2015 Toyota 4Runner
When resistance to change pays off.
Usually, brisk change is synonymous with automotive industry product cycles. Nowadays, if a car sticks to its basic recipe for more than five years it’s considered ancient. There are exceptions to this rule, and perhaps the most well documented example of adamant resistance to change can be found in Porsche’s 911. Around basically unchanged since the 1960’s, it has seen its fair share of criticism- the engine is in the wrong place, it’s too much of a handful to drive- and yet throughout the years they’ve honed the car into something that is often mentioned as one of the world’s greatest cars. The 911 is laser-focused on delivering leading edge performance and fulfilling the souls of passionate drivers everywhere and certainly delivers.
If one looks hard enough, the same resistance to accept the status quo can still be found within the automotive landscape, and we can find another instance in Toyota’s 4Runner. Since 1984, the basic recipe remains the same while the vehicle has grown, gained weight and evolved its styling. The 4Runner traces its lineage directly to the Hilux pickup, the vehicle responsible for mobilizing folks in the most hostile and remote regions of our planet (the same one the blokes on Top Gear tried to kill, unsuccessful, multiple times.) The platform is resolutely capable and durable, of that we can be sure.
PROS: Has the chops to go anywhere you care to go, surprisingly comfortable, manages to keep its weight down to reasonable levels.
CONS: Lots of road/wind/tire noise, prodigious thirst, hard to reference a less appropriate application for an “ECO” light to date.
THE VERDICT: The same basic recipe from 1984 is still relevant (and appreciated) in 2015.
As those who compete with the 4Runner move towards unit bodies and shed stuff like low range gearsets and increased ground clerarance, the truck soldiers on with a spec sheet that reads like something you’d find on vehilces much older; body-on-frame construction, solid rear axle, burly V6 engine and the kind of chassis bits you need to get you far off the beaten path. Our Trail model tester took the all-terrain capability even further, with an exhastive suite of equipmwnt that will take you wherever your finger randomly lands on a map. You’ve got 4-wheel Crawl Control, Multi-terrain Select system, automatic disconnecting differential and the cool-sounding Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (which sounds way cooler than saying “anti-roll bar decoupler”) all bolted to a truck that will continue to live up to its reputation as a go-anywhere ride.
Usually, when a highly focused off-road vehicle hits the road it’s a complete disaster. Haphazard steering, lurid handing and dismal fuel economy are all hardships one must accept as a trade-off for being able to go far in the bush. Not so with the 4Runner. Like the discontinued FJ Cruiser we drove this summer (basically a 4Runner in different garb) the 4Runner has pretty decent road manners. It tracks reasonably straight and has a comfortable ride and is even hushed- a feat when you look at the craggy tread profile of the off-road biased rubber. If anything, the drivetrain is the weak link- the ancient 4.0 lite V6 and 5-speed automatic gearbox won’t please hyper milers and lacks the refinements you get in other Toyota power plants. But, where it lacks in polish it makes up for in durability.
Of all the places to find any meaningful change on the 2015 vintage of 4Runner is on the inside. Our Trail model had nice red stitching adding little splashes of colour on the seats, a new gauge cluster that’s always easy-to-read and the Entune infotainment unit that can be found in pretty much every offering from the brand these days. It’s easy to use and responds quickly to commands but it lacks some of the punchy graphics and cleaner layouts than other systems around. OK, there’s still some evidence of clinging to the past, but we’re fine with it- good ol’ honest-to-goodness round knobs for setting the climate controls. If I could offer one piece of advice to the engineers responsible for the 4Runner’s development- please get rid of the “ECO” light that randomly pops on and off. I get that it’s telling me that my driving style at that moment will eke out a little extra fuel economy, but our test consumption figure of 16.3L/100km is anything but “ECO”.
As trucks and SUV’s continue their march away from the basic recipe of why they even exist in the first place- a utilitarian vehicle that goes places others can’t while schlepping a few people with their gear in tow- the 4Runner remains a bastion of originality, staying truer to its roots than any other SUV on sale today. Those who count themselves among the 4Runner faithful (and there are quite a few of you) will be pleased to know that Toyota hasn’t messed with the original recipe, but rather improved on it.
2015 Toyota 4Runner Trail Edition – Specifications
- Price as tested: $46,898
- Body Type: 4-door SUV
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/four-wheel drive
- Engine: 4.0 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves
- Horsepower: 270 @ 5,600 rpm
- Torque (lbs.-ft.): 278 @ 4,400 rpm
- Transmission: 5-speed automatic
- Curb weight: 2,111kg (4,655 lbs.)
- Fuel consumption, Observed: 16.3L/100km (14 mpg)