NEVER TOO OLD TO PLAY IN THE MUD: 2020 TOYOTA 4RUNNER TRD PRO
Going into its 11th year on its current 5th generation platform, one would think the Toyota 4Runner has ran its course. When it comes to the automotive industry, most vehicles don’t see pass 6 to 8 years before we see a completely new design. Very rarely do we see past 10 years and in some cases the manufacturer may be trying to squeeze every last profit out of the thing. When it comes to Toyota, why mess with something that doesn’t need to be messed with? At least that must be their moto when it comes to their body-on frame chassis vehicles as this includes the Tundra, Sequoia and Land Cruiser. As the 4Runner crosses over the decade threshold into 2020, there are few new elements bringing this old-timer into the modern era.
One of those changes does not include the engine. Growing strong with the 4.0-liter V-6 engine, we have to hand out credit when credit is due – this soul full scoundrel has to deal with a lot of abuse from the driver and we don’t mean a heavy foot. Given the nature of 4Runner and its off-road capability, a lot of stress is put on to this engine having to climb mountains, conquer muddy terrains and forging thick sand.
Wishing it had more power; the 270-horsepower engine carries quite the groan transferring its 278 lb-ft of torque. Unfortunately, all that grunt doesn’t provide that swift kick when put our foot to the floor; after all the 4Runner is quite heavy at nearly 4800lbs. With an old-school 5-speed automatic, the transmission is rather soothing with smooth gear changes as its scurries its way to 60-mph in about 8-seconds. The drawback to its heavy weight and 5-foward gears is its fuel economy as we averaged just under 16-mpg combined despite EPA rating it at 17-mpg city, 20-mpg highway, 18-mpg combined.
Our first experience sets us back to 2014 with the Limited, a year before the TRD Pro emerged. As for 4Runners go, the Limited, even with all its poshness, is a surprising capable machine, and that was before we discovered the capability behind the 4Runner Trail (now known as the TRD Off-Road) with a locking rear-differential, crawl control assist and multi-terrain select. When it comes to the TRD Pro, the Toyota Racing Development team left the fundamentals alone and upgraded the important bits that accentually beefs up the off-road portion with boosted front and rear 2.5-inch Fox shocks allocating 1-inch of additional wheel travel, TRD tuned front springs, 17-inch matte black wheels wrapped in Nitto Terra Grapple All-Terrain tires, 1/4″ aluminum front skid plate, cat-back exhaust and a $10,000 premium.
With the TRD Pro enhancements, it does change the overall demeanor when it comes to the ride and handling of this off-roader. Continuing with hydraulic steering, there is a sense of connection between the driver and the car. The steering feels accurate and charging over soft sand and dirt it manages to stay controllable. The upgraded suspension brings comfortable composure to both on and off-road driving. Handling high-speeds through the desert or crawling up a steep rocky hill, there is a level of confidence the 4Runners chassis.
Thanks to our friends over at Send it Crew Off-Roading, they allowed us to tackle their off-road proving grounds they have set up to test and train new-combers skill levels for trail runs. To the 4Runner TRD Pro, this was simply just a walk in the park as we faced steep hill climbs, loose sand and muddy obstacles. Unfortunately this is also were we discovered the 4Runners weak spots – with a 33-degree approach angle, there was plenty of obstacles we could face; however, with a 26-degree departure angle, it left us scraping the rear tow hitch. We’re thankful that’s the only thing it scraped. The other obstacle we faced was the Crawl Control feature – after we conquered a sandy steep incline ourselves, we felt this was a good test for the Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select function. After engaging Crawl Control to its second slowest setting, the Multi-Terrain Select to Sand and engaged A-TRAC we proceeded to let the 4Runner do what it does best – till it got stuck and dug itself a hole. Chalking up this mistake to user error on the Crawl Control speed, we cranked it up to full-speed and ended up with the same result. Perhaps this was just one of those cases where it’s best left to the driver’s instincts.
We can fall behind what Toyota is trying to accomplish with the 4Runner by leaving it alone all these years; however, when it comes to the premium state in cars that fall over the $50,000 price tag, there are certain aspect’s we should come to expect. For instance the mis-matched halogen headlights with LED fog lights, foregoing leather for the faux Sof-Trex material, and no blind-spot monitoring. Changes made for 2020 has implemented and upgraded 8-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Entune 2.0 that incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Connectivity as well as Toyota Safety Sense (TSS-P) with a host of automated assist features including Lane Departure Warning, Forward-Collision Warning with Emergency Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control and Automatic High Beam Assist. With an updated info structure to the dash, the climate control interface has been reworked for easier functionality and rear passengers can now stop fighting over a charger with the addition of two USB ports.
Despite the extreme capableness of the Toyota 4Runner, we can’t help but mention the elephant in the room… its age. As it starts to falls further behind the times in design and technology, other off-road capable products such as the Jeep Wrangler and even the Honda Passport start to showcase their worthiness at the same $50,000 price tag with more premium technology and improved performance capabilities. But with age comes prosperity – the 4Runner does what the 4Runner does best – gets dirty, provides fun, and conquers obstacles.
Model: 2020 TOYOTA 4RUNNER
Trim: TRD PRO
Starting Price: $49,765
As Tested: $52,120
Color: ARMY GREEN
Engine: 4.0-LITER V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 270-HORSEPOWER / 278 LB-FT TORQUE
Transmission: 5-SPEED AUTOMATIC
Drivetrain: PART-TIME FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE WITH LOCKING DIFFERTIAL, A-TRAC TRACTION MANAGEMENT, TERRAIN SELECT, AND CRAWL CONTROL
Fuel Economy: EPA RATED: 16-CITY / 19-HWY / 17-COMBINED
AS TESTED: 15.6 MPG COMBINED
Fuel Range: 340 MILES
0-60 MPH: ±8.0 SECONDS