Do I need an off-road beast with enough ground clearance to warrant a step-stool for my 75+ something mom to climb in? No. But after driving the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro, I find myself thinking it sure would be cool to have one though. (And once she lifted herself in using the awesome grab handles, my mom enjoyed the ride and roominess, too.)
The fifth-generation 4Runner, around since 2010, is an old-school SUV with a cult following and it’s easy to see why. No matter that it may not have all the tech features of more recently updated SUVS. When you’re behind the wheel, you really don’t care. At least I didn’t. It’s just a great-riding body-on-frame SUV that is immensely likeable. (Not to mention talk about resale value!) Toyota’s sold 37,263 of them so far through the first quarter of the year. There’s a new Trail Edition for 2021 but I’m driving the TRD PRO.
Under the hood, you find a 4.0-liter V6 that delivers 270-horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission and the TRD Pro is equipped with a part-time 4WD system with Active Traction Control. (The Limited model is equipped with full-time AWD.) As you’d expect, fuel economy isn’t great at 17 mpg combined.
My test model is in a new-for-2021 TRD PRO-exclusive Lunar Rock hue. The TRD Pro rides on new 17-inch TRD Pro Flow-Form alloy wheels, fitted with Nitto Terra Glapper Tires. Toyota says these are stronger and lighter than previous wheels. Up front you see a large TOYOTA and TRD Pro Badge stamped on the front. Along with new for 2021 LED headlights (all grades) the TRP Pro has LED high beams and high performance LED Rigid Industries fog lights. Other features are side rocker panels, a hood scoop, and a rear spoiler. You can’t miss the exclusive black roof basket on top.
The two-row cabin compliments the entire 4RUNNER rugged cred perfectly with its black interior with silver trim. Its SofTex-Trimmed seats feature TRD Pro logos on the headrests. The driver’s seat is 8-way power adjustable. The seats lean to the more rugged, firmer side with fairly flat seat cushions as opposed to luxurious and cushiony.
It’s equipped with push-button start and a beefy leather-trimmed tilt and telescopic steering wheel. A large center stack hosts the multimedia system, large dials for dual zone climate up front and various other climate control buttons. The console sports a leather-wrapped and silver-trimmed TRD logo Shift knob, mult-terrain select and heated seat controls.
Second-row passengers get their own drop down center console and A/C vents.
The 4Runner’s driver gauge mixes analog dials with a 4.2-inch digital display. But somehow the somewhat dated setup works in this old-school style SUV. It has Toyota’s 8-inch multimedia touchscreen with dynamic navigation and a great 15-speaker JBL premium sound system. Other tech includes Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay along with three USB charge ports.
The 4Runner is of course heavy on utility. The second row seats fold flat without removing the headrests. You have a lot of cargo space with the rear seat up-- there is 46.3 cubic-feet of space when equipped with a sliding rear cargo pull-out “deck”. It can support up to 440 pounds, too. A power-sliding liftgate window is a great feature. Rugged TRD Pro All-weather floor liners come in handy even when you’re not off-roading. It also has a standard 120V outlet and two 12Vs.
Ride and Drive
I didn’t take the TRD Pro off-roading but instead kept to city and highway driving. The accleration matched the V6 engine and it was enjoyable to drive, with a good steering feel. Making a U-turn was a little challenging, but doable. With its 9.6-inches of ground clearance, I loved the ride height that makes you king of the road. I enjoyed its truck-like body-on-frame ride and the suspension. The cabin also seems quieter than some of Toyota’s sedans. Perhaps because of the ground clearance and its underbody.
For the adventure-minded, you can adjust your drive modes for various types of trail use with the Multi-Terrain select system, including a mogul mode for very uneven terrain.
TRD PRO Equipment
For off-road enthusiasts, the already rugged 4RUNNER TRD Pro comes with re-tuned fox shocks and springs. Toyota says the retuning improves trail driving isolation and high-speed performance. It’s also equipped with TRD stamped one-inch thick aluminum front skid plate with red lettering, an electronic-locking rear differential and Toyota’s Crawl Control (CRAWL) feature. Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) allows for extended wheel travel at slow speeds for greater off-road capability and control.
The 4Runner has Toyota Safety Sense P that includes pre-collision with pedestrian detection, dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert and automatic high beams.
Toyota hasn’t felt the need to do an aggressive redesign of the 4RUNNER for quite some time and it’s easy to see why. It remains alluring just as it is. Some powertrain improvements could however improve its fuel efficiency.
2021 Toyota 4Runner TRD PRO
- What I liked most: The overall experience and ride, and those awesome rubber mats great for rainy weather.
- What I would change: Make it more fuel efficient.
- MSRP: Base price $50,470, as equipped $52,164 with transportation.
- Fuel Economy: 16 city/19 highway/17 combined.
- Official Color: Lunar Rock.
- Odometer reading when tested: 1,124 miles.
- Weight: 4,750 pounds.
- Spare Tire: Full-size.
- 2WD/4WD: part-time 4WD (2WD is standard on some models and the Limited gets full-time AWD).
- Length-Width-Height: 191.3” long/ 75.8 wide/ 72” high (w/TRD Pro Roof Rack).
- Fuel Tank Capacity: 23 gallons with the filler on the driver’s side.
- Towing Capacity: 5,000 pounds.
- 2021 Toyota 4Runner in a few words: Do I need one? No. Would it be cool to have one. Yes!
- Final Assembly: Tahara, Aichi, Japan.
- Warranty: 3-year/36,000-mile Comprehensive;5-year/60,000-mile Powertrain/5-year/unlimited-mileage Corrosion Perforation.
- Manufacturers website: Toyota