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The 4Runner is one of few remaining true SUVs, built on a separate frame and using parts from trucks underneath instead of those pulled from passenger vehicles. While Toyota definitely sells more of its car-based crossovers (Venza, Highlander, etc.), the 4Runner remains for true off-road enthusiasts, using a recipe that's as old as the badge itself.
The big news for the 2015 4Runner is the addition of a TRD Pro Series model. Accompanied by similar versions of the Tacoma and Tundra pickups, the TRD 4Runner is the most off-road focused of the Toyota SUV lineup. The package includes remote-reservoir Bilstein shocks, Nitto all-terrain tires, TRD-tuned front springs, unique wheels, skid plates, and a host of interior and exterior pieces to distinguish it from regular 4Runners. It should make an already capable off-roader even more so.
The 4Runner stays true to sport-utility tradition, which dictates a truck front end and a wagon body, and some chrome tossed in only where it'll protect the paint from rocks or trees. Last year brought a more aggressive, almost cartoonish front end to the 4Runner, along with some minor visual updates. But that silhouette hasn't changed. It's brawny and aesthetically unconcerned with sleekness, setting the 4Runner apart from entries like the Ford Explorer and Dodge Durango. It's still mostly a conservative, traditional SUV look in the rear, with a wide, downward-sloping C-pillar looking to past generations of the 4Runner.
Any off-road-capable SUV, especially a true body-on-frame such as the 4Runner, is going to suffer somewhat on the road for it. Depending on the model, however, the 4Runner can be made to remain somewhat civilized on the road as well. And what it lacks in on-road composure, it more than makes up for off-road, assuming you plan to use it in the rough stuff.
The 4Runner is big but nowhere near as bulky as Toyota's own Sequoia. It's offered with a sole drivetrain, pairing a 4.0-liter V-6 engine, making 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque, with a five-speed automatic transmission. The combination is strong enough to deliver competitive acceleration, whether taking off from a stoplight, climbing a steep trail or driveway, or passing at highway speeds. And there's enough torque to handle even difficult rock-crawling situations. The quick-shifting automatic always seems to be on its game, though it's at least one cog behind the state of the art, if not three.
There's no way around the fact that a crossover can offer superior packaging, space, and comfort to a body-on-frame SUV. But for a traditional off-road fan that needs room for five and some gear, the 4Runner does the job. Its shortcomings as a minivan substitute are easy to pick out, and drivers looking for that should look elsewhere anywhere--maybe something in an Explorer, Flex, or even a Durango.
The 4Runner's high floor and rather narrow body give away its truck roots, but it's still reasonably comfortable for up to five adults. In front, great-looking and supporting seats are best with the available perforated-leather upholstery. They're wide and supportive, and they fit quite the range of sizes.
The second-row bench seat adjusts for rake (with four detents), and adult-sized occupants will also feel at home, thanks to seat contouring that goes well beyond the stiff bench cushions in some rivals. As for the two-passenger third-row seat offered on SR5 and Limited models, it's hard to get to. We'd leave it to the (small) kids.
*This vehicle is Certified Pre-Owned and is eligible for our third party warranty program.