2017 Toyota 4Runner 4x4 TRD Off-Road Premium Review

2017 Toyota 4Runner 4x4 TRD Off-Road Premium - The Toyota 4Runner 4x4 TRD Off-Road Premium is happy during both on- and off-road driving.


Price: $39,295

The 2017 Toyota 4Runner is one of few body on frame sport-utility vehicles left, with others having gone to a more modern unibody construction.

Not that body-on-frame construction is undesirable. It arguably makes for a more rugged truck, although a "ladder frame" forces a high step-up and somewhat limits head room. Still, the 4Runner can tow up to 5,000 pounds and does an impressive job tackling off-road terrain with features such as its 9.1-inch ground clearance.

"TRD" stands for Toyota Racing Development. TRD models thus have cosmetic and mechanical features not found on the regular 4Runner. The 2017 4Runner list price range is $34,010-$42,325, but Toyota says 2018 models will be priced a little higher.

My test 2017 4Runner 2017 TRD Off-Road Premium model had 17-inch wheels with 70-series tires and a part-time four-wheel-drive system (4x4) with Active TRAC Control to bolster off-road capability with a two-speed transfer case with selectable low range. Toyota says A-TRAC makes terrain irregularities and slippery patches "virtually transparent" to a driver. I didn't encounter rough terrain.

The test vehicle also had multi-terrain select crawl control and hill-start assist control, besides a  locking rear differential, front/rear stabilizer bars skid plates and vented disc front/rear disc brakes

The 4Runner is 193.3 inches long and provides seating for five passengers, or for seven with its optional third-row seat, which makes the cargo area tight. The five-seat TRD off-Road Premium model has a decent cargo area that's greatly enlarged by flipping forward the rear 40/20/40 split reclining and folding flat second-row seats. The cargo opening is wide, but rather high. Pulling down the heavy rear hatch with the inside strap calls for some muscle.

The interior is roomy with a fair amount of average-grade plastics and soft padded areas for arms. This 4Runner is quieter than previous 4Runners, which have been accused of being too noisy. There's an easily used touch screen and conventional, nicely sized controls.

The 4Runner also has been accused of mediocre handling, but my test 4X4 TRD Off-Road Premium model handled sweeping highway off- and on-ramps decently, thanks partly to its TRD features, which included a stiffer suspension. The ride was comfortable, although I could tell I was in a truck when encountering rough pavement.

Gauges can be quickly read if it's not too sunny, and standard features include air conditioning with second-row vents, AM/FM/CD, power heated front seats,  tilt/telescopic wheel with cruise control and a back-up camera. There's also 12- and 24-volt power outlets, keyless entry and a power sliding rear window. However, the lack of a push-button start made me fumble for the ignition switch behind the steering wheel. A thoroughly modern 4Runner should have the push button. Even some 1930s cars had a push-button start.

The console holders are partly blocked by the shift lever, but there's a decent amount of cabin storage areas, including front door pockets and a deep covered front  console bin. Rear door pockets are virtually useless, but there's a large fold-down rear center armrest containing cupholders.

Being a TRD version, my test 4Runner's aggressively handsome body had color-keyed bumpers and fenders, a prominent hood scoop, silver painted front and rear bumper accents and a subtle rear spoiler. "TRD Off-Road" badges were on the exterior of the roof's C-pillars.  

For the really serious-minded off-road fans, there's a TRD Pro Series with unique TRD-tuned front springs TRD Bilstein high-performance shocks, Nitto Tera Grappler tires and a TRD front skid plate. This version has a unique front grille, black bumper accents and special badges.

The 4Runner is powered by a 4-liter dual-overhead camshaft V-6 with 270 horsepower and 278 pound/feet of torque at 4,400 r.p.m. It works with a five-speed automatic transmission with a sequential shift mode. However, since the 4Runner 4x4 TRD Off-Road Premium model weighs approximately 4,700 pounds, the transmission could use at least one more gear to get the most performance from the engine.

The 0-60 m.p.h. time was acceptable at 7.8 seconds and 65-75 m.p.h. passing times were good, but another gear would have made the engine quieter during hard acceleration.

Estimated fuel economy is 17 miles per gallon in the city and 20 on highways. Only 87-octane gasoline is required, and a 23.9-gallon fuel tank allows a decent cruising range.

The hood has an inside cover for noise control and is conveniently held open by twin struts.

Safety features include vehicle stability control, traction control, side and knee air bags and all-row roll-sensing side curtain air bags.

The 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium was fun to drive during ordinary motoring, and has a good reputation for off-road jaunts.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

For more reviews from Dan, visit Facebook.