2023 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro - Review by Bruce Hotchkiss +VIDEO
The SUV You Cannot Hide
Special Correspondent, West Coast Bureau
THE AUTO CHANNEL
Lord help me! When this orange (Toyota calls it Solar Octane) 4Runner was delivered I thought "Who would ever want this color?" Then it grew on me. Now I like it. I never, ever had trouble finding this 4Runner in a parking lot full of anonymous SUVs; a quick scan and yep, there it is. I know, I hear you saying "It's too pretty for off-roading." You know what? Most of you never take the non-road less traveled. You might tackle some snow, maybe you drive a rutted dirt road, but really go rock crawling? Maybe 5-10% of buyers will go where no man or woman has gone before.
That doesn't mean I doubt the off-road prowess of the 4Runner TRD Pro. It definitely looks the part, and it's got a real frame underneath, 9.6" of ground clearance, part-time 4WD with high and low range, Fox shocks and TRD tuned suspension, multi-terrain and crawl control adjustments, locking rear differential, P265/70R17 Nitto Terra Grappler all-terrain tires, and a stamped aluminum front skid plate. Under the hood is Toyota's tried and true 4.0-liter V6 that makes 270 hp, and 278 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,400 rpm. The only transmission available is a 5-speed automatic. I am kind of surprised that Toyota doesn't offer the 10-speed auto that is in the Tundra.
Despite all this neat, easy to use 4WD stuff I never used it. I suppose if I lived where the weather can get really nasty I might have to shift into 4WD now and then but I spent my first 40 years in areas where it snowed and I never even had to install chains once; snow tires and sensibility work just fine.
Getting in and out of the 4Runner was fairly easy; it isn't that high (folding running boards are optional). I do wish the steering wheel had a quick release to swing up because just about every time I climbed in I hit my right knee on the bottom of the steering wheel. Yes I could adjust the wheel up but I leave the wheel in a position so the tachometer and speedometer are fully visible.
There is seating for five - two up front and three in the back. I had my granddaughter with her booster seat in the back and there was easily room for two adults. By the way she also loved to color.
The V6 starts with the push of a button and settles into a nice burble at idle. Given the number of trucks and SUVs with loud exhaust the 4Runner isn't that loud but there really isn't any need for noise if you're out exploring nature. I could live without the drone on the highway.
One option, the Sliding Rear Cargo Deck, seemed pointless to me. The reach to the back of the rear seat is not that long. Maybe if the sliding part extended further out it would be useful as a tailgating table.
Those big, meaty tires surprised me. Not in their capabilities (I only drove the 4Runner on pavement) but in how quiet they were. Often "off-road" tires can be very noisy.
You might be surprised at how comfortable the 4Runner rides. When many people think of an off-road vehicle they think it must have a harsh ride. And some do. But the secret to a good off-road suspension isn't firmness it is suspension travel and compliance (or so I've been told). If you watch off-road racing you will see vehicles that almost float back to earth after a jump. If you make the parts that are supposed to flex do their job the parts that are supposed to stay rigid won't break. The 4Runner ate up our potholed roads without pounding those inside. Nice job Toyota.
Another attribute an off-road crawler should have is a tight turning circle. When you're winding you way through trees and boulders you need to be able to turn sharply in close quarters. This also helps in day-to-day driving - not as much back and forth trying to get into a parking space or making a (legal) U-turn.
The 4Runner TRD Pro is no lightweight - it tips the scales at 4,750 lbs. Thankfully the brakes are up to the task with 13.3" rotors up front and 12.3" in the rear.
I put a lot of miles (well for me) on the 4Runner - I ran its 23-gallon tank down to a quarter tank. About 2/3 of that was highway. I don't drive that fast, maybe 5 mph over the limit if the road and traffic allows. I saw slightly better fuel economy than the EPA numbers but not by much. On one trip with very little traffic, at 70 mph, I saw 23 mpg. The EPA numbers are 19 mpg highway, and 16 mpg city. These are not great numbers. A big 4X4 Tundra is rated better!
The 4Runner can carry up to 1,550 lbs., and tow up to 5,000 lbs.
Regardless of the negatives I liked the 4Runner, I could live with one. I don't need 4WD, and even the ever so slightly lower ground clearance of a 2WD would make it easier for these old bones to get in or out. But the base SR5 4Runner doesn't have the same distinctive look as the Pro. Oh well.
The test 4Runner TRD Pro is pricey (at least for my budget). The base price is $54,020 (from toyota.com, the public site). The paint is an extra $425, and the sliding cargo deck adds $350. With all fees and taxes you're looking at about $60,000.
A super plus if you are someone who keeps your vehicles a long time is Toyota's deserved (in my opinion) reputation for reliability.