If you’re looking for a reliable, capable, and all-around good-looking SUV, then it’s hard to beat a Toyota 4Runner. After all, it’s one of the brand’s longest-running nameplates for a reason and anyone that’s into going off-road will tell you that it’s one of the best rigs to get if you don’t want a full-blown truck. But if you want to kick things up a notch, then you can opt for the 4Runner TRD Pro. I got to spend a week with one and found out what it’s like to drive it on a daily basis.
The Toyota 4Runner feels the same, but different
If you’re familiar with the Toyota 4Runner, then you’ll know that it’s basically found the fountain of youth as it has been around since 1984. The 4Runner is currently in its fifth generation, and quite frankly, has looked and felt quite the same for the past 10 years or more. So when I receive the 2021 Tacoma TRD Pro for a week, I had to see what all the hubbub was about.
My first impressions upon driving the car are that it feels like a truck, in the sense that it has a comfortable ride overall, but it accentuates the bumps and dips in the road as if you’re going off-road, even when you’re still on it. In fact, driving across the parking lot in my apartment complex felt like I was traversing a shallow river bed. But when increasing the speed, especially on the highway, the rockiness of the ride quality was subdued.
The 4Runner has lots of power, but it’s still slow
The Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro is powered by a 4.0-liter V6 that pushes out 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque. To be honest, it feels slow, really slow. To the extent that I found myself practically flooring the pedal upon initial acceleration just to get up to speed and it felt as if a Prius could probably beat me to 60 mph.
However, I’m fully aware that you don’t buy one of these things for snappy acceleration, but for the daily drive, it was a little annoying. The brakes weren’t that much better either. I learned to brake earlier than usual to stop where I wanted, which is most likely due to the weight of the vehicle.
Getting in and out can be a chore
Getting in and out of the 4Runner TRD felt like a little bit of a chore. For a guy that’s 5’8-inches tall, the step-in height to get into the SUV was a little high and I found myself having to partially hoist myself into every time by using the steering wheel.
I had the one-inch lift from the TRD suspension and Fox shocks to thank for that. And while I know some of you might like that “let me hop into my monster truck” feeling, I personally didn’t care much for it, especially when having to run errands daily.
There’s plenty of passenger and cargo room
Despite the slight trouble of getting in and out of the 4Runner TRD Pro, there is plenty of space for first-row passengers. The power seats allow for a good seating position for the driver and passenger, however, the rear-seat passengers are a little limited. I’m not the tallest person, but I noticed that wasn’t too much headroom across the rear seat area. But the seats were comfortable enough for a long drive. Just don’t put anyone above six feet back there.
The cargo space was excellent as there was plenty of room for anything I had to throw back there. I especially like the powered rear window, although, I’m not sure how often I would really use that feature.
The 4Runner’s fuel economy is on par
No one buys a truck or SUV, much less a Toyota 4Runner, to get the best fuel economy possible. The 4Runner TRD Pro carries an EPA-estimated fuel economy rating of 16 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway, and I can attest that it’s not too far off from what you will actually achieve.
In my real-world driving, which consisted of a combined mix of highway and city driving, I achieved a whopping 15.7 mpg on average. If you need stellar fuel economy numbers, then I suggest the Toyota Highlander Hybrid instead.
Going off-road in the 4Runner TRD Pro
While I wasn’t able to take the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro off-road in a proper setting with larger rocks and uneven pavement, I was at least able to take it up a couple of steep roads with loose dirt. Unsurprisingly, this is where the purpose-built 4Runner shines as you can put it in 4-low and turn the dials up by the sunroof for added traction and get it to go almost anywhere. Ultimately, it made me understand what this type of SUV is truly made for, although, that type of driving only took maybe five percent of my entire week.
You might like the 4Runner TRD Pro if…
If you’re the type that does a lot of off-road driving, or perhaps takes more than the “one trip” up to the mountains on any given year, then the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro could suit your needs well. But if you’re like me, and you really don’t need an off-road rig like this (no matter how much you think you do), then you’ll be fine with the regular 4Runner, or maybe even a Prius.