How do you distill the essence of Toyota off-road SUVs from the last couple of decades? It will have to be this 2015 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro. After all, the Toyota FJ Cruiser is no longer on sale. The Toyota Racing Development version of the 4Runner has the ingredients of a great off-road machine. It includes: the increased ground clearance, skid plates, and tuned springs and shocks to increase the off-road performance, but these bits also have a pleasant surprise.
First, there are subtle visual clues that a trained eye will pick up to differentiate the TRD Pro from the rest of the 4Runner lineup. The “Toyota” name spelled out in the grille. The unique rugged wheel design, Nitto Terra Grappler tires, and TRD Pro badging. If you look careful, you can tell that the nose of the SUV sits a little higher (1 inch in fact) and there is a large aluminum skid plate that protects the critical components.
The truck uses years of TRD off-road racing experience to build this cohesive package. The specially tuned springs and Bilstein shocks work together to provide a little more travel and more compliance. The 4Runner TRD Pro is able to absorb rough terrain with more comfort and confidence than other versions.
The pleasant surprise is that the off-road tuned suspension also works great on pavement. As much as we earn for off-road adventures, the reality is that the SUV will spend a majority of its time running around town and gobbling up highway miles. All of the off-road knowledge translates directly into a comfortable and compliant on-road ride. This is often true with off-road specific versions of SUVs or trucks, and this 4Runner nails the ride balance just right.
The 4.0-liter V6 and the 5-speed automatic transmission is still the only power train combination available. If you saddened by the lack of the V8 option, the good-olde V6, the transmission, and the gearing are setup to provide good acceleration on the street, comfortable high-speed highway cruising, and good grunt for off-road work. Yes, the V8 rumble would be welcome, but the existing power is well matched to the vehicle of this size and weight.
Naturally, the 4Runner can benefit from a little more power for towing, and the 6-speed transmission for better overall economy. Perhaps, a time will come when this will be the case.
The TRD Pro 4Runner could use a little better departure angle. A surround-view camera system would also be a nice touch. I am not going to claim it as an excuse of what happened during the off-road test (see video below). The SUV has a lot of driver aid technologies, including crawl control. However, some situations cannot substitute technology for driver experience and awareness.
I give the 2015 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro a Buy It! rating.
If given the choice of the entire 4Runner lineup from the SR5 to the Limited, I would choose the TRD Pro above all. It rides great and the styling details work great for me. This 4Runner is indeed the best of the breed.