If something isn’t really broken, then you don’t really have to fix it.
- Year, make, model: 2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
- Engine: 4.0-liter V6 with 270 horsepower
- Seating capacity: Five
- Sets of LATCH car seat anchors: Two
- EPA-estimated MPG (as tested): 16 mpg city and 19 mpg highway (16.7 mpg combined)
- Price (as tested): $51,968 ($51,968)
- Related vehicles we’ve tested: Jeep Wrangler, Honda Passport
- In a nutshell: Minor updates serve as bandaids to larger issues mostly related to age, but if you can look past these, the 4Runner is as good as it gets. And in TRD Pro trim, it’s also nearly invincible.
We live in a fast-paced world that’s obsessed with endless new generations of a certain thing—whether it be smartphones or other electronics—automatic software updates, and the ever-lingering fear of mission out on something; otherwise known as FOMO. As a result, seeing a “lack of progress” on something as big, representative, and expensive as a vehicle can oftentimes cause feelings of disappointment or even frustration.
This is perhaps the one issue to nitpick with the venerable Toyota 4Runner, an SUV so popular and loved by its owners that one must look at the big picture over the years in order to find something wrong with it. For example, the infotainment system is ancient, and it reacts like one to a user’s command: slow. There’s still a cheap-looking digital clock from something out of a cheesy board game encrusted into the dashboard of a $51,000-plus SUV, and lastly, the dials and controls—like the heated seats and HVAC, for example—resemble those of an
Believe it or not, there is an explanation to all of the above, really—at least most of it. The 4Runner is an icon in the U.S., and therefore, Toyota must tread lightly with its changes to make sure nothing is too on-the-nose for its customer base. Folks expect a certain level of “tradition” when it comes to a brand’s pillar models, and the 4Runner is certainly it. And in the case of the off-road-friendly TRD Pro trim, it must also keep in mind that legions of fans rely on proper-fitting aftermarket accessories to satiate their desire for customization. For those reasons, the 4Runner has remained mostly the same for a half-dozen years or so. In fact, very little has changed since we first tested it back in 2015.
Our Time Behind the Wheel
If there’s one thing that will make you forget everything you’ve just read (and we wouldn’t blame you for doing so), it’s the driving experience. The 4Runner TRD Pro offers a level of comfort and relative “laidback-ness” that most modern SUVs simply can’t. The reason for this is its old-school, body-on-frame, and its finely-tuned off-road suspension. The result is a soft, serene, and comfortable drive even when traversing pot-hole ridden Indianapolis streets.
The steering, too, is quite laid-back, maneuvering the tall SUV with ease around crowded city streets and off-road obstacles alike. It may be a nearly 5,000-pound behemoth, but you would never guess it while parallel parking, etc. Where you do feel its weight is under acceleration, and while passing on the highway, as its 275-horsepower V6 engine can oftentimes feel a tad underpowered, especially as most of its oomph comes in late and high in the rev range. In other words, when you need to step on it to make something happen—don’t be afraid—really step on it.
Overall, more SUVs should aim to ride like the 4Runner, instead of pretending to be sports cars and whatnot. Let’s not forget who buys these things, and last I checked, a smooth ride is favored by parents and kids alike.
The TRD Pro offers the same level of satisfaction than the other members of the 4Runner family do, sans a higher ride height, which in some cases could make it tough for little ones to hop in depending on their age.
The five-seat SUV offers plush and comfortable leather seating in the front and back, with the front seats offering a heated function. Despite its price point, the front seats are not ventilated/cooled, and the rear seats are not heated either. If you’re going to spend some serious hours behind the wheel, you’re going to want seats like these, which offer plenty of customization, but most importantly, are padded beyond belief and shaped quite nicely with just enough lateral support. The rear seats also offer two LATCH anchor points.
Trunk space out back is rated at 47.2 cubic feet with the second row up, and at 89.7 cubic feet with it folded down. Also, one of our favorite details of our test vehicle was its sliding cargo tray, which makes it infinitely easier to load things properly without having to overreach into the trunk or get your clothing dirty by rubbing it against a dusty or muddy bumper. During our weeklong test we used it to load our lawnmower, power washer, dog, and chicken feed, and it never disappointed. At first, it may look like it robs the trunk of some space, but even though it might be the case, it’s simply too convenient to worry about a minute difference.
It can be easy to get caught up in some of the outdated details of the 2020 Toyota 4Runner, but that’d be a demerit to such a great SUV. No, it’s not cheap, and no, it doesn’t have all the high-tech and creature comforts that some newer, less-expensive vehicles may offer nowadays, but it does offer multiple things that those others don’t.
For starters, the excellent driving experience. Seriously, you will never get tired of driving this thing. At less than 17 mpg combined, your wallet might, but not you. Also, there’s the fact that the 4Runner has a sweet sliding window on the tailgate and is nearly bombproof—so that’s good too.
And for those reasons alone, this outdated giant is still a darn good buy.