Old school. That’s the Toyota 4Runner.
In a world of station wagons Halloweening as SUVs (sport-utility vehicles), the 4Runner takes me back to the days of the brutally styled International Harvester Scout, Jeep’s everlasting Wrangler and the tippy Ford Bronco. That was when SUVs were trucks for the rugged, the brave and the I-work-with-my-hands crowd, not mom-mobiles for anything-but-a-minivan suburbanites.
We’re talking decades-old old-school, in fact. Goodness, the Scout was introduced in 1961 and was in its real heyday during the 1970s, before passing away in 1980, along with much of Indiana’s auto industry. The Bronco died of sloppy engineering and negligence, which led to tens of millions in settlements to end lawsuits related to rollover problems.
The weight of all the damage killed the Bronco, though a revival of the name appears imminent. Which of course would be a very stupid move on Ford’s part. We’ll see.
The Wrangler soldiers on, now available with four doors and more creature comforts, though it still trades on its rough trade, storm-the-beaches history and image. Jeep is a hot and growing brand, but to expand its footprint globally, Jeep must swap capability for comfort. And that’s the case with the new Wrangler.
This brings me to the baby blue 4Runner I just tested. It was a 2019 model – a heavily accessorized TRD Pro iteration with big, fat, knobby rubber at each corner and a cargo rack on top that was as a big as a toddler’s playpen and 10 times stronger. The wheels and tires look ominous and boost the off-road abilities, but they deliver the comfort of wooden shoes, the handling of a bulldozer and the quiet of a KISS concert.
I most certainly would not want to live with a 4Runner as my daily driver. As a toy, though, it’s a lovable throwback. And I do mean throwback.
Unlike Toyota’s Highlander, a soft-roader SUV that really amounts to a Sierra minivan with hinged side doors, the 4Runner is a body-on-frame truck that is almost unstoppable when you run out of pavement. I suppose you might get stuck in this rig, but only if you do something spectacularly stupid or suffer very bad luck. For the luckless and brainless, Toyota has loaded up the 4Runner with enough advanced off-road know-how to make even the pudgiest, incompetent weekend warrior the next Bear Grylls.
If you can afford the price tag, that is. The 4Runner starts – STARTS!!! – at $46,155 but my loaded tester wore a $56,480 sticker. Throw in the START+ long-range remote engine starter ($1,064), and some other odds and ends, and you’re looking at a truck selling for around $60,000.
That’s a pricy toy. I suppose that if you really need a truck like this, the money is well spent, but most of us in Canada are urbanites, so a 4Runner TRD Pro is a vanity purchase.
I would not be human if I didn’t confess to embracing the guilty pleasure of a wicked week with the 4Runner TRD Pro, however. Yes, yes, the 4Runner oozes manliness and just driving around in the city seemed to give me a testosterone boost. Like I had downed six bottles of Nugenix, the manhood enhancer.
Whatever else I want to say about the 4Runner, let me start by noting that this SUV demonstrates the depth and breath of Toyota’s capabilities. We’re talking about the Prius hybrid company, here. Yet Toyota, a global automotive powerhouse that gets little credit for exemplary efficiently as it churns out all sorts of reliable vehicles, earning massive profits in the process. Toyota may believe its green future is in hydrogen fuel cells and some mix of battery cars, yet in the present, Toyota still sells the 4Runner.
I should say, however, that this truck makes few creature comfort concessions. There are, for instance, power adjustable and heated front seats; second row 40/20/40 split seats that recline; and a one-touch, fold-down function for convenient cargo carrying. Some versions of the 4Runner can carry seven.
Yes, yes, you get the power windows and door locks and all that, including a power vertical sliding rear window. The seats are comfy but the space inside feels tight. I never found use for all FIVE 12V auxiliary power outlets, but someone would, I am sure. The multi-information display is miniscule by Tesla or even Volvo standards and fuel economy is mediocre. Two strikes, without a doubt.
The engine is a relatively ancient 4.0-litre V-6 (270 horsepower/278 lb-ft of torque) that’s mated to a superannuated five-speed automatic, though in fairness it is electronically controlled transmission with overdrive, lockup torque converter and transmission cooler. Combined fuel economy: 13.2L / 100KM (city/highway).
The one-touch, on-demand 4WD system does as advertised, and has traction control, hill start assist control and downhill assist control. With lots of ground clearance, which makes climbing aboard unpleasant for short people, and the independent double-wishbone front/four-link rear suspension setup (with stabilizer bars), the 4Runner is for real.
Lastly, if you tow, take note: all 4Runner models are standard with trailer sway control technology, a tow hitch and 4+7 pin wiring harnesses, and rated to haul up to 5,000 lb (2,268 kg).
The 4Runner is quite something, then. Not for everyone but most certainly authentic if you want something for tackling the wilderness or at least projecting that you are the manliest of manly men. A last thought: If I owned one, I might call it Scout or Bronco, just for the irony.
2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
Base price: $56,480.
Engine: 4.0-litre V-6 (270 horsepower/278 lb-ft of torque).
Transmission: five-speed automatic.
Drive: on-demand four-wheel.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 13.2 combined.