Is the 2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro the perfect SUV for a fun weekend on the trails? Could it also double as a kid mobile during the week? Today the market is filled with crossovers, but for buyers that want something a bit more rugged, their choices are limited to the 4Runner or Jeep Wrangler. While the Wrangler recently got a full redo, the 4Runner has been trucking along since its last redesign in 2010, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Yes the 2018 4Runner TRD Pro may feel a bit retro and rough around the edges, but it has a lot more personality than your neighbor’s Me-Too crossover. Underneath that boxy exterior, the 4Runner rides on an old school body-on-frame platform thanks to its truck roots. Buyers also only get to choose one engine, a 4.0L V6 with 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft. of torque that’s mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. Yup in a world where nine and ten speed automatics are becoming a thing, the 4Runner still only has five speeds.
The retro powertrain may pack a decent amount of grunt, but it isn’t too kind to you when it comes to avoiding the gas station – the 4Runner is rated at only 17/20 mpg.
On the road, the 4Runner maintains that old-school feel with a driving experience that feels a bit like your Dad’s old truck. The steering is numb, the brakes a little squishy and the suspension does have a bit more nose dive than you’ll be used to if you’re coming out of a crossover. Also if you’re used to the latest driver assistance features, like adaptive cruise control or blind spot monitoring, you’ll be disappointed, since they aren’t offered. On paper the 4Runner can do almost everything that a crossover can, but it’s a little rough around the edges. But, if riding in a soft, quiet crossover is your thing, then you shouldn’t even be looking at the 4Runner, since that’s not why it’s here.
The 4Runner, especially the TRD Pro version, is meant for fun. Why take the paved road to your next destination, when you can power through trails, jump over hills and climb over rocks on your way in the 4Runner. Toyota is so serious about the 4Runner being an off-road vehicle, that if you upgrade to the 4Runner TRD Pro, you’ll get Bilstein shocks, TRD tuned front springs, a TRD front skid plate, a locking rear differential and 17-inch black alloy wheels with All Terrain Nitto Terra Grappler tires.
To see how well the 2018 4Runner TRD Pro performed once the paved road ended, we decided to trek up to the Hungry Valley SVRA just north of Los Angeles. The off-road park is filled with trails, hills and sand washes to test out how capable the 4Runner is.
Shift the 4Runner into four-wheel drive via the old school shift lever and you’re ready to go. The 4Runner also comes equipped with Crawl Control that takes takes over the acceleration and braking at speeds below 5 mph so you can focus on navigating through the rough terrain. The Multi-terrain select system also features special driving modes based on the terrain: Mud and Sand, Rock, Mogul and Loose Rock.
Thanks to the 4Runner’s 9.6-inches of ground clearance, locking rear differential and Multi-terrain select system, the 4Runner tackled everything that we could throw at it. Even when we thought we were doomed, the 4Runner kept on going. Try that in a crossover! The 4Runner TRD Pro never lost traction and its suspension took every hit we could throw at it, without completely jarring our organs. The 4Runner inspires so much confidence off-road that you’ll feel like a Pro… hence the “Pro” in the name.
If you walk into a Toyota dealership looking for a modern aka boring SUV, then you’ll want to head over to the row of Highlanders, but if you want something with more personality, then the 4Runner is your SUV. And before you think that the truck based SUV segment is dead, sales of the 4Runner continue to increase with sales up 26 percent in July 2018. In 2017 Toyota also sold 128k 4Runners, which is nearly identical to the number of Honda Pilots sold during the same period.
Pricing for the 2018 Toyota 4Runner starts at $34,810, while our fun 4Runner TRD Pro starts at $43,125.