2017 Toyota 4Runner 4×4 TRD Off-Road Premium: The happy anywhere SUV [Review]

[photo: Toyota]
The 2017 Toyota 4Runner is one of few body on frame sport-utility vehicles left, with others having gone to a more modern unibody construction. Not that body-on-frame construction is undesirable. It arguably makes for a more rugged truck, although a “ladder frame” forces a high step-up and somewhat limits head room. Still, the 4Runner can tow up to 5,000 pounds and does an impressive job tackling off-road terrain with features such as its 9.1-inch ground clearance.

“TRD” stands for Toyota Racing Development. TRD models thus have cosmetic and mechanical features not found on the regular 4Runner. The 2017 4Runner list price range is $34,010-$42,325 and my test rig came in at $39,295, but Toyota says 2018 models will be priced a little higher.

[photo: Toyota]


My test 2017 4Runner 2017 TRD Off-Road Premium model had 17-inch wheels with 70-series tires and a part-time four-wheel-drive system (4×4) with Active TRAC Control to bolster off-road capability with a two-speed transfer case with selectable low range. Toyota says A-TRAC makes terrain irregularities and slippery patches “virtually transparent” to a driver. I didn’t encounter rough terrain.

The test vehicle also had multi-terrain select crawl control and hill-start assist control, besides a  locking rear differential, front/rear stabilizer bars skid plates and vented disc front/rear disc brakes.

For the really serious-minded off-road fans, there’s a TRD Pro Series with unique TRD-tuned front springs TRD Bilstein high-performance shocks, Nitto Tera Grappler tires and a TRD front skid plate. This version has a unique front grille, black bumper accents and special badges.

The 4Runner is powered by a 4-liter dual-overhead camshaft V-6 with 270 horsepower and 278 pound/feet of torque at 4,400 r.p.m. It works with a five-speed automatic transmission with a sequential shift mode. However, since the 4Runner 4×4 TRD Off-Road Premium model weighs approximately 4,700 pounds, the transmission could use at least one more gear to get the most performance from the engine.

The 4Runner also has been accused of mediocre handling, but my test 4X4 TRD Off-Road Premium model handled sweeping highway off- and on-ramps decently, thanks partly to its TRD features, which included a stiffer suspension. The ride was comfortable, although I could tell I was in a truck when encountering rough pavement.

The 0-60 m.p.h. time was acceptable at 7.8 seconds and 65-75 m.p.h. passing times were good, but another gear would have made the engine quieter during hard acceleration.

Estimated fuel economy is 17 miles per gallon in the city and 20 on highways. Only 87-octane gasoline is required, and a 23.9-gallon fuel tank allows a decent cruising range.

[photo: Toyota]

Comfort & Convenience

The 4Runner is 193.3 inches long and provides seating for five passengers, or for seven with its optional third-row seat, which makes the cargo area tight. The five-seat TRD off-Road Premium model has a decent cargo area that’s greatly enlarged by flipping forward the rear 40/20/40 split reclining and folding flat second-row seats. The cargo opening is wide, but rather high. Pulling down the heavy rear hatch with the inside strap calls for some muscle.

The interior is roomy with a fair amount of average-grade plastics and soft padded areas for arms. This 4Runner is quieter than previous 4Runners, which have been accused of being too noisy. There’s an easily used touch screen and conventional, nicely sized controls.

Gauges can be quickly read if it’s not too sunny, and standard features include air conditioning with second-row vents, AM/FM/CD, power heated front seats,  tilt/telescopic wheel with cruise control and a back-up camera. There’s also 12- and 24-volt power outlets, keyless entry and a power sliding rear window. However, the lack of a push-button start made me fumble for the ignition switch behind the steering wheel. A thoroughly modern 4Runner should have the push button. Even some 1930s cars had a push-button start.

The console holders are partly blocked by the shift lever, but there’s a decent amount of cabin storage areas, including front door pockets and a deep covered front  console bin. Rear door pockets are virtually useless, but there’s a large fold-down rear center armrest containing cupholders.

Safety features include vehicle stability control, traction control, side and knee air bags and all-row roll-sensing side curtain air bags.

TFLCAR’s TAKE: The 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium was fun to drive during ordinary motoring, and has a good reputation for off-road jaunts.

To see how the TRD Pro 4Runner handles the gnarliest off-road trail in TFL’s testing arsenal, check out the video below.