2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro – Soldiering on in a class of its own

2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro – Soldiering on in a class of its own

Story and photos by Russell Purcell (@RoadTestRuss)

Toyota’s 4Runner is now in its fifth generation, which is quite a remarkable feat in this day and age, but what sets it apart from the majority of sport utility vehicles out there is the fact that it is one of the few that can still tackle the rough stuff with aplomb.

Most of the manufacturers have decided to focus their design and engineering dollars towards making their utility vehicles more civilized, with the goal being to maximize comfort, road handling and convenience. In short, most of the 4Runner’s former rivals have been neutered to the point that they perform more like station wagons and minivans than adventure vehicles.

Toyota, however, has remained keen on maintaining its stranglehold on this segment of the market, one characterized by active individuals who need a safe and roomy vehicle that is able to transport all their toys and gear to the slopes, mountains, or remote fishing hole. The 4Runner features a body-on-frame design complete with a solid rear axle and one of the most capable (and proven) four-wheel drive systems available. As a result, the five- or seven-passenger 4Runner is rugged and robust enough to plough through just about anything the adventurous consumer may ask it to do. Unfortunately, TRD Pro buyers must make do with five seats, as the seven seat configuration is only available on the Limited model.

Our test unit was the top-of-the-line TRD Pro model, which comes equipped with beefier Bilstein high-performance shocks (with remote rear reservoirs), TRD-tuned front springs, and a more aggressive tire. Other TRD Pro goodies include a lever-type 4WD selector, 4-Wheel Crawl Control, Multi-Terrain Select, rear differential lock, automatic disconnecting differential, Multi-terrain ABS, 17-inch matte black aluminum wheels with TRD centre caps, black TRD badging, a TRD-stamped aluminum front skid plate, hood scoop, and a unique Heritage Toyota grille. Interior upgrades include special black Softex seats with red stitching, TRD Pro shift knob, TRD floor mats, and Optitron instrument gauges.

Under the hood resides Toyota’s 4.0-litre V6 engine mated to a five-speed automatic transmission. In an era when the majority of vehicles for sale feature at least six gears, this might seem like a detriment to the model, and it is marginal when it comes to fuel efficiency, but the upside of this transmission is that it is one of the most robust and reliable gearboxes available in the automotive realm.

Power is sufficient with 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque, although acceleration when the vehicle is laden with a full complement of gear and passengers is constant, but far from brisk.

The part-time four-wheel drive system on the TRD Pro allows for increased efficiency in everyday driving, but when the pavement comes to an end, or the driver decides to travel off the grid, he or she can manually select Low4 or High4 settings based on vehicle speed, purpose and terrain.

The TRD Pro rides relatively smoothly while traveling on city streets and cruising on the highway, but the quality and engineering of the Bilstein shocks and TRD springs is revealed as soon as you venture onto rough roads, mogul fields or loose rocks. The suspension takes hit after hit as the vehicle’s 17-inch alloys clamber over obstacles and debris without major drama, allowing the driver to maintain control of the vehicle and passengers to remain largely isolated from disruptive jolts and jarring forces.

During my week with the 4Runner, I traveled up above the snowline on largely unserviced fire roads and through over foot-deep snow without missing a beat. Traction remained constant as the suspension sought to keep my wheels and tires on the ground while the four-wheel drive system kept me moving forward. I also explored the mud flats and forest trails surrounding Stave Lake (B.C.), and came away from the experience amazed at just how adept Toyota’s multi-terrain management program really is. It proved equally capable of taming mud, sand, snow or rock, combating slippage and wheelspin and inspiring driver confidence.

Ground clearance is a healthy 9.8 inches, while the departure and approach angles (26 and 33 degrees respectively) are impressive for a stock vehicle of this type. Protector plates help protect both the transfer case and the fuel tank.

The Cavalry Blue hue of the paint garnered countless comments and lots of raised thumbs, but it was the TRD Pro’s predictable handling and mountain goat-like abilities that captured my attention. I was most in awe at how easily the vehicle descended precarious slopes. Toyota’s CRAWL control system provides a safety net of technology to give you the confidence needed to navigate your way through treacherous terrain with relative ease. We make better choices when we are free from stress, and allowing this system to regulate speed and braking allows the driver to concentrate on steering the 4Runner down the safest path.

While the cabin may seem dated with regards to the look, feel, and function of many of the switches and accessories, it is well-constructed, comfortable, and spacious. Visibility is quite good due to the abundance of tall windows, and there is a back-up camera. Unfortunately, a blind-spot monitoring system is not available.

While the Toyota 4Runner in any flavour may be missing many of the creature comforts and safety systems consumers now expect at this price point, in TRD Pro guise it is outfitted to take its occupants to places and adventures where other vehicles fear to tread, and this is what sets it apart in the SUV category.


Technical Specifications: 2018 Toyota 4Runner 

Price (MSRP): $45,440.00; $52,920.00 (TRD Pro)

Price (as tested): $54,832.50 Includes TRD Pro Package ($7,480.00); Federal A/C tax ($100.00); Environmental tire handling fee ($16.50); Environmental filter handling fee ($1.00); OMVIC fee ($10.00); Freight and PDI ($1,785.00)

Type: 4WD 5- or 7-passenger mid-size SUV

Engine: 4.0L DOHC 24-valve V6

Transmission: 5-speed auto

Power: 270 hp @ 5,600 rpm

Torque: 278 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

Brakes: Four-wheel ventilated discs

Towing capacity: 2,268 kg (5,000 pounds)

Fuel consumption (L/100km): City 14.3; Highway 12.0

Categories: Features, Off-Road Plus