If you want an SUV with almost-Wrangler-level off-road chops but more on-road civility, the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro is an excellent choice. However, despite its popularity, Toyota’s long-running SUV is by no means perfect. And after spending a week with a 2020 4Runner TRD Pro, I’ve discovered a few flaws you should know about.
The 2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro needs a powertrain update
The Toyota 4Runner only offers one engine and one transmission. Specifically, a 4.0-liter V6 rated at 270 hp and 278 lb-ft, linked to a 5-speed automatic. And in the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro, that’s bundled with a four-wheel-drive system, a locking differential, and a 2-speed transfer case.
Admittedly, the 4Runner TRD Pro was never going to be fuel-efficient. It weighs 4750 pounds, Motor1 reports, and comes with wide Nitto Terra Grappler all-terrain tires, Road & Track reports. All that, plus the 5-speed automatic, and you’re left with a thirsty body-on-frame SUV.
The EPA rates it at 16 mpg city and 19 mpg highway, Roadshow reports. But after 238 miles of mostly-highway driving, I saw 16.8 mpg. The Toyota 4Runner’s average fuel economy display claimed I was doing 18 mpg.
To be fair, the 5-speed automatic is somewhat smooth. But it’s still not quite as refined as the latest 8-speed or 10-speed automatics, such as the one in the Chevy Tahoe. True, it’s in-keeping with the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro’s old-school design. But even the Wrangler’s automatic offers more speeds.
But fuel efficiency isn’t the only annoying problem. The 4Runner TRD Pro comes with a wider sideways-turned exhaust. The turn is so it doesn’t get caught on obstacles, which improves the SUV’s departure angle. However, it does the V6 no favors when it comes to noise. The engine doesn’t sound bad per se, so much as vaguely agricultural. And tired.
If you need to cross a busy road, you’ll really need to give it gas. Which means not only more noise, but worse fuel efficiency. The 4Runner’s V6 is reliable, but considering what it’s hauling, it could use some more power, The Drive reports.
It’s not the biggest SUV, but it’s not small
I’ve driven an extended-wheelbase Cadillac Escalade and several 12-passenger vans in the past. The 2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro is not as large or as heavy as those were, nor as unwieldy. Being a body-on-frame SUV, the steering isn’t exactly sharp, but it is fairly light.
That being said, I live in Chicago’s northwest suburbs. And when I was driving to my local coffee shop, I worried I’d accidentally scrape against a parked car. That’s because, although the Toyota 4Runner’s height and wide glass make for good visibility, its body pillars are relatively thick. Add in the large hood, and I felt at times like I was driving a green tank. Speaking of height, older and shorter passengers may find it difficult to get in and out of the TRD Pro, even with the standard steps.
Those thick pillars are also potential blind spots. I was driving next to 2 bikers, one of which was on an extended Honda Grom. At one point, he disappeared completely from the side windows, side mirrors, and rearview mirror. Turns out, he was perfectly lined up with the B-pillar. I don’t know what would’ve happened if I didn’t already know he was in the next lane if I needed to make a lane change.
The interior flaws
The Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro was updated for the 2020 model year. Part of that update included Toyota’s ADAS suite, Motor Trend reports, including lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and pre-collision with pedestrian detection. The update also added an 8” infotainment touchscreen, complete with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa. And while these features are welcome, the rest of the interior still needs a bit more work.
Firstly, the TRD Pro starts at $49,865. But it doesn’t offer blind-spot monitoring, Motor1 reports, and other similarly-priced SUVs have larger touchscreens. Also, only the driver has power-adjustable lumbar support.
Some have criticized the Toyota 4Runner’s interior for being cheap. I personally didn’t find it cheap so much as hard-wearing. It’s not luxury-level, but nothing felt flimsy. Remember, the TRD Pro is based on a $36,000 SUV. The Shelby GT500 faces similar complaints about its Ford Mustang roots. Though I did find the carbon-fiber center-console applique a little tacky, and the shiny black plastics can pick up fingerprints easily. Also, the infotainment knobs can be mildly infuriating. The volume one is nicely-weighted, but lacks detents; the tuning knob has detents, but is too light, which makes it feel cheap.
Overall, the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro has plenty of passenger space, especially in front. But there can be a rear headroom shortage. Although the roof forms a dome over the 2nd row, the sides still slope down. I’m 5’9”, and I was OK sitting in the outermost seats. But if I was a few inches taller, I might’ve been brushing against the headliner.
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