2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro: Cartoon looks, real performance
The 2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro is the Looney Tunes version of the company's popular midsize SUV.
Equipped with Toyota's most advanced off-road options, it is the version that Wile E. Coyote would order from the Acme Corporation to chase the Roadrunner across the desert and through the woods. The 2019 model is already the biggest and blockiest ever. The TRD Pro edition is jacked up nearly an inch, comes with black wheels and huge tires, a visible front skid plate, a black-trimmed fake hood scoop, and a roof rack big enough to hold a rocket launcher.
And the exclusive Voodoo Blue paint job on our tester could be seen by Marin the Martian in outer space.
But the newest version of the 4Runner TRD Pro first introduced in 2014 is no joke. Although even the lower trim levels are rugged, the optional package transforms it into one of the most capable affordable off-road vehicles on the planet — and that's saying something, considering how hard Jeep is working to dominate the market.
It's no secret that the 4Runner is a genuine truck-based SUV, sharing its frame with the Tacoma pickup, not a more car-like crossover than can be ordered with optional all-wheel-drive. In fact, the 4Runner has a genuine four-wheel-drive system that drivers have to engage with a separate shift lever, just like in the good old days. But it also comes with advanced traction control systems, like Multi-Terrain Select, Crawl Control (a low-speed cruise control), available disconnectable sway bars, and unique upgraded shocks.
Such a combination is becoming increasingly hard to find, especially since Nissan discontinued the Frontier truck-based Xterra SUV a few years ago. Even the newly-reintroduced Honda Passport, the most off-road capable vehicle the company has sold since the original version, is still a crossover.
Although my schedule didn't allow me to journey too far off pavement, I've tested earlier versions of the 4Runner at the Mudfest Outdoor Activity Vehicle competitions sponsored by the Northwest Automotive Press Association, where it easily tackled the hardest test track.. And the bright blue color was a magnet for other TRD Pro owners, who regaled me with tales of serious off-road adventures in their vehicles, which had the dings, dents and scratches to prove them.
But the surprising thing is how well it performed in normal, day-to-day driving. Although some reviewers have said it is not as well behaved as the newest midsize crossovers for daily driving, I found the differences very small, especially considering all the factory modifications.
The 4.0-liter V6 provided plenty of power for both urban and freeway driving, even though the standard five-speed automatic has fewer gears the transmissions found in all competitors. That's bigger than the 3.5-lier V6 in the Tacoma. And despite being equipped with an off-road suspension, the 4Runner TRD Pro ride was very smooth over the bad pavement in my neighborhood and city.
There are some shortcomings compared to the newest crossovers and more expensive SUVs. The infotainment screen (which shows the backup camera view) is pretty small. Some of the interior plastic looks kind of cheap. And the mileage isn't very good. I averaged around 18 mpg, which is the EPA estimate.
But those are small complaints compared to what the 2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro offers for those who appreciate its strengths. There is a reason why 4Runners have been so popular here in the Pacific Northwest, and the TRD pro version is the most robust version of the rugged midsize that outdoor enthusiasts have embraced. Despite the cartoonish looks, it's the real deal.
2019 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
Base price: $46,415
Price as tested: $47,460
Type: Midsize SUV
Engine: 4.0-liter V6 (270 hp, 278 lbs-ft)
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
Overall length: 190-191 inches
Curb weight: 4,750 pounds
Final assembly: Tahara, Japan
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