While hardly the most modern vehicle in Toyota’s lineup, the 4Runner has developed a reputation for being a versatile body-on-frame SUV with the ability to actually tackle off-road trails — rather than simply looking the part.
This year, the model is celebrating its 40th birthday and Toyota has opted to issue a special edition limited to 4,040 examples. The vehicle in question comes with the 4Runner’s 4.0-liter V6, five-speed automatic transmission, and some visual embellishments designed to set the vehicle apart. These include bronze-colored wheels, bronze-colored badging, and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) stripes down the side. But those are just the broad strokes.
Toyota is updating the 2020 4Runner with more safety tech, infotainment options, and a compelling new trim. Based on the TRD Off-Road Premium trim, the 4Runner Venture Edition ditches the chrome to furnish customers with the ever-popular blacked-out experience. Mirrors, door handles, badging, and rear spoiler are all swapped for the darkest hue available.
The rest of the package plays to the body-on-frame 4Runner’s strengths. Toyota has fitted a Yakima Megawarrior roof rack as standard equipment as the vehicle’s crown jewel. Venture Editions also receive gunmetal 17-inch TRD wheels, while removing all other exterior references to Toyota Racing Development. The manufacturer suggests this provides the trim with “a cool, minimalist look,” and we find it difficult to disagree.
Earlier this year, we addressed speculation that there was a chance Nissan’s new body-on-frame SUV — and spiritual successor to the now-defunct Xterra — could go on sale in the United States. Unfortunately, the development team behind the Nissan Terra has advised us to keep it in our pants. It isn’t coming here, despite previous claims from the manufacturer that it could be possible.
“We can do anything,” Ashwani Gupta, global head of light commercial vehicles for the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance, said last March, while maintaining that a strong case would still need to be made for the model’s U.S. arrival, “[The Terra has] authentic capability to go off-road — even if the customer only wants to go off-road once a year.”
Nissan has since changed its tune on the Terra’s prospects. “Currently, that is out of our scope,” Hironori Awano, chief vehicle engineer of the Terra, said during a briefing at Nissan’s global technical center last week. “The U.S. market is one of the toughest, not just because of crash tests but also because of customer expectations.”
It’s no secret that the hand-of-god 6.2-liter V8 is popular at TTAC. Those of us who command one with our right foot are outnumbered only by those who wish they had the 420-horsepower engine in their driveway.
General Motors sensibly started offering the larger V8 in trims other than ones named Denali a little while ago, finally debuting it in the Tahoe RST late last year. For 2019, buyers of the big kahuna Suburban can spec the hairy-chested 6.2L, as well.
Nissan has twice confirmed production for its Navara-based body-on-frame sport utility vehicle. Called the Terra, rumors of the new model had off-road enthusiasts cocking their hands in preparation for a round of high-fives. Unfortunately, the vehicle appears to have been specifically designed for the Chinese market and may be spending all of its time in Asia for a while.
That hasn’t kept people from speculating that the Terra might eventually replace the Pathfinder or return as a successor to the defunct Xterr a. We’re dubious of any claims that the Pathfinder might return to body-on-frame status. Sales of the model have been steady in North America and have not been hurt by its unibody design. But, with Nissan’s Frontier badly needing an update, it is not inconceivable that it could spawn an SUV using the Xterra name in a couple years.
Longsufferingtime readers of this author’s natterings know my preference for all things of the body-on-frame variety. That’s why I’m going to take every opportunity I can to trumpet the kinda sorta maybe possibility that Nissan will reintroduce the Xterra.
The old Xterra only hung around for two generations, offering righteous options such as a stick-shift manual, supercharged power, and a locking rear diff. It’s the polar opposite of a Qashqai Rogue Sport. Given today’s market tastes, I totally understand why Nissan offers a phalanx of unibody crossovers – like any smart company, its giving the people what they want.
It still doesn’t stop me from pining for a small, butch SUV from Nissan, though. With an introduction yesterday in China, that future is one step closer to reality. Maybe.
As the beyond dominant sales kings of the large SUV segment, the body-on-frame General Motors brutes can afford to mix things up a little and take a chance on something new. Like a sports team whose winning streak assures them a spot in the playoffs, trying a new play no longer carries with it the same amount of risk. After all, its failure is not exactly going to scupper the season.
Chevrolet heeds this advice for 2018, electing to plug a new player into its lineup by stuffing the mighty 420-horsepower 6.2-liter V8 in its Tahoe, creating the Tahoe RST.
Do you miss the Nissan Xterra? Me, too. Appropriately blocky and truck-like in all the right ways, Nissan’s midsized off-road SUV was a great blend of tough looks and actual, y’know, functionality.
The old Xterra vanished from showrooms in 2015. Reading between the lines of a statement made by the head of Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi’s light commercial vehicle division and reported by Aussie site Drive, a new one may be on the horizon.
All across America, Hummer H2s are rolling over in their graves.
What even is a Toyota C-HR? Is the Hyundai Kona an indirect Kia Borrego replacement? The Jeep Renegade shares its platform with… an Italian cute-ute?
But have no fear, dead Hummer. The body-on-frame SUV is here to stay. The surge in crossovers — both the number sold and the number of nameplates available — has not caused the American consumer to leave traditional SUVs behind entirely.
U.S. sales of traditional body-on-frame SUVs are up 7 percent through the first five months of 2017, right on par with the growth rate achieved by the SUV/crossover sector as a whole.
A great advantage to being one of the world’s largest automakers is that one can afford to wait for a bet to pay off. Witness this body-on-frame fifth-generation 4Runner, introduced to an apathetic and SUV-adverse public in the dark days of the 2009 as a ’10 model. It is still sharing showroom space with Corollas and Camrys today. Contrast this to Kia that introduced its body-on-frame SUV – the Borrego – at around the same time. It landed in the market with a dull thud and quickly resigned itself to the automotive dustbin of history in North America.
The 4Runner’s fortunes are on the upswing assisted by consumers consuming SUVs with all the restraint of a record producer with a garbage bag full of cocaine and a garden hose. Toyota sold more 4Runners in 2016 than at any other time in the last dozen years despite the brand’s glacier-like design cycle and the 4Runner being largely unchanged since the turn of the decade.
At a recent Nissan truck and SUV event in Carmel, a senior Nissan rep indicated there is zero chance the Smyrna, Tennessee based operation will alter its winning mid-size pickup formula.
When asked about the prospects of a unibody Frontier, Dan Passe, Senior Manager of Nissan Brand Communications, laughingly responded, “We don’t normally comment on future product, but a unibody Frontier is not happening.”
“My advice for aspiring writers is go to New York. And if you can’t go to New York, go to the place that represents New York to you, where the standards for writing are high, there are other people who share your dreams, and where you can talk, talk, talk about your interests.”
— Walter Kirn
I quote Mr. Kirn to begin this review not only because his novel, Up In The Air, may as well be an unauthorized Bark M. biography, but because he’s right. Writers need to go to New York. More specifically, autowriters need to go to the New York International Auto Show. Detroit is the biggest. Geneva gets all the supercars. But to see and be seen? To network with fellow writers? To get your finger on the pulse of what’s shaking in the car biz?
There’s only one show that matters, and that’s New York.
Cadillac has one exceptionally good, class-leading model in its range. That model doesn’t have a V badge. It isn’t even a car. And almost nothing about it is unique. It’s the Escalade. And people can’t get enough of its luxury whipped cream dolloped atop its American apple pie.
Contrary to recent reports that the Escalade will abandon its body-on-frame roots, it looks like the Escalade will continue as a luxury offshoot of its full-size SUV cousins — the Yukon and Tahoe/Suburban — reports the Detroit Free Press based on an interview with Cadillac CEO Johan de Nysschen:
“The Escalade must become more sophisticated and technically advanced, more detail oriented” in its interior design and materials, [Johan de Nysschen] said. “We can do all that with a body-on-frame architecture.”
Though, if we’re to dig into this no-change-is-good story a bit more, maybe Cadillac couldn’t change the Escalade even if it wanted to.
After following your and TTAC’s collective wisdom regarding Panthers, I have enjoyed four and a half years of somewhat trouble-free $1000 police-auction 2001 Crown Victoria ownership. The Crown Vic is a wonderful first car and I love it dearly, despite – or maybe especially – because it taught me a lot about the finer points of its drive train, front end etc. as I eventually ended up parking-lot and shade-tree repairing or replacing just about every major component other than the exhaust and transmission. However, it might now be time to look into a successor for my trusty ride.