EDITOR WES RAYNAL: I’ve historically liked Toyota 4Runners. In fact, along with the Land Cruiser, it might be my favoriteToyota over the years. Still body-on-frame (when most competition has gone unibody), 4Runners seem like tough workhorses to me. A bit old school. I like that. The 2014 version’s facelift was needed. The redesign works for me. I like the more-aggressive snout. The market seems to like it too, or at least something about it: Toyota moved 5,600 4Runners in September -- 2,400 more than last year. So far in 2014, 55,000 have found homes, compared to 37,000 last year. The Jeep Grand Cherokee -- another sort of old school off roadie type SUV -- still beats the 4Runner like a drum though, with 136,000 sold this year so far.

This orange TRD Pro 4Runner is a bit over the top for an old fart like me. I about pulled my groin every time I got in it. Once hoisted on up in there, it is fine, though. The Toyota’s V6 with 270 hp won’t win any races, but that’s not what this is about, anyway. The powertrain overall feels a bit agricultural, but in this application I feel it’s somehow appropriate. The five-speed transmission (a five-speed! Talk about old school) is smooth and the ride is OK -- it can get bouncy, though I’m guessing that’s down to the TRD equipment, eh? Didn’t go off-road but would like to -- I suspect with the big tires and off-road shocks and skid plates it would be beastly in some muddy woods.

There’s a nice high commanding view out and the interior is well laid-out and logical if a little hollow sounding when doors are shut and such. There’s a lot of hard plastic surfaces in there, too.

The 4Runner is 30 this year and according to toyota.com with 90 percent of ’em sold in the last decade still going. That’s impressive. 

The 2015 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro has one hell of a stance.

ROAD TEST EDITOR JONATHAN WONG: I’m not sure if I would want to own an inferno orange Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro. I would go with something a little more traditional, like white, which some may find a little boring but that’s what I would do. It would look rather wicked with the black grille, in my opinion, without appearing too over the top.

The $42,000 question is if this TRD Pro version of the 4Runner worth it. Considering the list of items that get added onto this 4Runner, like the Bilstein shocks with rear remote reservoirs, stiffer springs, skid plates and Nitto Terra Grappler tires, I think it’s a decent deal if you’re one of the off-roading types. It’s a turn-key trail terror that you can drive right off the lot with a factory warranty and dive into your favorite off-road stomping grounds.

I don’t find it hard to believe that 90 percent of the 4Runners sold in the last decade are still on the road. These things are robust, which comes from first-hand experience with a 1998 SR5 model that was an absolute trooper in our family fleet for many years. We had more than 300K miles on that bad boy, and I have no doubts that it would still be humming along today if it wasn’t for a car accident that ended its run.

Getting back to this TRD Pro, I didn’t take it off-road. Instead it was regular city and expressway driving. The higher ride height and nubby off-road tires make this 4Runner feel a little tippy around corners, which reminded me of driving my friend’s Chevy Blazer back in the day. Even slow speed turns are accompanied by some body roll and then a little tire squeal. You do eventually get used to it, though. Steering is direct, considering all the off-road modification. Ride quality isn’t half bad and is just a little bouncy or very truck-like.

The 4.0-liter V6 is serviceable and proven along with the five-speed automatic gearbox. The combination was good for a respectable 17.6 mpg fuel reading over my weekend. An extra cog in the transmission would have helped, but fuel efficiency isn’t this SUV’s top priority.

Interior surroundings are simple with an intuitive layout for all the entertainment and climate controls. Hard plastics with nice finishes cover most of the inside. The front bucket seats are comfortable and visibility out all the way around is great.

The 4Runner remains a favorite of mine. It’s just a rugged and right-sized SUV that offers a good amount of room to haul people and cargo. It looks like a truck with its boxy exterior and no-nonsense cabin. Since I’m not an off-roader, I would probably just end up with a SR5 Premium model for $38K and have better around-town handling. But there is definitely a market for this TRD Pro.

The 2015 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro remains a favorite in our book.

Storming the Nevada desert in the TRD Pro 4Runner, Tundra and Tacoma

What is it?Goodsprings, Nev., is about 20 miles southwest of Las Vegas, the sort of place with historical plaques that are nearly as old as the places they describe. The desert trails winding past the ...

WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: Just saw this 2015 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro for the first time. I am no SEMA show truck-building expert, but even I can see that those wheels and tires are way too small for those wheel wells. The black finish does not look “badass” as we seem to say about everything on this page lately, they just look undersized. I’m sure the lawyers got in on this and prevented a properly sized wheel-and-tire combo from getting into these huge wheel wells. Or maybe nothing larger would fit in those wheel wells. This is why there is an aftermarket.

That, above, was my first impression. Now I’ve had the truck for a week, put about 500 miles on it (all freeway miles, I’m afraid) and I still can’t force myself to like the look. It was raised only an inch and a half in front but that just exposes huge gaps in the wheel wells that make the tires look dinky and all out of proportion, whereas at stock ride height, the 17-inch black TRD alloys wrapped in 265/70 Nitto Grapplers would maybe work… better. OK, I don’t like the TRD black wheels, either. You figure most people do this stuff for looks and not for any off-road advantage, right? If that’s the case, then this isn’t working. Add that awfully styled bad-catfish front end and this thing looks like Frank Gehry went on a bender and styled a truck. This could be Toyota trying to capture some of the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor end of the truck market, but the Raptor looks cool and goes off-road well.

Now you could rightly criticize my criticism since I never took it off road. Maybe all this stuff works wonders there. This package gets TRD Bilstein off-road shocks and TRD-tuned springs that could likely improve the beast’s performance on high-speed desert dirt. I’m sure they would. In fact, my colleague Blake Z. Rong drove a number of these in the Nevadadesert last May and said exactly that. With softened spring and damper rates, the TRD Pro Series trucks wailed over the whoop-dee-doos with ease, Blake said. But in my 500 miles of freeways all that unsprung weight from the solid beam rear axle and all the rest of the undercarriage componentry moving up and down with every pavement undulation just felt a little less than ideal. Plus, it seems every Toyota truck I’ve been in has headlights mounted way too high that blind almost anything in front of you short of a monster truck. Why is this? Aren’t there Federal standards for these things? I took to turning the lights off when waiting behind innocent cars at stop lights. 

I remember driving early 4Runners 20-some-odd years ago, taking them off-road and having a great time. Those things looked right and felt great on and off the highway. While this one probably works way better than those off-road, in the week I had it in urban Southern California, it just seemed like it was trying too hard.

The inferno orange color of the 2015 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro is a bit to bright for our taste.

ASSOCIATE WEST COAST EDITOR BLAKE Z. RONG: “Screw it, just drive over the curb.” Drive a 4Runner TRD Pro aroundLos Angeles for a weekend, like I did, and that phrase will pop into your head approximately once every five seconds. Need to make a U-turn? Just crawl halfway up the curb. Parallel parking? You’ll never have to worry about scraping a wheel again. You’ll never slow down for speed bumps, either. Or cardboard boxes blown off the back of pickup trucks. Or potholes the size of Minnesotan lakes -- our fair city is rife with ’em.

This thing has a hell of a stance. The front is jacked up even more than the rear -- raised by an inch, compared to the rear; it looks ready to devour hillock, dale, crag, and Toyota Prius alike, possibly at the same time. Stand in front and you get an eyeful of quarter-inch skidplate. The rest is pure rage. If you remember the Toyota RSC concept, then assume that The Onion’s prediction of anger-powered cars is accurate, the current 4Runner might be the most fuel-efficient angermobile on Earth.

Fortunately, it’s comfortable. As I drove it in Las Vegas, I remarked: “the TRD suspension on all three vehicles feels like magic.”

Granted, that stretch of I-15 received the blessing of Nevada DOT cash, and was as smooth as the linoleum in the Pope’s bathroom. In a city? The 4Runner bounced and shook and occasionally jiggled, but it’s still one of the most comfortable SUVs I’ve driven: an off-road terror that can fake it on asphalt.

I dreamed of tearing across the desert, crawling over gnarly rocks, spinning glorious rooster tails on loose dirt. Sadly, the weekend I had the 4Runner, I used it to move apartments. Bookshelves that seemed like they wouldn’t fit…did. Flip the bottom cushion up and the seatback down, and in between is a handy nook for carrying narrow things (I hauled a stack of printer paper without bending a single page, an accomplishment in itself). The load floor is nearly flat, with a predictable rise for the seats. The rear door swings nice and narrow -- tucked in to avoid parking-lot tailgaters but not enough to hit you in the face.

In a recent installment of Regular Car Reviews, a series with which I am shamelessly enamored, the eponymous Mr. Regular laments that today’s cars have “no character...the danger is being lost, pushed farther and farther away from our hands.” He frames this argument in the context of an insane, lifted, modded-the-bejeezus-out-of, first-generation 4Runner “that’s better than modern SUVs,” he swears. “We can’t lose our identity to modern plastic.”

It’s a sentiment enthusiasts have been trumpeting for decades, ever since the birth of the automobile, and it’s a statement that falls into near-cliché. I don’t think it’s always true. I think this latest 4Runner TRD Pro has plenty of character -- maybe even more than the Tundra in the same series, and definitely equaling the Tacoma: the 4Runner TRD Pro is thoroughly bitchin’, a bro truck for the masses, the sort of thing created by a campsite of Rob Zombie-blasting dorks given free reign over a TRD parts catalog and a warranty. In 25 years, one of these TRD Pro trucks will get the bejeezus modded out of it, all solid axles and Mickey Thompson Grabbers, and we will rejoice at how inherently rad it all is. 

While the competition has moved to a unibody platform, the 2015 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro continues to use body-on-frame.

Options: TRD Bilstein high performance off-road shocks, TRD-tuned front springs (1.5-inch front lift), 1.0-inch additional front wheel travel, 1.0-inch additional rear wheel travel, rear remote reservoirs with increased oil capacity, “TOYOTA” front grille, black “4RUNNER” external badging, black front and rear bumper accents, “TRD” stamped front skidplate, TRD shift knob, TRD floor mats, Entune premium audio with navigation, 6.1-inch touchscreen, backup camera with projected path indicators (included on TRD Pro).

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