the toyota 4runner is a rarity in the suv world these days. most of its competitors and other new suvs ride on a car-based platform, which has left the 4runner and jeep wrangler among the lone body-on-frame (read: truck-based) survivors. sticking with this more traditional suv architecture has kept the two vehicles above their competitors when it comes to off-road capability. and the off-road king of the 4runner is its trd pro trim level, which gets a few updates for 2019.
for the new model year, the 4runner trd pro gets a few tweaks that change the driving experience slightly, starting with the shocks. the former bilsteins are gone, replaced by fox racing shocks from the tacoma trd pro. in back, those shocks have 11 bypass zones and an additional 2-inch reservoir, which toyota had to invert on the 4runner trd pro so it's up high, versus a lower position on the trucks. a roost shield protects the shocks so larger obstacles don't smash them.
a new roof rack stores equipment or cargo, and, as with all trd pro models, 2019 brings a unique paint color. this time it's voodoo blue, which returns as an homage to the fj cruiser that wore the color around the turn of the decade — and it looks fantastic.
it's easy to tell the trd pro apart from other 4runners thanks to a unique front grille with the old-school, all-caps toyota insignia, 17-inch matte-black trd wheels wrapped in nitto terra grappler all-terrain tires, and a large aluminum skid plate that's also stamped with the trd logo.
driving the 4runner trd pro off-road is a joy. the tires are sufficiently grippy, the suspension has plenty of flex and, when the situation gets stickier, toyota's excellent crawl control system can bail you out. under the hood is a 270-horsepower, 4.0-liter v-6 used engine that makes 278 pounds-feet of torque and works with a five-speed automatic transmission. though it has fewer gears than many modern transmissions, it remains one of my favorite toyota drivetrains — power comes readily and is easy to control, giving the 4runner a dexterity that the tacoma's smaller v-6 (which runs on the atkinson cycle) lacks.
the new fox shocks seems to pay the most dividends on gravel or sand, surfaces on which the previous 4runner trd pro models i've tested weren't entirely comfortable. with the new hardware, the trd pro now feels more composed. i also found the shocks to help with on-road feel: at speed on the highways, i observed less suspension float and a touch smoother ride.
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if the 2019 4runner trd pro has a weakness, it's in-cabin and safety technology. most toyotas come with a robust set of standard safety and driver-assist features, but many of those — including automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane departure mitigation — are unavailable on the 4runner. the multimedia system also appears dated, with a low-resolution screen and lack of connectivity.
however, we just learned a bit of good news from the 2019 chicago auto show. toyota announced that the 2020 4runner, including the trd pro, will come with standard toyota safety sense p — which includes the aforementioned safety features that the 2019 lacks — as well as an upgraded multimedia system that will (finally) include android auto and apple carplay.
the 2019 4runner trd pro starts at $47,710, including destination; it's on sale now.
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