“Lifted suspension, off-road tires, blacked out trim and heavy duty skid plates. Exactly everything I need to take the kids to school—or fight in a zombie apocalypse.”
The phone rang early in the morning as I prepared the girls for school—it was Jerry. He was on his way back from Michigan and gave me a heads up about a vehicle being dropped off later that day. When I asked what that vehicle it was, he just said; “it’s a Toyota”.
I think most of us would agree that when we hear the word “Toyota”, we immediately think of cars like the RAV4, Sienna, or even America’s best-selling sedan—the Camry. But nope, it wasn’t that. It was a rather mean-looking, blacked-out Toyota 4Runner that showed up instead.
I’ve always thought of Toyota 4Runners as these nice and simple SUVs that lots of people drive because of their perfect size and legendary Toyota reliability. But that’s when the TRD Pro magic comes in, and boy does it make a difference…
A Pleasant Surprise
At first sight, the raised suspension, higher ground clearance and large off-road tires would make one believe the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro drives like a stiff, quirky and overly heavy vehicle. But it didn’t take very long to realize that was far from the truth, and just couple of miles later I already felt at home at wheel of this beast.
I personally enjoy smaller cars to get around town day in and day out, which explains why I own a VW Beetle and had a Fiat 500 before that. So it came as a big surprise that I quickly fell in love with the way the 4Runner drove, and obviously the way it looked with me behind the wheel (of course).
I’m not sure what Toyota has done, but the 4Runner TRD Pro feels much, much smaller, lighter and nimbler that I imagined. And considering I’m 5’2, the extra ground clearance definitely made me feel super cool on the road. And not to mention Josephine just loved being dropped off by it at pre-school.
The interior of the 4Runner is very clean and well thought-out, the dashboard offers large knobs for the volume, tuner and ac, which are easy to grasp with bare hands or bulky winter gloves. Surfaces like the armrest, shift knob, steering wheel and door panels are wrapped in soft leather, though the only relative downside is the TRD Pro’s plethora of knobs and buttons overhead and by the shifter, which at times may have you feel like an airline pilot.
While I’m not sure if the interior can be described as “luxurious”, it certainly offers more luxury and high-end touches than I expected on such an aggressive and purpose-built machine. And that’s totally fine by me.
Perfect For Moms
As I mentioned before, I’m quite short, so sometimes getting in and out of an SUV can be an issue. Our test model was equipped with optional but life-saving running boards, which made it easy for the kiddos and I to run in and out of the 4Runner without looking silly or putting on a show.
Speaking of kids. I was over the moon at how much room there is in the backseat of the 4Runner. It’s massive! Headroom and legroom are more than sufficient for adults, which means we were able to fit Josephine’s car seat and she could still enjoy a comfy distance to the seat in front. You could easily fit three adults comfortably in the backseat. Oh, and they get their own ac vents and power outlets!
The trunk space is massive as well, and I really enjoyed how compartmentalized it is. It offers 88.8-cu-ft of space, which translates into a full size stroller, cooler and depending on the size; a weekend bag/suitcase or two. If you’re into tailgating, all of this space can be increased by folding the second row flat—and don’t forget the 4Runner has built in trays and cupholders on the sides, and even a 120V household plug for your appliance of choice.
I couldn’t be happier with the fact that I had chance to experience this 4Runner TRD Pro for a whole week. In fact, I drove it a lot more than I typically drive any of our other test-cars, and that’s why I’ve chosen it as my favorite car of 2015. It’s that cool!
Often we build stereotypes or profiles in our head about what kind of cars we like or don’t like. At first sight, I liked the way the 4Runner looked, but I thought it was a bit macho and didn’t think it would offer an enjoyable driving experience. But boy was I wrong!
Be open to new things, new styles, new experiences and most of all—cool cars. Sure I would never put the TRD Pro off-roading capabilities to good use, if I were to buy one (Jerry did, and had a blast), but if I did; it would have all the cool off-roady bits and look exactly like this one.
In other words—I wouldn’t change a thing!
- The intimidating and kind-of-mean vibe it gives off.
- Decent mpg for a vehicle of this size. Tested at 17mpg city and 19hwy. (Rated at 17-21)
- Very family-friendly.
- Perfect for a zombie apocalypse.
The Not So Great:
- Infotainment screen and operating system feel outdated (but work well).
- The lack of a power tailgate. I’d really, really love one.
- The lack of one-touch turn signals. (annoying)
- The lack of a sunroof.