s what most buyers would buy a 4Runner TRD Pro for. It was perfect since a) I don’t like going to Home Depot, and b) testing the 4Runner off-road was a great reason to spend the day away from civilization.

First, let’s start focus on the looks of the 4Runner TRD Pro. With the black wheels and 31.5-inch Nitto Terra Grappler tires, the “TOYOTA” lettering on the grille rather than the emblem, and the TRD suspension kit, the TRD Pro looks the business. The exterior colors offered are a solid black, a solid white, and a solid red-orange color called “Inferno,” color choices that are oddly very similar to what the BMW 1-Series M was offered with. All the interiors have black SofTex (think a very nice-feeling vinyl material that most people will mistake for leather) seats and black interior trim with red stitching. Again, very similar to the 1-Series M. You can’t get any other interior color choices from the factory.

Toyota didn’t focus too much on on-road performance of the 4Runner TRD Pro. They stuck with what they knew in the 4.0-liter V-6 and 5-speed automatic combination that’s found in all new 4Runners. Sure, you might want more power, but I wouldn’t be comfortable dealing with a faulty turbocharger or supercharger in the middle of any desert in the world. I will admit it doesn’t accelerate to 60 miles per hour very quickly. As for handling, even with those immense Nitto tires and the TRD Bilstein shocks, the TRD Pro still drove well. It isn’t available with the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System like the Trail model, so the handling isn’t as sharp. However, don’t expect U-turns to go perfectly. Three-point turns will become the norm if you suddenly decide to go in the other direction. I learned that the hard way.

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Regarding comfort and ergonomics, considering the off-road modifications, the 4Runner remained a refined vehicle, especially compared to some Jeeps and modified Nissan Xterras that the 4Runner was hanging with. The heated front seats were power-adjustable with two-way lumbar support, while the back seats provided plenty of legroom. On the highway the 4Runner rode like any normal car. After five hours round-trip of highway driving and off-roading, there were no complaints of discomfort or soreness from any of the passengers. Unlike the Limited, the TRD Pro only seats five people, so it is not for large families. Cargo room is plentiful, and I was able to fit two bikes with two-thirds of the rear seat folded down.

The TRD Pro comes standard with the Entune premium audio system and navigation. The audio system was fairly good for a base unit and I can only imagine what the JBL unit in the Limited sounds like. As for operating the navigation system, the same Toyota quirks apply. There’s limited use of the system while driving, so I found myself shifting into Park at some stoplights; however, using voice control on the go (which understood what I said surprisingly well) eliminates a good deal of the problem. You can install apps on the Entune system as well, while the screen doubles up as a back-up camera display.

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This thing was absolutely exceptional off-road. And all things considered, I wasn’t easy on it. Since driving into the creeks around my house to test the 4Runners off-road capabilities would likely earn me a visit from local law enforcement and looks of scorn from my neighborhood, I took it to the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area. Think of it as a skate park, but for people with off-road vehicles rather than wearing skates. There are trails and obstacle courses to take your 4WD vehicle on. When you’re there, the views are secondary to the driving.

The key off-road features in the 4Runner were the Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control. Those controls were located on the overhead console, and were very simple to use in tandem with the driver information screen in the gauge cluster. Multi-Terrain Select came in handy plenty of times when going in the mud, traversing the rocks, and doing the mogul obstacles. All I had to do was make sure the 4Runner was shifted into low range with the correct mode selected, and the Multi-Terrain Select managed to find grip on such surfaces, even with a wheel in the air.

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Crawl Control could be thought of as an off-road cruise control system. It worked by engaging low range, pressing the on/off button on the overhead console, selecting a speed (Low, Medium, High), and then the car would work both the throttle and the brakes while I steered the 4Runner. Steering input from the driver is a must, but your feet can be off the pedals when the Crawl Control is on. Putting a foot on the throttle or brakes disengages Crawl Control. The system worked exceptionally well when ascending and descending steep and rocky dirt roads, and working without fault when doing the adventure course at Hollister Hills.

When it came to Hollister Hills SVRA’s 4×4 Obstacle Course, where the avid four-wheelers bring their rock crawlers and production vehicles with plenty of off-road upgrades, the 4Runner held its own very well for a truck that was entirely stock. Some obstacles which Jeeps couldn’t climb, the 4Runner managed to do, while on muddy roads, the 4Runner managed to keep going without requiring me to select low range. On one particularly steep obstacle, the locking rear differential helped tremendously, as otherwise, the vehicle would have had a more difficult time climbing up. Overall, I enjoyed the 4Runner TRD Pro off-road and the vehicle (without any modifications whatsoever) was very, very capable.

On the trails, the 4Runner was delightful. It was able to climb up the rockiest of trails in order to get to a nice overlook to have the lunch I brought. When descending or ascending some of the trails, all I had to do was engage Crawl Control, point the 4Runner in the correct direction, and the onboard systems did the rest of the work. The size of the truck wasn’t an issue; there were no dents on the bodywork of the car and few moments where I preferred the size of a Jeep Wrangler. I left Multi-Terrain Select on most of the time as an added line of defense, which was extremely helpful when ascending some steep trails at Hollister Hills.

As for downsides with the TRD Pro, there are a few. One is the fuel economy, where I got 17 mpg during my time with the 4Runner both on- and off-road in 2WD, 4WD, and low range enabled. On the bright side, the fuel tank is 23 gallons, meaning the range is quite good. On the other hand, get used to long fill-ups (both a Yaris and a Cavalier filled up at the same pump during the time it took me to refuel the 4Runner) and $60+ gas bills. Another downside is that there are only going to be 3,400 units of the 4Runner TRD Pro for 2015. As such, the only available options on this model are only the dealer-installed accessories. A sunroof, leather seats, and a factory-installed high-end sound system aren’t available.

However, Toyota knows the 4Runner TRD Pro isn’t for everyone if they’re offering only 3,400 of them. If you need a third seat and/or leather seats, you should choose the Limited (or spend $30,000 more for a Land Cruiser). If you have to have a sunroof and want the option of more adaptive and dynamic suspension (KDSS), you can go with the Trail. If you don’t want to spend more than $40,000, and I don’t think dealers will lower the price much on the TRD Pro, get the SR5. If fuel economy is your thing, get a Highlander. And if you want more power, consider a Tundra TRD Pro with the 5.7-liter V-8 or getting the Land Cruiser, as it too has Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select.

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As for pricing, the 4Runner TRD Pro I tested stickered at $43,134, with some accessories installed. Oddly, the base price on my test car was $200 lower than the base price on the Toyota website, which is $41,310 before the $885 destination charge. Additionally, be aware that many TRD Pros will come equipped with the sliding rear cargo deck for an extra $350, so factor that into the final price. Despite the price increases, with an MSRP of around $43,000, I think the 4Runner TRD Pro is a steal. Normal 4Runners are generally listed towards the top of Kelley Blue Book reports of projected resale value, and the 4WD TRD Pro is certain to depreciate less due to its low production numbers.

Now, be aware that procuring a 4Runner TRD Pro is actually pretty tough at the moment. After going on the forums, many people have to order their TRD Pros and wait a few months. Some have even had to pay over sticker due to where they live. When I tried searching for a 4Runner TRD Pro in the San Francisco Bay Area, I had an extremely tough time finding one. After my search and contacting local dealers, it looked like I would have to order the car (and even pay over sticker in some cases) to get my hands on a new TRD Pro. If anything, I think the depreciation will be a lot less than any of us ever would think.

In the end, I am enamored with the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro, especially its off-road and even on-road capabilities. If you’re considering a Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, Xterra PRO-4X, Land Rover LR4, or a Grand Cherokee with the off-road package, take a good look at the 4Runner TRD Pro. It’s rare that I write this of any car, but if you can manage to get your hands on one at MSRP, you should seriously think it over. Considering that it’s being made in limited quantities, is reliable, managed to do some very tough trails that some highly modified off-road vehicles can’t do, looks really good, and is still your normal, closed, comfortable 4Runner at the end of day, the TRD Pro is phenomenal.

Toyota provided the vehicle, a full tank of gas for this review, and insurance. That last one was important since I returned it with a couple gashes on the underbody.

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24 Comments on “Giving Thanks: 2015 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro Review...”


  • avatar
    BWalker82

    I love the new grill and front badging. Very nice.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    I’m not a high COG vehicle person (so not a fan of pickups, SUVs, CUVs), but I have an exceptional admiration and appreciation for this vehicle.

    It appears to be a high quality built 4×4 from a reputable automaker that has all the utility and features consistent with its purpose, and little extraneous, technological B.S. that drives the price of so many similar vehicles up.

    It will probably outlast most other segment completing vehicles (here’s looking at you Aluminum clad ecoboost Ford trucks) made today if taken care of by a wide margin.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      DeadWeight,
      The other day I was having a robust debate with some Ford fans on another site regarding the Raptor.

      My comment was the Raptor wasn’t the best off roader, and boy did that stir them up a little.

      So I presented links of the best 4x4s around, past and present. The TRD 4Runner was deemed to be a better all round 4×4 than the Raptor in one of the reviews.

      The best all round 4×4 went to the 40 series Landcruiser. The Wrangler also had difficulty in being at the top of the lists.

      The three or four links I presented showed that Toyota had built far more and better 4x4s than other manufacturers. The Japanese 4x4s topped the lists, with, believe it or not the Europeans distand second and the US in third.

      I’m not a Toyota fan, but give me a Toyota any day over a Jeep when I want reliability and capability.

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        “I was having a robust debate”

        Just wanted to break in here to compliment you on that novel euphemism for sharting.

        *Oh, what the hell.. clicks Submit*

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al From 'Murica

        The Raptor is too big for hardcore trail work, but I think it would be a blast in the desert. As to the Land Cruisers, I’ve had a 40 and an 80 series and the 80 was better off-road by every conceivable metric. The 40 was more fun and outside of rust, easier to keep running but the 80 would drive over or through anything (except of course a gas station). The 70 would be my pick. Modern drivetrain and goodness with tighter 40 dimensions.

  • avatar
    VW16v

    Maybe Isis will post a message on their new TRD=Terrorist Ready Division; 4Runner.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    I want one of these in such a bad way. Sadly, no moonroof means that I’d go Trail Edition w/ KDSS instead. I have to have the auto-air conditioning provided by the open moonroof and the open rear gate window. As my wife longingly looks at the new MINI Clubman, I’m scheming on how to get a 4Runner back into the fleet. Blue trail edition, premium, get the dark silver TRD wheels (like the pro), and the Pro grille bolts right on. Fin.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I hear you on the open moonroof+open hatch window, it’s the ultimate 4runner “easter egg” feature. Not really talked about in official Toyota literature, but man I’ve gotta believe that engineers worked on this because the laminar air flow that you get from on this combination is incredible. I do it all the time in my ’96 Limited. I’m actually back home in Ithaca NY right now, road tripped up in my old 4runner so I can take it up some of my favorite fire roads to get to some hiking trailheads. Got a consistent 20mpg on the drive over, and that trusty old 3.4L v6 has enough torque for the transmission to stay locked up in overdrive up all the grades on I86 through western NY. Looking forward to getting a bit of mud on her.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        As luck would have it, I might be in the market for a 4Runner again. Maybe unlucky is a better way to describe it because a head on collision is why I’m in the market for a new vehicle. I took my wife’s 2014 RAV4 Limited to work yesterday instead of my FR-S. I had to drop off some large items on the way there. Coming home, a 90s Canry with a blacked out driver (so he claims) came across the yellow line and blasted my front driver’s side quarter panel. Side curtain airbags inflated, front wheel is where the a pillar meets the chassis floor. The Rav stayed together and I’m no worse for wear, but it was pretty violent. My wife said we could get a 4Runner as the family car replacement if I wanted. I don’t know if she is saying that in an “omg, I’m so happy you are ok way” or if she’ll legitimately be OK with something that big.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    I’ve been a 4Runner fan and owner for decades now. But this 5th generation is so ugly that I couldn’t bring myself to buy one. So I switched over to an unreliable Grand Cherokee instead. And you know what? I’d do it all over again because the terrible styling of the current 4Runner is a bigger issue than the reliability issues of the Grand Cherokee. I certainly hope the 6th gen 4Runner returns to at least decent styling. This 5th gen has been around for too long already (since the 2010 MY) and the mid-cycle update didn’t help the styling at all….

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      They’re different animals.

      The TRD Pro 4Runner is far more off road friendly and on road unfriendly, while the much more refined JGC is the opposite (though it can be used off road if need be, but not for serious rock crawling in standard guise – that’s really the Wrangler’s domain, anyways).

      • 0 avatar
        White Shadow

        I wasn’t making a comparison of their capabilities. The 4Runner and the Grand Cherokee are very often cross shopped by many buyers because of their similar size and price point. It doesn’t matter if one is more refined and the other is geared more towards offroading. Besides, nobody off-roads either of them much anyway. I bet less than 3% of 4Runners in general hardly see more than an occasional gravel road. The whole off-road thing is more about the mindset of having the capability rather than actually using it.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Sizewise, the 4runner has A LOT more interior and cargo room than the Grand Cherokee. Now, to some people that don’t stuff their vehicles to the brim that’s irrelevant, but I find the Grand Cherokee’s poor interior room preposterous considering their exterior bulk. And the reliability gap cannot be understated. We’re comparing one of the most reliable nameplates in auto-dom to one with quite the opposite reputation.

          • 0 avatar
            White Shadow

            My last 4Runner was a 4th gen and it seems identical to my current 2015 Grand Cherokee in terms of interior space. Well, with one exception—the Jeep has far more head room, which is appreciated with my 6′ height.

      • 0 avatar
        Shawnski

        But an F150 is? Sensitive about things you hold true, but doubt other domestics. You are full of shite Deadweight.

  • avatar
    Mikein08

    “A sunroof, leather seats, and a factory-installed high-end sound system aren’t available.”

    In a SERIOUS off road vehicle, none of the above is a problem. You
    want a vehicle that will get you there AND BACK without problems or
    fuss. This vehicle appears to be able to do that. And for $43k, it’s
    a screaming bargain. And I’m reasonably sure it will outlast ANY
    offering from FCA, and probably outperform it too.

    • 0 avatar
      White Shadow

      Outlast? That’s a good bet. Outperform? Not a chance. If you’re talking off-road, the Wrangler will easily outperform it. If you’re talking on the road, a Hemi Grand Cherokee will outperform it and an SRT version would run circles around it.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        You’re right in regards to performance at the extreme ends of the spectrum, the Rubicon is a total monster and undisputed champ in the US for stock offroader capability. Likewise there isn’t a sport tuned 4runner that can hang speed or handling wise with a road-biased srt grand Cherokee. However, I’d argue the 4runner does a very good job if striking the perfect balance of better off road performance than a grand Cherokee, but much more civilized than a wrangler on road, while having more utility than both.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      I would counter with the obligatory “a serious offroader is not available off the showroom floor but is built with ,sweat,and tears or a credit card with a generous limit”.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Just got a 16 SR5, it’s truly astounding why anyone would waste money on the highlander when this is sitting beside it on the same lot, it’s a night and day difference, getting into the 4Runner out of the highlander makes you feel as if you just got out of a coma and boarded the top thrill dragster at Cedar Point.

    It’s a good looking truck that really puts to shame the CUVs trying to imitate it.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      That’s like saying “I can’t understand why people buy screwdrivers with all of these great hammers on sale.”. Different tools for different jobs.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    They are very different animals and both serve their purposes well. I have very little need for off-roading; an AWD Highlander would better suit my lifestyle. It’s a more comfortable vehicle for me.

    The 4Runner is astounding as a trail vehicle that can also work as a commuter.

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