2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Sport

By Author: Brendan R. Appel, Date: Feb 14, 2023

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same

Some things transcend time, standing like an unmoving mountain in a changing landscape of forest fires and erosion. Maybe that mountain might get a chip taken off here or grow another tree there, but mostly it just remains, much as it always has. Now that I’ve lived through the 1980s and have the perspective of time to look back and appreciate that decade of hair bands, video games and a resurgent car scene, one vehicle of that period stands like that unmovable mountain in my mind: my aunt and uncle’s late 80’s Toyota 4Runner.

You see, my aunt and uncle live in Reston, Virginia, a very hilly DC suburb that doesn’t believe in salting icy roads. If you live somewhere that gets ice, you know that hills and ice do not a great combination make, something I and a few fellow humans discovered after becoming stuck in the valley of two such hills on an icy winter night. My relatives live at the end of a long and winding uphill gravel driveway as well, making a sturdy, dependable 4-wheel drive vehicle an absolute necessity of life, and they chose the 4Runner as that vehicle.

Toyota has never since stopped selling a 4Runner in America, and much like John Stamos, it hasn’t changed much since the 1980’s. Sure, Toyota could have gone full digital with all the fancy toys and gadgets you see on almost every car sold nowadays, but Toyota instead opted for the unmovable mountain, bringing not only a familiar comfort to the 4Runner faithful, but also maintaining a formula for success that has made the 4Runner synonymous with bullet-proof engineering.

Thus, it is no surprise that today’s new for 2022 4Runner contains an (at first glance) odd mismatch of old and new technology that will have newcomers to the model scratching their heads. For example, today’s 4Runner has nearly the same manual, 1-zone climate control, manual lift gate, manual windshield wipers and lack of parking sensors you’d find on my aunt and uncle’s 4Runner, but this newest version does have such features as selectable power running boards, power rear window, lane departure assist, CarPlay and power auto up/down on all windows. While the late 80’s 4Runner offered a 4-speed auto with a 3.0L V-6, the 2022 gets by with Toyota’s tried and true 5-speed and 4.0L V-6, eschewing fancier yet unproven for heavy duty 8-speed or higher transmissions in Toyota’s parts bin. As you can see, not much has changed in Toyota’s 4Runner game plan.

Why this weird combination of old and new technology? My theory is that Toyota builds the 4Runner to last, more than any other vehicle in its lineup (with the possible exception of the Hilux pickup, not sold here). Any piece of tech that hasn’t proven itself reliable for at least 10 years or 250,000 miles simply doesn’t make the cut. 4Runner owners are not a fickle bunch, eager to try out every new whiz bang that comes along; instead, they value stuff that works, and as great as park sensors, power lift gates and 8 speed transmissions are to the shopping mall crowd, those things can (and at some point, will) break, leaving their owners at the time with an expensive fix. You don’t have to fix what won’t ever break.

If you desire more off-road capability, step up to the TRD Pro, shown here.

So what’s a 4Runner like to drive? Around town, the sport suspension gives this big SUV a taught and almost stiff feel, the turn radius isn’t great, and driving in 4H makes low speed turns jerky. At highway speeds, the 4Runner catches the wind like a sailboat, demanding your utmost attention to keep it on the straight and narrow in windy areas, although the lane departure assist will help somewhat here. Bottom line? This is not a refined, around town vehicle. It’s a more refined, reliable Jeep Wrangler or Ford Bronco. But if you find yourself needing a four-wheel drive SUV with bulletproof reliability still built body-on-frame tough, then look no further than the Toyota 4Runner.

Pricing for the 4Runner TRD Sport start at $43,240 (with destination). Our test vehicle in Lunar Rock paint with the $1500 power running boards and $1310 technology package and some other goodies topped out at $48,297.00. Amortize that over the long life the 4Runner is likely to provide, and that’s a bargain indeed.

Oh, and my aunt and uncle? They still own that same 4Runner today and are constantly turning down offers to sell it.

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