Photos: Evan ‘Evo’ Yates / David Yates
Words: Evan ‘Evo’ Yates
I’m not an expert on off-roading, muddin’, 4x4s, transfer cases, locking differentials and tires that are distinguished by overall diameter (i.e. “33s”) as opposed to sidewall thickness – or lack there of. With that in mind, for this review I decided to keep it 100% real and give you a fresh perspective from an automotive enthusiast who just may have been hooked on his first taste of the mud life thanks to the folks over at Toyota.
When the 2015 Toyota 4runner TRD Pro Series first arrived at my doorstep, my initial thoughts were that that it looked badass with its distinctive front fascia, hood scoop and aftermarket-style, off-road wheels. Also, things like the lack of side steps, visible TRD Bilstein shocks and ferocious TRD skid plate enhance the overall aggressive persona. With all vehicles, I tend to default back to my custom-first mentality and pose the question: Would I need to do anything to this to make it look better? The answer is an emphatic NO. The exterior is simply perfect from the factory and there’s no reason to add anything. The 4runner TRD PRO is equal parts bold, beautiful, ugly, sexy, aggressive and striking all at the same time. I can’t stress enough that you simply can’t take your eyes off of it. The interior has a nice balance of ruggedness and refinement with heated leather seats and 6.1-inch HI Res Touch Screen with Navigation with Toyota’s famous App Suite. My favorite part of the interior is actually located in the cargo area as the engineers at Toyota cooked up one of the most brilliant, functional pieces I’ve seen in a while with a sliding cargo tray that extends out of the vehicle and can handle up to 400 pounds. We found this very helpful and used it for easy access to our gear.
Because I wasn’t exactly hip to the TRD PRO line beforehand, I mistakenly thought this 4Runner’s beastly appearance was simply an appearance package and continued on with my week driving it to meetings, football practices and the occasional night out on the town. However, during my daily commutes I started to notice a trend; an astonishing amount of compliments were being hurled in my direction on a daily basis. I review A LOT of vehicles and praise of this magnitude typically only occurs when I have an insane luxury ride or a new age muscle car. I was stopped multiple times per day by random guys giving me props on my “PRO” which usually was followed by a myriad of questions I honestly couldn’t answer – yet. This overwhelming attention piqued my interest and made me wonder if it were worth giving the TRD the REAL test that I was sure Toyota would want me to. After some light research the plan was made to hit some local trails in North Georgia with a friend of mine who also owned a bone-stock but factory-capable Toyota FJ Cruiser.
Once we were officially off-road, I eased into the capability testing as I really wasn’t sure what a 4Runner could do because my only experience with 4runners is limited to soccer moms and teenagers with older, hand-me-downs. We began with some light trail work which the TRD Pro seemed bored with but I wanted to ease into the process so I kept it cool. On occasion we would see a dirt mound that looked like it may be fun to climb up on and again, the 4runner scoffed at that remotely being a challenge. After some searching we found the first real test, a significant incline through some heavy brush that had looked like not many vehicles have attempted before. Again, the TRD Pro handled it effortlessly and I certainly had my doubts attacking this particular obstacle. Later in our adventures we came upon a couple areas with heavy mud and/or water. One area in particular which I had seen on YouTube, looked a bit precarious but I kept on with my ‘Toyota would WANT me to try this‘ mantra and again, the bad ass 4runner barreled through mud and water alike, never skipping a beat. Were there some more precarious obstacles I could have tried? Sure. But I didn’t want to press my luck and felt I got the true off-roading experience in a vehicle that was absolutely perfect for it. After traversing through narrow trails filled with brush, steep inclines, and rocky roads in the 4Runner TRD Pro, I simply can’t imagine attempting any of the obstacles in any other vehicle. A large, 4×4 truck would have either not fit or got stuck in most places and just wouldn’t have been as much fun. And although some may knock the lack of power plant upgrade on the Pro with its modest 270-hp, 4.0-liter V-6 under the hood, I never found that it struggled for power. Hell, with more horsepower we may have got ourselves into some serious trouble.
As genuine car people in the 21st century, we desire for our vehicles to be dual-purpose so that we don’t have to own a weekend beater and a daily commuter. The 4runner TRD PRO is the poster child of such a combination and would be a great vehicle for a hard core off-road enthusiast or even a muscle-car-lovin’ off-road novice like myself. That being said. The 4Runner TRD PRO has me hooked and I now want one. Toyota, feel free to bring it by anytime.
For all the specs, head over to Toyota’s Pro Series site here.
Power: 270 hp, 278 lb-ft
0-60: 7.7 sec
Gas Cash: 18 MPG (combined)