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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

A red 2023 Toyota 4Runner TRD Offroad is shown from the front at an angle.

Should the 4Runner Be Your Next Off-Road SUV?

The 4Runner is one of Toyota’s most popular models and has been a favorite among many drivers for several decades. One of the biggest reasons so many people keep coming back to the 4Runner—and everything it offers—is how well it can perform as an off-road SUV designed to handle just about any adventure. There are eight different 4Runner trims available, however, so if you go looking for a Toyota 4Runner for sale, there are many different models you might find, and not all of these trims are the same or deliver the same kind of driving experience, particularly off-road, so your choice really matters.

Now back to the titular question: should the 4Runner be your next off-road SUV? I’d say the answer to that is a resounding, “Yeah, probably”—that’s about as committal as I get with rhetorical questions. The 4Runner has a lot to offer, with impressive power and capability designed to chew up some of the most challenging trails out there. That being said, since not all 4Runner trims are equally up to the task, it’s important to look carefully at any model you’re interested in to see what it can do. Let’s take a look at the best trims (and one that’s not-so-best) of the 4Runner when it comes to off-road performance and capability.

The 4Runner TRD Sport

If you’re looking for a great off-road version of the Toyota 4Runner, this isn’t it. That “not-so-best” option I mentioned above? Yeah, it’s the 4Runner TRD Sport, which is a fine SUV in its own right, but it’s not an exceptional option for hitting the trail. So, why am I mentioning it?
The answer is simple: the TRD name. All of the other great off-road models we’ll look at include “TRD,” which should mean that the TRD Sport is also a solid option for hitting the trail. Ultimately, it just lacks what the others have, and it should really be seen as a second-level trim with some nice upgrades over the standard model. It has 20-inch wheels and an X-REAS Sport Enhancement Suspension, but when you see that Part-Time Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) is an available option, not standard, then you know this is not the off-road SUV you’re looking for.

The black interior of a 2023 Toyota 4Runner TRD Sport is shown.

The 4Runner TRD Off-Road

Here we have a much better starting option if you’re interested in seeing the off-road potential of the Toyota 4Runner. The TRD Off-Road model lives up to its name in some impressive ways, starting with 17-inch wheels and part-time 4WD as the standard drivetrain. This comes with a 4.0L V6 engine that delivers 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque, which is paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. This is a solid engine, but it’s the same one that every 4Runner gets, so there’s nothing here that particularly screams “off-road” about it.

Most 4Runner models (including the TRD Sport from before) have a 30-degree approach angle and nine inches of ground clearance; the TRD Off-Road and the other two models we’re looking at have a 33-degree approach angle and improved 9.6 inches of ground clearance. About half an inch of added clearance might not seem like much, but every bit helps when you’re out on the trail, and you’re dealing with unexpected obstacles. You’ll also find Multi-Terrain Select, which lets you adjust performance for different conditions, and Crawl Control, which helps improve low-speed navigation, as standard features of the TRD Off-Road.

The TRD Off-Road has skid plates covering the underside of the engine and front suspension, along with a skid plate to protect the transfer case. Roof rails give you extra options for storage, plus this is a very functional and useful model for daily driving or hitting the trail. It has an 8-inch infotainment display inside with an eight-speaker sound system, standard air conditioning, and fabric-trimmed seating. Altogether, it’s a great place to start for the 4Runner when it comes to going off-road, much better than the TRD Sport.

The 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium

With the TRD Off-Road Premium, you’re not looking at a massive performance or capability upgrade, as much as a trim that builds on what the previous one has to offer. Mechanically, it’s pretty much the same as the TRD Off-Road with the same overall performance, including 17-inch wheels wrapped in Mud-and-Snow tires. They’re also quite similar cosmetically, as they both give you TRD badging and some similar touches to show that you chose an off-road model rather than another 4Runner.

You’ll find a number of upgrades inside the TRD Off-Road Premium, such as SofTex-trimmed heated seats with an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and four-way power front-passenger seat. The fabric-trimmed seats of the standard TRD Off-Road aren’t heated; you also get added details here, like TRD red lettering on the front headrests. There’s an auto-dimming rearview mirror in the TRD Off-Road Premium, plus exterior differences like heated power outside mirrors with turn signal indicators and an available power tilt/slide moonroof.

A grey 2023 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro is shown from the front.

The 4Runner TRD Pro

If you’re looking for the ultimate expression of off-road performance for the Toyota 4Runner, you’ve found it with the TRD Pro. For everything that the TRD Sport lacked in off-road design and engineering, the TRD Pro goes to the next level and comes through beautifully. For starters, you have a TRD-stamped aluminum front skid plate, exclusive TRD FOX high-performance shocks, and TRD-tuned front springs for exceptional capability out on the trail. The TRD Pro also comes with a Multi-Terrain Monitor, which gives you a fantastic view of the trail around you, making it easy to navigate even in the roughest conditions.

The 17-inch matte-black flow-form alloy wheels of the TRD Pro are wrapped in Nitto Terra Grappler all-terrain tires that provide you with incredible off-road traction, while a TRD roof rack gives you even better rooftop storage than other 4Runner models. The TRD Pro comes with auto on/off headlights, a unique front grille, unique badging inside and out, and a power tilt/slide moonroof with a sunshade, all standard.

Inside the TRD Pro, you’ll find remarkable luxury to keep you comfortable no matter how far from home you might be and regardless of where the trail takes you. It has dual-zone automatic climate control and the SofTex-trimmed heated seating found in the TRD Off-Road Premium model. The TRD Pro has all-weather floor liners that are easy to clean, a Panoramic View Monitor with a 360-degree Overhead View to make low-speed maneuvering easy, and a 15-speaker JBL sound system with a subwoofer and amplifier. This is an amazing model for any kind of driving, and it just happens to deliver tremendous performance on the trail.

Ready to Leave Civilization Behind?

Looking at everything we just saw, I’d say there’s a great chance that the Toyota 4Runner would serve you well as your next off-road SUV. It’s clear, however, how important it is that you choose the right model for this, and the TRD Sport is the one to stay away from as you look at the other TRD options that deliver excellent capability for the trail. With a solid engine that makes it fun to drive, impressive interior details and comfort, and a stunning overall design, there’s much to like about the 4Runner. Once you’re behind the wheel of a TRD Off-Road or TRD Pro model, you’ll quickly realize just how much it has to offer and discover why so many off-roading fans have chosen the 4Runner for all of their adventures.

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