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Best 4x4 today?
Toyotas 4Runner still strong as ever.
By: Ricardo   |  Email:

As driven by Ricardo Rodriguez-Long

This SUV is for the outdoors 

Once you start driving further from the city on the CA Trails, you mainly see two types of vehicles. The all-American Jeep Wrangler and the Japanese-built Toyota 4Runner. I took one of the units built in Tahara, Japan, to the Mojave desert. And this SUV is still a strong contender for being the best off-road vehicle in production today.

Today the 4Runner is offered in eight different versions. These go from the base rear-wheel drive model SR5 to the Limited (city) version and the TRD Pro, built for the most demanding roads.

The Solar Octane (orange) color of the TRD Pro version is a striking hue in the desert and the urban jungle. I like it because it fits the special black wheels and the rooftop rack. Everyone knows this is the top-of-the-line version of this Toyota everywhere you drive.

This 4x4 SUV comes with the reliable 4 Liter V6 that delivers 270 HP. Toyota still uses a five-speed automatic transmission that has had zero issues in the last ten years. Why change things when they are not broken right? But as strong as this package is, it is getting a bit old when compared to other market offerings. I hear that there will be a Hybrid version next, and it will be the engine from the current Rav4 Hybrid with some calibrations to fit the bigger vehicle.

This SUV has evolved in the last ten years; most changes are invisible to the eye. The 4x4 system incorporates a sophisticated program that electronically controls all the mechanicals to offer incredible traction, ascending and descending control, and safety. Now the 4Runner also comes with huge Fox Shocks with gas reservoirs to maintain the correct pressure at all times. These shocks also have multiple internal valves ( 7 on the front and 11 on the rear) to control the rebound and compression of it. The rear shock is inverted (upside down) for even better protection against the rocks. The rear end has an electronically controlled locking differential.

The twist of a knob handles all this complex system's features while driving. The Multi-Terrain selector allows you to adjust the suspension and crawl settings. It was challenging the first time since there were many options to maximize this SUV's potential. But I am sure it will be second nature to the owners after a few outings.

The ride has improved. I noticed that as soon as I hit the dirt roads. It is not as "bouncy" as before, and the suspension moves freely. The ground clearance is now almost 10 inches. The special TRD 17 inch wheels allow for a range of 32-33 inches specialty tires that increase the 4Runner capabilities.

I took sandy and lava trails, and the 4Runner never seemed to care what the road surface was. It performed better than expected in the crawl mode, and I even drove it up to 60 mph on the sand without losing control. Impressive.

The exterior style is the same, and it has its own look. Nothing else even resembles a 4Runner. The interior also it's the same. And that is the weakest point of this SUV. With a decade in production, the industry has moved much further regarding ergonomics, materials, and infotaiment systems.

Overall the 2023 4Runner continues to be an excellent 4x4. And it is built to last. Celebrating forty years of this model, Toyota offers a 40th Anniversary edition in black or white trim. For the fans, this would be the one to have.

The TRD Pro features add quite a lot to the price. The base 4Runner SR5 is $39,900, but a loaded TRD Pro can get close to the $56,000 mark. Thus, the TRD Pro version is really for those ready to go out and explore without worrying about returning home. I do approve of this 4x4!

Best 4x4 today?
Toyotas 4Runner still strong as ever.

By: Ricardo

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