Age jokes are funny, until suddenly you’re the target.
My 11-year-old’s favourite joke du jour is asking me what it was like to live among the dinosaurs. I may be getting old, but I can still remember asking my own parents similar questions and thinking I was hilarious, so I can’t be that far gone.
The Toyota 4Runner often finds itself subject to similar jabs. It’s been trucking along in more or less the same configuration since 2010, albeit with some trim shake-ups, new features, and cosmetic updates. This leads to frequent comments about long teeth and the like.
But here’s the thing: old doesn’t always equal bad. There are precious few body-on-frame SUVs left on the market at all, let alone somewhat reasonably sized ones. Toyota knows they’ve got a good thing going here with more than 20,000 of these being sold in Canada last year. Those who don’t get it look at those numbers in bewilderment, but those who value capability over frills know where they’re coming from.
For 2022, Toyota is adding a TRD Sport grade, which brings a newly available x-REAS sport suspension into the mix that’s also equipped on the Limited trim. The other major change is the new Lime Rush exterior colour available for the top-of-the-line TRD Pro grade, as pictured here at an as-tested price of $67,241.
What do you get for that money? It starts with a 4.0-litre V6 with 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque, routed through a five-speed automatic transmission to a part-time four-wheel drive system with a two-speed transfer case. Sure, there’s a fair bit about this powertrain that shows its age: it’s very slow to get the 4Runner’s 2857 kilograms (6,300 pounds) moving, and the transfer case is more finicky than newer examples. Plus, it scoffs entirely at the idea that a driver would be concerned about fuel efficiency: Natural Resources Canada says an owner should expect to use 13.8 L/100 km combined, while our week-long result was a fair bit higher at 15.9 L/100 km. On the other hand, that higher number comes partly from spending some time in 4-high after the first major snowfall of the year, which is precisely why some Canadians might choose the 4Runner: while many drivers were sliding around and losing control, our 4Runner and its winter tires never flinched.
For more demanding situations than what I encountered in a suburban snowfall, the TRD Off-road and TRD Pro grades also include a locking rear differential, crawl control and multi-terrain selection functions. Fox shock absorbers, an aluminum front skid plate, a hood scoop, and a basket-type roof rack are TRD Pro exclusives. Every 4Runner comes with a Class IV factory-installed trailer hitch and is capable of towing up to 2,268 kilograms (5,000 pounds).
It’s also nigh on indestructible: a 2019 study by iSeeCars.com placed the 4Runner in the top five vehicles in the U.S. that are most likely to make it to 200,000 miles, or just over 320,000 kilometres. If you’re the sort of person who likes to buy a rugged vehicle and drive it until the wheels fall off, this is a solid option.
What you give up for all this capability, unsurprisingly, is a lot of modern amenities. Heated front seats are included on most trims, but ventilated front seats are exclusive to the more comfort-oriented Limited grade, and a heated steering wheel and heated rear seats are not available at all. There’s no wireless smartphone charging pad, though the infotainment system, while not especially user-friendly, is modern enough to include both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, so it’s likely that a phone will usually be plugged into it regardless. Aside from two USB charging ports and a couple of extra cupholders, there’s not much in the way of features for second-row passengers. The clock and temperature gauges are LCD, and the gauges are analog. It’s all functional enough — and the basic Toyota Safety Sense suite is standard equipment with a pre-collision system, radar cruise control, lane departure alert, and automatic high beams — but it’s not the right fit for the sort of person who would wait around in line for a midnight release of a new phone.
As for me: call me a dinosaur, but part of me loves the 4Runner while knowing that it’s entirely impractical for my city-dwelling lifestyle. It’s not at all hard to understand how buyers who need its capability would be drawn to it, though, or why it still has its place in today’s automotive world.
Will it be around forever in its current form? At the current pace of change toward efficiency and electrification, surely not. But while it’s here, it makes its case for being prepared to appreciate age before beauty.
The vehicle was provided to the writer by the automaker. Content and vehicle evaluations were not subject to approval.