2018 Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-Road Premium | Test Drive
What Sets the TRD Off-Road Premium Apart:All 4Runners come standard with Toyota’s 4.0-Liter dual overhead cam 24-valve V6 with Dual Independent Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) and 5-speed automatic transmission. Toyota’s four standard trim levels for the 2018 4Runner include SR5, TRD Off-Road, Limited, and TRD Pro, with both the SR5 and TRD Off-Road levels seeing optional Premium options.
|Toyota's "TRD" embroidered SofTex seats are incredibly comfortable!|
The TRD Of-Road Premium trim level includes such features from the TRD Off-Road as 17-in alloy wheels and locking rear differential, but with the addition of “TRD” embroidered SofTex seats, with the fronts being power-adjustable. Other TRD Off-Road standard features include an Active Traction Control (A-TRAC) part-time 4WD system that features Hill Start Assist Control and Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control. Moving up to the TRD Pro trim level provides you with upgraded TRD-tuned shocks and springs for improved off-road handling and more aggressive tires.
What I Like:I was fortunate enough to drive this TRD Off-Road Premium 4Runner two separate times. Like my 2018 Rav4 SE Hybrid test drive, during my first-week test driving the 4Runner, I found myself driving over Washington’s Snoqualmie Pass in a spring snowstorm. As with my experience driving the Rav4, my coworker and I were crossing over the Pass ahead of the snow plows. Instinctually, I reached down before things got dangerous and engaged four-wheel-drive. It was at that point that I remembered the 5th-Generation 4Runners had a real mechanically-selectable transfer case – a departure from my mother-in-law’s 4th-Generation Sport 4Runner – and my heart was filled with joy. Call me old-fashioned, but I am not a fan of the electronic dial-select four-wheel-drive systems found on the Tacoma and Tundra. I know Toyota wouldn’t use bad actuators to engage the transfer case, and I don’t recall hearing about issues with these units, but it makes me feel better knowing there is a mechanical linkage that engages the 4Runner’s 4-High and 4-Low systems.
Moving past my love for the mechanically-selectable transfer case, I was comforted by how well the 4Runner’s four-wheel-drive system performed on the snow-covered interstate. The experience was everything I expected out of a 4Runner, and at no point in the drive did its handling of the road conditions give me pause or make me feel uneasy. Much like the TRD Pro 4Runner I drove in 2016, this TRD Off-Road Premium 4Runner was incredibly sure-footed. The 5th-Generation 4Runner continues with Toyota’s legacy of producing well-balanced four-wheel-drive systems.
Like the current generation Tacoma, the 5th gen 4Runner gets a bad wrap for being underpowered. I think this couldn't be farther than the truth and quite enjoyed the driving experience. At no point in driving a 5th gen have I once wished for more power. Granted, I have only driven stock 5th genes, only loaded down with fishing and camping gear. I can see how one could perceive a lack of power once you start running oversized tires, aftermarket bumpers, and rear storage systems; but who isn't going to complain about wanting more power after all those modifications? Although I think the 5-speed transmission shift points could be improved, I really like the 4.0-liter engine's output and think it fits the 4Runner quite well.
What I Don’t Like:My only real complaint centers around an issue with skidding. On two separate occasions, I experienced times when the computer applied the brakes while going around a corner on gravel roads. The first time was when I was driving at speed around a bend on a gravel road. The 4Runner’s rear tires had ever so slightly slid out while going around the corner. I assume the traction control didn’t much care for this and promptly applied the brakes, which in turn caused the rear to slide out more. Before I knew it, the 4Runner was, more or less, traveling down the road at a 45-degree angle. Thankfully I had the presence of mind to remove my foot from the gas pedal and bring the sliding 4Runner back in line.
|Driving back up the section of road where the second skidding experience took place|
I didn’t think much of the experience; I chalked it up as a fluke. I had driven some 400 miles on gravel roads in a TRD Pro 4Runner during Toyota’s 2016 Drive to the Summit event. I had not experienced anything like that on the trip, and I had even driven faster on worse roads; muddy roads that saw the TRD Off-Road Tacoma nearly slide off into a creek. Unfortunately, this issue struck a second time. My dad and I were winding our way down to the Grand Ronde River, along a moderately steep section of Forest Service road, when the traction control once again kicked in. This time things were a bit more precarious, as there was a steep drop-off to the river on the driver-side. As the 4Runner applied the brakes, it sent us into a slide that was perfectly aligned with the drop-off at the edge of the road. Once again, I was able to get the skid under control, but it was enough to pucker my rear for a second.
Now I know what you are thinking, “Beau, you’re driving too fast for the road conditions,” but I tell you, honestly, that I was not. I have pushed similarly equipped vehicles to more ‘extremes’ and haven’t had an issue like this before. The whole thing has me a bit puzzled. With the exception of suspension (our loaner was equipped with Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System) and tires, this TRD Off-Road Premium 4Runner should have handled these roads like the TRD Pro.
Despite being puzzled by the skidding issue, I enjoyed my time driving the 2018 TRD Off-Road Premium 4Runner. The question isn’t whether I recommend the 2018 4Runner to friends. The truth is, I have. The real question that should be asked is, “Which 4Runner should you buy, the TRD Off-Road Premium or the TRD Pro?” Jumping up to the TRD Pro will cost you an added $3,200 (based on trim-level base prices) and limited availability. If it were me, I would stick with the non-KDSS TRD Off-Road Premium 4Runner and use the $3,200 savings on upgraded tires and suspension.
Beau Johnston is an engineer, writer, and photographer who is dedicated to proving you can find a balance between work and life. He is the Co-Founder and Publisher of Living Overland and a member of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press. When he isn't working, you can find him exploring National Parks, fly fishing, and camping with his wife (Krista) and their two dogs.
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