Mountain Wheels: Brawny Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro is built for summertime excursions |

Mountain Wheels: Brawny Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro is built for summertime excursions

The rugged looks and capability of the eye-meltingly green 2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro edition make it a mean off-road machine but feel a little power-shy on steep highway drives.
Toyota/Courtesy photo

After a week spent in an iridescent Lime Rush-colored 2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro, I have a better understanding of the appeal of the vehicle, its absolute real-world limitations and the particular draw that local moose might have to such a glowing SUV.

If you saw that bright green 4Runner with Texas plates in Breckenridge last weekend, that was me. The plates are courtesy of the Plano-based American headquarters of the company and made me look absolutely normal at spring break here, but caused everyone on the Front Range to try to veer into me and kill me (even other 4Runner drivers). Moose, meanwhile, really did converge and lick the road residue off it overnight.

And yes, that’s a lot of green, a shade that can be seen from space, but not so out-of-place on the ever-popular SUV — especially a moderately rugged, $52,120 TRD Pro edition with massive 265/70 Nitto Terra Grappler all-terrain tires, unique 17-inch dark alloy wheels (locking wheel bolts included) and a custom roof basket up top.

In that regard, the 4Runner more accurately takes on its role as the smaller brother of the late Toyota Land Cruiser, a rugged and versatile off-roader that has just enough on-road poise to make it a bulky but livable daily driver. It features a fully manual 4-high/low knob and locking rear differential, which indicate its real objectives.

After a summer drive in one of 4Runner’s more austere base models (although, the SR5 and Limited models also have the option of third-row seating), the chunkier TRD Pro starts to get into more challenging but fully off-road capable territory. It’s got the full, hard-core aluminum skid plate ahead of the front axles, a customized and blacked-out TRD grille, black hood scoop and absolutely blinding LED fog lamps. It’s also more difficult to comfortably access, with the added height of the tires (and 9.6 inches of clearance) requiring a two-handed vault to climb aboard.

Unlike even larger SUVs, cargo access is no problem as the old-fashioned manual liftgate opens to reveal a load height just above my knees. This model did not have the slightly goofy pull-out cargo deck/tray contraption, instead offering the full 47.2 cubic feet behind the second row and a full 89.7 cubic feet with those seats dropped.

The thing that does not change across the entire multimodel, two- and four-wheel drive line is the surprisingly conservative 270-horsepower, 4.0-liter, V-6 engine and a decidedly old-school, five-speed automatic transmission. Just 17 combined mpg is very much the figure you will get.

Around town, it’s noticeably labored in its acceleration, with the custom exhaust blurp-blurping along as you slowly build speed. Merging onto Interstate 70 also requires a whole lot of pedal pressure.

The real challenge, however, is uphill shots like Georgetown Hill, especially in heavy, high-speed traffic; to keep it at highway speed, you have to keep it absolutely floored in a very noisy third gear. I would not want to also be towing the 5,000-pound maximum at the same spot.

Sure, out on Front Range freeways you can drive like all the other lead-footed post-pandemic road-warrior yahoos, but the heavy steering, the limited braking power, the sheer mass and the sometimes terrifying feeling of weight transfer as you try to treat the bulky 4Runner like a RAV4 is, well, not what I would recommend.

Summertime off-roading seems more its speed, with Fox bypass shocks and custom coil springs to provide trail-cruising poise and terrain-select and crawl-control knobs on the ceiling to help you navigate low-speed obstacles or sand, mud and such.

Recognizing that a portion of TRD Pro drivers do not spend 95% of their days on dirt trails, the 2022 4Runner model year saw the introduction of the TRD Sport model, with 20-inch wheels and a more urban/highway-oriented experience. It also gets a cross-linked relative absorber system to smooth out the damping and connect the shocks to avoid much of the bob, bounce and wobble I found in my TRD Pro.

Or you can still go in the complete opposite direction with TRD Pro Off-Road edition, where a kinetic dynamic dispersal system allows even more wheel travel and effectively reduces the stabilizer bars.

TRD Pro lies somewhere in the middle, complete with a new multiterrain monitor system that allows you to see wheel-side views of your travels over rocks or other obstacles. It’s also outfitted with ultra-rugged floor mats, tons of TRD badging and that moose-friendly lime green color, should you so desire.

Andy Stonehouse

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