If you’re in the market for an SUV, there’s no shortage of choices out there. You can get one with two or three rows of seats. Naturally aspirated, turbocharged, and even supercharged power plants are available. Automakers offer SUVs with two-wheel drive, four-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive. Whether you want an economical family truckster or a lavish status symbol, it’s out there waiting for you to buy it. You just have to choose what you want.
That’s what SUVs are all about: choice. If you want to load your family and all of your luggage into one and head across the country to a resort or theme park, you can. If you just want to drive to work and back in total comfort, go right ahead.
The rugged, body-on-frame Toyota 4Runner has been giving consumers the ability to choose where they want to go – no matter how challenging the trail to get there may be – for nearly 35 years. The 2018 model comes in six trim lines that range from essential to extreme: SR5, SR5 Premium, TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, Limited, and TRD Pro.
Toyota recently sent us a 2018 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium to drive around Central Texas for a week. We made the choice to take it to an off-highway vehicle (OHV) park and get it dirty.
2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium Exterior
The 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium definitely looks the part of a go-anywhere SUV. It’s a two-box design with an aggressive-looking front end and an authoritative ride height. The large, one-bar grille is flanked by projector headlights and fog lights that fit inside of openings that seem to have been chiseled into the body work. A hood scoop adds to the 4Runner’s rugged appearance.
Trapezoidal, body-colored fender flares arch over the gear-like 17-inch wheels, which are wrapped in P265/70R17 rubber for the road and rough country.
The rear liftgate features a retractable glass window. That sits between LED tail lights. Below that is a silver bumper accent that matches the one up front and a full-size spare wheel and tire combo.
In addition to its square-jawed looks, the 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium also has 9.6 inches of ground clearance, an approach angle of 33 degrees, and a departure angle of 26 degrees. Skid plates protect the engine, front suspension, gas tank, and transfer case. We made sure to put that design to the test and cover some of the Nautical Blue Metallic paint with mud once we got out to the OHV park.
2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium Interior
The inside of the 4Runner is a combination of comfort and capability. The white-on-black gauges are easy to red. All of the knobs for the audio and climate control systems are large and easy to reach. Same for the substantial TRD shift knob. Connecting a smartphone to the infotainment setup was as simple as entering a destination address into the navigation system on the 6.1-inch high-resolution touchscreen. That was just one part of the standard Entune Multimedia Bundle, which also contained a CD player, eight speakers, an auxiliary audio jack, a USB 2.0 port with iPod connectivity, Bluetooth music streaming capability, HD Radio, and Siri Eyes Free. The subscription-free Entune App Suite includes Destination Search, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, Pandora, Yelp, and real-time traffic, weather, fuel prices, and sports info. Thanks to the optional moonroof with sunshade, we could enjoy a generous view of the nighttime sky.
Second-row legroom and headroom was more than enough for this 5’10” writer. Yours truly particularly enjoyed the back seats’ ability to recline up to 16 degrees. They also fold flat to increase cargo capacity from 46.3 to 88.8 cubic feet. An optional slide-out tray in the luggage compartment made getting groceries in and out of the back of the 4Runner a cinch. It could also double as a convenient seat just in case we wanted to go tailgating.
2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium Performance
The 4Runner gets down the road and over rocks with the help of its naturally aspirated 4.0-liter V6, which generates 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque. The big six routes its output through a five-speed automatic and a part-time four-wheel drive system. According to the EPA, that hardware combo is capable of getting 17 city, 20 highway, and 18 combined mpg.** Toyota says it’s also good for 5,000 pounds of towing. There’s no getting around the fact that that powertrain has been around a long time, but we found it offered enough power when we needed it, despite being thirsty for gas.
4Runners with the TRD Off-Road Premium trim package come with a variety of technologies that keep it moving forward over almost any natural obstacle. Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) can send power to any one wheel that’s in contact with the ground. Crawl Control is a sort of off-road cruise control that automatically manages throttle and brake application. Multi-terrain Select adjusts the throttle response and traction control based on the mode selected; those include Mud, Sand, Dirt; Loose Rock; Mogul; and Rock. A locking rear differential evenly distributes power to the rear wheels and keeps them turning at the same speed, even if one is off the ground. Our test vehicle was fitted with the optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS). That reduces body roll on pavement and increases wheel travel at low speeds on uneven terrain for greater contact between the rubber and the rough stuff. Our favorite piece of hardware was the old-fashioned shift lever for the transfer case.
Soon after arriving at the Hidden Falls Adventure Park in Marble Falls, Texas, we made a beeline for the first mud puddle we could find. The 4Runner had the wading depth and traction to get us through the muck and to the top of the bank on the other side. Despite a steep incline, we made it up without scraping the rear hitch. Once we got past that area, we shifted the transfer case into low range and bumped the transmission shifter into its manual mode. We selected first gear and rolled the front windows down so we could hear our hard-working spotter. Even with its Bridgestones full of mud, the 4Runner got us down a hair-raisingly treacherous stretch of rocky, uneven earth without taking any gut-wrenching scrapes or blood-chilling bumps.
2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium Safety
In addition to eight airbags, the 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium is equipped with a standard Star Safety System. That includes Vehicle Stability Control, the A-TRAC traction control technology we mentioned earlier, anti-lock brakes, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, and a brake-override system.
2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium Overall
The robust and reliable 2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium has a starting price of $39,695.* Our press loaner had an as-tested price of $42,690. If you decide you want one for yourself, where to get it is an easy choice. Go to an AutoNation Toyota dealership.
*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.