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The TRD Pro looks new, but it’s still the capable, old-school off-roader you love.
By Chris Perkins, April 14, 2020, roadandtrack.com
 

The 2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro isn’t exactly new—the current, fifth-generation SUV just entered its tenth model year—but it’s good. Toyota recently updated the TRD Pro trim, introduced in 2014, with Fox Racing shocks, while all 4Runners get new safety and infotainment tech for 2020.

This story originally appeared in the March/April 2020 issue of Road & Track.

These revisions, combined with a severe case of Seasonal Affective Disorder at press time, seemed reason enough to head off road. On an icy December day, I aimed the Toyota’s snout northwest from New York City towards the Catskill Mountains and the Monticello Motor Club. While Monticello is best known for its 4.1 miles of challenging road course and its country-club atmosphere, the track sits on a 300-acre property stuffed with off-road trails: 4Runner territory.
 

In the city, the 4Runner’s road manners surprised me. At heart, it’s still a truck—the steering ratio feels lazy, the rack somewhat vague. But those internal-bypass Fox shocks, paired with tall tire sidewalls, soak up potholes. Toyota’s naturally aspirated, 4.0-liter V-6 is paired with one of the last five-speed automatics in an American-market passenger car. Both engine and transmission date to the beginning of this century, but don’t confuse old tech with poor quality; the pairing has proven reliable as bedrock.

Inside, a new infotainment screen is one of the few nods to modernity. Big control knobs and a large shift lever dominate. A second shifter, mounted nearby, operates a two-speed transfer case with a low-range ratio of 2.566:1.If you get a TRD-trim 4Runner, you’ll have one of the last trucks to offer a manual-shift transfer case. As with the rest of the truck, its general vibe practically begs you to tackle rough terrain. There’s the subtle suspension lift, 265/70R17 Nitto Terra Grappler all-terrain tires on black BBS wheels, a roof basket, an electronic locking rear differential, and a skid plate—all function-first pieces that give the ‘Pro a purposeful look.

At Monticello, the 4Runner made short work of jagged, ice-covered trails. With 4 Low engaged, the Toyota ironed out steep grades and rocky surfaces. The V-6 welcomed the minute throttle adjustments needed for tricky off-roading. Wheeling the TRD off-road initially seemed abusive—the sound of tree branches scraping along bodywork will never not feel that way—but the truck was at home. A 33-degree approach angle made plunging over steep stream banks easy. The TRD Pro shares that, a 26-degree departure, and a 19.8-degree breakover angle with all four-wheel drive 4Runners despite the small lift. Those numbers are a ways off of what a Jeep Wrangler offers, but more than good enough for Monticello.

There aren’t many other SUVs at this price point that could hang with the 4Runner TRD Pro on those trails. This test truck stickered at just over $51,000, which puts it shoulder to shoulder with the Wrangler Rubicon. But the Toyota, lacking the Jeep’s solid front axle, is ultimately more refined on the road. The better one to live with. Returning to the streets of the city, I had one disappointment. The snow had protected the truck from trail grime—a spackle of road salt was the only evidence of my trip. I wanted to see mud dripping from every seam, to park among the crossover pretenders. To rub their noses in the Toyota’s trail-earned pinstripes. To show them what utility really looks like.


 

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