Somewhere along the line, SUVs got soft.
That’s not a bad thing. After all, most people don’t go off-roading. What they really want is a people hauler. That’s why car companies shifted away from building SUVs on truck frames. Passenger frames made more sense.
Unless, of course, you want to go off-road?
Enter the 2015 Toyota 4Runner. It hasn’t forgotten that not all roads are smooth. It knows that some people don’t mind a slightly stiffer ride in exchange for a vehicle that will get them across terrain that those soft SUVs fear to tread. It’s all about getting you (almost) wherever you want to go.
Toyota’s 4Runner is more than 30 years old. It was originally created by simply taking the Hilux small pickup and giving it a removable fiberglass roof that stretched all the way to the tailgate. Suddenly, your kids didn’t have to ride in the bed of the pickup.
The latest generation has come a long way. Toyota ditched the fiberglass back in 1990. Like most modern vehicles it’s better in just about every way. The interior is designed to transport people. It even has a third row seat. The chassis is designed not for hauling stuff, but for hauling you over uneven surfaces. You can even get a Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (DKSS) designed to level out your 4Runner when bouncing on whatever terrain you’re trying to cross.
Up front it has a 4 liter, 270 horsepower V6. That’s sufficient for just about anything you’ll want to do. Mileage is just OK. I averaged 19 MPG during my test week. Officially, it comes it at 17 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. I had the automatic, but you can also choose a five-speed. My test car also had the part-time four-wheel drive system.
Of course, the 4Runner’s strengths are also its weaknesses. If you don’t intend to touch a dirt trail, it’s probably not your SUV of choice. There are better looking, smoother riding, greater handling SUVs that will comfortably take you wherever you want to go as long as the trip consists of well-paved roads.
To be honest, I think the looks are a major weak spot for the 4Runner. It was given a face lift last year, but it still looks very out of date. I was never a big fan of Toyota’s popped out tail and headlight glass and I’m happy to see that company’s other models go in other directions. The 4Runner, however, still has them. The body has a very utilitarian shape that, while not unattractive, doesn’t make you feel like you’re buying a vehicle in the year 2015.
And that same problem extends to the interior. While every other manufacturer seems to be moving towards smoother surfaces, the 4Runner dashboard has all kinds of angles. Again, it’s not bad, just old-looking. The radio controls look like they came from a boombox. The seats are comfortable, and the back-end is practically cavernous if you keep that third row flat. The video display was about the size of my cell phone and GPS was just average. There is a tiny digital display between the tach and speedometer, but it also looked old.
Price for the 4Runner starts just under $34,000. I had the 4×4 trail premium edition which had a base price of $38,555. Throw in the optional $1750 DKSS suspension plus a sliding rear cargo deck and the price was $40,890. If you really want to get serious about your off-roading, you can bump up to the TRD Pro Edition. It’s only a few thousand more, but you get special off-road tires, a big aluminum skid plate, upgraded springs and shocks and some goodies that add to the appearance.
The 2015 Toyota 4Runner is not the latest and greatest. But when you’re trying to get out of the mud, or bouncing over desert terrain, that might not be your priority. After all, that’s no time to go soft.