Review: 2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Sport
The 4Runner just keeps going, this time in a new 'TRD Sport' guise.
2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Sport review by The Road Beat.
What is it?
Toyota's never-dying 4Runner, their off-road oriented and truck-based SUV. With a new 'TRD Sport' trim, there are now a further superfluous number of choices in the 4Runner range. Fitting in the middle of the field, it combines elements from other trims to become the TRD Sport you see here. Now, you can have an SR5, an SR5 Premium, a TRD Sport, Trail Edition, TRD Off-Road, a Limited, and a TRD Pro. This Sport model is sport only in name, with a front bumper derived from the Limited and geared more for the streets. To me, they're all mostly the same, with the exception of the TRD Off-Road and Pro models being more aimed for those wanting to venture off the beaten path, and the Limited's somewhat upscale interior. The core characteristics that make a 4Runner a 4Runner are all present across the entire range.
Well, it's a 4Runner, a vehicle that carries an unmistakable coolness to it, owed to its legendary durability and capabilities off-road. 4Runners have a traditional and stylish SUV shape to them, too, and have become a vehicle of desire for many. I personally know people who upgrade from their RAV4s or other smaller SUVs to 4Runners simply because they want a 4Runner. A Highlander is superior transportation for you and the family, but the 4Runner is an object of desire, even if it's a relic of the past in terms of design and tech.
On the road, the 4Runner is delightfully old-school to drive, if you're into that kind of thing. It's not as stable as modern crossover SUVs, but it's easy to command on the highway above 70 MPH even, this despite the apparent aerodynamic properties of a shipping container. Wind noise isn't even that bad, surprisingly. The aging V6 needs commitment to extract anything from it, but it does rev up with a decent noise and surprising pull at the top end. You do get a sense of invulnerability in the 4Runner, with confidence knowing you can beat the living heck out of this thing and it will just keep going, such is the legend of 4Runners.
Even though this 4Runner is not aimed at the off-road crowd like others, select 4-low using the electronically-controlled transfer case knob, and this SUV will eat modest trails like Cheerios, and with absolutely no fuss, all the while remaining solid as granite. Ground clearance could be better, and the idle speed in 4-low is pretty slow actually, but it will do a better job than say a Highlander, with its unibody construction. A Highlander can do mostly all the same, but the 4Runner will still do it all just that tiny bit better and with less effort.
Quite a bit. Objectively, 4Runners are not good vehicles anymore, yet they work their way into the hearts of hundreds of thousands each year in America. The interior for one, is in need of an extreme makeover. The cheap plastics, overall design motif, and the terrible infotainment display screen in the dash, are all relics of a time when Taylor Swift was still a country artist. It's appalling to think that Toyota has never given the interior a facelift after literally decades. But, the $Runner (Money Runner, yes, on purpose) still sells so I guess why should they? At least there are a few modern safety features available now as on all other new Toyotas. But really, the interior is the single biggest weak link and reason to not choose a 4Runner. And it's not like this a cheap vehicle by any means, yet it reminds me of a sub-$25K econobox inside. At least it's spacious and the seats are comfortable. A similarly priced Highlander has a far nicer interior.
Performance is a slug-sprawling disappointment, despite the 4.0-liter V6's desire to rev. Blame the ancient and slow-shifting five-speed automatic for that, which greatly hinders the acceleration and economy. Oh yeah, this Runner averaged only 17 MPG during my spell with it, which is awful for a relatively small and lacking engine. With 270 horsepower, 0-60 MPH takes nearly eight seconds due to a lack of flexibility and gearing to get moving off the line.
Buy with your heart, not with your head...
There are lots of better choices for a new SUV as we look already toward 2022. Toyota's own other offerings, like the Highlander, are more economical, drive better, and have comparatively luxurious interiors. Shoot, you can just about get an entry-level Genesis GV80 even for fifty-grand, or an Acura MDX. However, the $Runner still boasts the cool factor that draws many to it. However, the TRD Sport is not what I'd recommend. I don't like hood scoop nor ugly wheels. Also, the front bumper isn't as nice as a TRD Off-Road or SR5's. If you're buying a 4Runner for only the street, you probably shouldn't, but if you do see overlanding and heading for the trails in your future, the TRD Off-Road or Pro will be the 4Runner for you. Those models better serve the 4Runner mystique with their added ruggedness and capability. Plus, manual transfer cases for 4WD, of course. So then, buy a new 4Runner with your heart, because your head should say no.
2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Sport
As-tested price: $45,904
Pros: 4Runner coolness; rugged unbreakability
Cons: Gas-guzzling; ancient interior
Verdict: Choose wisely, if this is what you really desire