“Why are dinosaurs always green?” That line, posted to Twitter in response to a photo of this vehicle, stayed with me throughout the entire loan. I’ve been overly critical in my reviews about the lack of updates to Toyota’s more rugged vehicles like the Tacoma, Tundra, and the 4Runner. Mercifully the Tundra was updated for 2022 and looks like it’s much improved and I’m looking forward to having my first go in it. The Tacoma was updated for 2016, but is already feeling a bit dated, however, I found the TRD Pro model to still be a lot of fun. So it was with that in mind that I went into this 2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro press loan with an open mind.
The current fifth generation (N280) went into production in August of 2009. If I were on my phone, I’d insert that little bug-eyed emoji that looks like he just walked in on his parents. Shocking I know, that was the year Captain Phillips was no longer the captain of the MV Maersk, MJ died under mysterious circumstances, and Transformers, Harry Potter and Twilight sequels ruled the box office. So the 4Runner has been in production for twelve years, though the actual first model year was 2010.
OK, back to the present (which is what Back To The Future could have been called since they were trying to get back to the…never mind). You get eight trim levels in all for the 2022 model year including SR5, Trail Special Edition, TRD Sport, SR5 Premium, TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, Limited and TRD Pro. Prices range from just over $37,300 for the base SR5 to a base price of $52,120 for the top spec TRD Pro.
Key features for the TRD Pro include:
- 17-in. matte-black flow-form TRD alloy wheels
- TRD Pro-stamped (in red) aluminum front skid plate
- TRD roof rack
- Multi-Terrain Monitor (MTM)
- Unique “TOYOTA” front grille
- Crawl Control (CRAWL) and Multi-Terrain Select (MTS)
- Locking rear differential
- Part-time 4WD system
- Premium chrome-accent Multi-Information Display (MID) panel
- Smart Key System with Push Button Start
This is our tester’s window sticker:
With a few options included, like the cool rear sliding cargo deck ($350), running boards ($325), and an emergency assistance kit ($59) you’re all in at just over $54,000. Not an inexpensive proposition to be sure, but at least you can get it painted in the new-for-2022 color “Lime Rush” which polarized onlookers throughout the course of my loan. Other options are…white, black, and gray.
If you didn’t know, each year Toyota comes out with a special color for the TRD Pro models. They started in 2015 with Inferno and continued with Quicksand (2016), Cement (2017), Cavalry Blue (2018), Voodoo Blue (2019), Army Green (2020), and Lunar Rock (2021). I was able to get them all in the same place to show off 2020’s “Army Green” color.
So, does the 2022 4Runner add anything magical to stave off it’s extinction? Or is this still a very good dinosaur?
Well, starting outside, the 2021 4Runner looks generally the same as most 4Runners since the 2014 facelift. It has the same Alice Cooper’esque headlight pattern that drops down into the foglights, all surrounding the large grille. TRD models get a healthy helping of black trim, badges, and wheels. I noted at one point that it looked like an angry grasshopper. I’m not sure if that’s better than “dinosaur” or not, but once you see it…
As I said, the bold lime paint color was not universally popular. The good chap from DriveShop dropped it off and I immediately said “wow, my wife is going to hate this color!”. That was 100% the right take, and I don’t think she even rode in it during the week it was parked outside of our house. “Thanks, I hate it”.
The good folks orchestrating the school pick-up circle absolutely loved it though. I was approached at a gas station by a fellow who bought a Voodoo Blue TRD Pro 4Runner for 2019. He asked what year this one was and pointed out how similar it was to his 3-year old 4Runner.
However, it’s the interior that will make most people wonder just what year this 4Runner was built. I recall thinking that the big chunky buttons and knobs were kind of cool back in 2016. Actually my driving partner who wrote about that NAIAS Detroit road trip is a 4Runner fanboy, whereas I recall noting somewhere around Pennsylvania that I was uncomfortable and annoyed at the low rent feel of our “Limited”.
Unfortunately, it’s more of the same now, but at least that loaner was only $40,000. Hop into the $50K+ 2022 4Runner you’ll find a weird mix of materials, shapes, and ergonomics. I know it’s charming to a lot of folks, several on our HooniStaff, but I wasn’t a fan. It’s utilitarian, maybe even agrarian, which is why it was so at home on the farm roads up in Pennsylvania over Thanksgiving.
The window switches are at a weird angle, which will be noted as a “4Runner thing bro” by some, but it just made them harder to use. The seats were flat, there are some storage areas up front, but they are all oddly shaped (the little slot that looks like it could hold the key, it can’t). The $60 emergency kit shown above could probably be recreated for $20, but you get a cool bag. There’s more, but I feel like I’m beating an extinct animal.
Interior room was quite good though, the three of us (one adult and two tall teens) had plenty of room on the 3-4 hour journey. The slide-out cargo tray is cool, I could see that being super useful on one of our camping outings. However, another “50K+” complaint was the lack of a power tailgate. It just doesn’t make sense at this price point, or one that is $10,000 less even.
The front doors curve inward at a point, which ended up piercing my right leg resulting in a little blood. It was just another of those things that made me go “really!!?”. I got a big angry with this thing, I’ll admit.
I know, the charm of this isn’t it’s appearance (especially on the inside) or they wouldn’t have sold 129,845 of them last year. We got the 4Runner out on the highway and the 4.0L V6 was able to cruise admirably on the highway. Even with the big chunky tires, it’s output of 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque worked well, even with the dated five-speed automatic transmission. It was able to cruise with traffic at 70-80 mph and got the job done admirably, if not efficiently.
My biggest gripe was that the turn signal won’t “blip”, meaning I couldn’t just pop it down once to get 3-signals while changing lanes. I was well into the trip before I noticed, apologies to anyone I didn’t adequately signal in front of. Dino’s gonna dino.
Of course, many of you are yelling at your monitor at this point, saying that the point of this thing is to go off road. So I did. Unfortunately, what is usually a rut-filled mud road was mostly frozen up on the farm. The 4Runner was still able to dig in and kick up some dirt, but it wasn’t a true test of its capability. I did drive it up and over several steep inclines over wet grass and over surfaces. Naturally, it did fine, but a base 4Runner would likely have as well.
Which is the real question if you are considering an SUV. In a sea of crossovers, the 4Runner stands out. In my opinion, having driven hundreds of vehicles over the last few years, is that the TRD Pro gives the 4Runner just enough panache to be an interesting option. However, as someone who has spent the past couple of months car shopping in the $50K and under realm, it never seriously hit my radar. The incredibly dated interior would never pass muster as a daily driver, and I don’t off-road enough to make the extra capability worthwhile. Not that most TRD Pro owners likely go off-road all that much, it’s more fulfilling the need to make a statement than a need to traverse rough terrain.
The sixth generation of the 4Runner is coming, and will likely fix just about every issue listed above. This time next year (late 2022), they may actually be at dealerships, with a new Tacoma following soon after. With big competition from Ford with the new Bronco, a similarly priced entry-level Defender (good luck finding one), and an ever-evolving Wrangler, the new 4Runner is going to need to bring it.
Expect a wider variety of engines, like a turbo-four, to join the lineup. Seeing the Tundra’s 389 horsepower 3.5L twin-turbo V6 or 437 horsepower twin-turbo V6 Hybrid in the 4Runner would be pretty great and fire a nice shot across the bow of Ford and Jeep. So we’re looking forward to seeing what comes next for 4Runner, in the meantime the 2022 version should keep an eye out for asteroids.