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Test Drive: 2019 Toyota 4Runner Limited Nightshade Edition

You’re never too old to try something new. It can be as simple as ordering something other than your usual at your favorite restaurant or as life changing as switching careers. Or you can become the new you by overhauling your wardrobe.

That’s kind of what Toyota did with the 4Runner. Its evergreen body-on-frame SUV has been around since the 1984 model year. Toyota gave it the gift of a new outfit for its 35th birthday. At last September’s State Fair of Texas, Toyota showed me and my colleagues the sleek ensemble it picked out for the 2019 Limited model. It sounds just as cool as it looks. Toyota calls it the Nightshade Edition. The $1,740 cosmetic package is available on two- and four-wheel drive 4Runner Limiteds in three neutral colors: Midnight Black Metallic, Magnetic Gray Metallic, and Blizzard Pearl. As its name implies, the Nightshade Edition is dressed in a variety of blacked-out elements that give it a clean, low-key look.

2019 Toyota 4Runner

2019 Toyota 4Runner Limited Nightshade Edition Exterior

I saw them for up close for the second time back in April when Toyota sent me a four-wheel-drive Nightshade Edition to test for a week. It cast its shadow on the 4Runner from all directions. Up front, a black Toyota badge rested in a strip of black chrome trim between the Limited’s projector-beam headlights. Things only got darker the further my eyes traveled along the sides of my test vehicle. The side mirrors, roof rails, window trim, door handles, Limited badges, and 20-inch wheels were covered in black. There was another black badge and more black and black chrome trim in the back. Toyota completed the look by replacing the regular exhaust finisher with a color-coordinated piece.

2019 Toyota 4Runner

2019 Toyota 4Runner Limited Nightshade Edition Interior

The interior was just as dark and mysterious. No matter which exterior color you choose for the Nightshade Edition, it comes with Graphite leather, which coordinates with the shiny black accents on the door panels, leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob, and other areas.

2019 Toyota 4Runner

As the most luxurious trim level in the 4Runner lineup, the Limited model features dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, and a power tilt/slide moonroof. Infotainment tech comes in the form of a navigation system running on a 6.1-inch high-resolution touchscreen with split-screen capability and a JBL GreenEdge 15-speaker audio setup.

2019 Toyota 4Runner

I was pleased to discover that the reclining second row offered enough legroom for people my height (5’10”) to sit comfortably, as well as a couple of air vents and 12-volt charging ports. Thanks to an optional package, getting to the leather-trimmed folding 50/50-split third row was as easy as pulling up on a lever and sliding the second row forward.

2019 Toyota 4Runner

Unfortunately, once I got to the back, I discovered I didn’t have enough space in front of or above me to sit comfortably upright. The good news is that shorter adults and children should have no problem riding in the rear.

2019 Toyota 4Runner

2019 Toyota 4Runner Limited Nightshade Edition Performance

Toyota’s X-REAS (Cross Linked Relative Absorber System) suspension is standard on the 4Runner Limited. In addition to adjusting the level of shock absorber damping automatically in response to rough road surfaces and corners, it also cross-links the shocks on the 4Runner’s opposite corners and reduces pitch and yaw by offsetting the opposing forces acting on them. Despite that engineering, there was no denying the Nightshade Edition was a truck-like, body-on-frame vehicle – just like another legendary off-road vehicle, the Jeep Wrangler. In fact, the Nightshade Edition rode much like the last-generation “JK” version of the Jeep icon. The steering was as slow as I remember it being in the 2018 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium I tested last year, but the Nightshade Edition didn’t exhibit any of the brake dive that I recall experiencing in that model.

Under the Nightshade Edition’s new outfit is Toyota’s familiar naturally aspirated 4.0-liter V6 engine. Output remains at 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque and gets routed through a five-speed automatic with a sport mode and a manual gear selection gate. I was most satisfied by the Nightshade Edition’s throttle response and acceleration when I left the shift lever in the “S” mode. That combination of a large V6 and only five forward gears means that the 4Runner gets less than stellar fuel economy. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), my review rig was capable of getting 17 mpg in the city, 20 mpg on the highway, and 18 mpg combined.* Over the course of my week with the Nightshade Edition, I averaged 17.1 mpg. Toyota did some number crunching of its own and determined that the Limited 4X4 is capable of towing up to 5,000 pounds.

2019 Toyota 4Runner

All Limited 4X4 models are equipped with a full-time four-wheel drive system with A-TRAC (Active Traction Control) and locking Torsen limited-slip center differential. That last bit of hardware could vary the Nightshade Edition’s front:rear torque split from 40:60 under most conditions to 30:70 if it detected wheel slippage during a turn to 53:47 if the rear wheels started losing traction in a turn. With the quick turn of a dial behind the shifter, I could engage the transfer case’s high- and (after shifting into neutral) low-range gearing. I tried both on the small rocks near Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas and found the dial to be much easier to use and more precise than a lever-style control (but not quite as cool because you don’t have to muscle a dial into the right place). Unfortunately, the land I was on was relatively flat, so I didn’t get the chance to use much of the 4Runner’s 9.6 inches of ground clearance or its respective approach and departure angles of 33 and 26 degrees.

2019 Toyota 4Runner

2019 Toyota 4Runner Limited Nightshade Edition Safety

The Nightshade Edition may be a new look for the 4Runner Limited, but it still packs the safety features available in other 4Runners. That ranges from an extensive array of airbags to Hill Start and Downhill Assist Control, which keep the Nightshade Edition from rolling in a direction it’s not supposed to, to the Star Safety System. Toyota packs a lot of tech into that, including stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes with EBD (Electronic Brake-force Distribution), and Brake Assist for maximum stopping power in emergencies.

2019 Toyota 4Runner

2019 Toyota 4Runner Limited Nightshade Edition Overall

Toyota tried something new for the 4Runner’s 35th birthday by creating the 2019 Limited Nightshade Edition. If you think they gave it just the right look and want to see it in person, go to your closest AutoNation Toyota dealership. The staff there will be happy to help you do that and send you home in the one that’s right for you. Prices for the 2019 4Runner Limited Nightshade Edition start at $45,365**; my press loaner had a final price of $49,373.

*Based on 2019 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

**MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

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