Is there any SUV more familiar than Toyota’s 4Runner? We’d say familiar and steadfast, too. Where other SUV’s have gone through the market swings, becoming more car like, swapping capability for comfort, living a soft life in the ‘burbs, the 4Runner has stayed true to form – a tough, capable, rugged, truck-based vehicle that’s proven to be nearly unbreakable over the years.
But is this tough Toyota is behind the times? Well, a new-for-2022 TRD Sport model gives us an opportunity to get back in the saddle with one of our favorite rides.
Handsome, Square-Jawed Looks
On the outside, it remains clear – this is one tough SUV.
Up front, the look is crisp, with color-keyed accents on the front grille, and a tough-looking hood scoop promising serious performance. Lighting up the way ahead, for 2022, all 4Runner grades include LED headlamps (low beams), fog lamps and LED high beams.
The profile continues the monotone look with color keyed rocker panels and body moldings. The best part of the side view has to be the Sport’s new machine-faced 20-inch alloy wheels with dark gray accents. Standard black roof rails finish off the look.
The rear ties it all together, with a body color rear spoiler and LED taillights. 4Runner traditionalists will love the fact that the Sport features a power roll-down window – great for long items like a surfboard! Saving the best for last, we just loved the gray-green Lunar Rock color – we got loads of compliments on the look of our Toyota – and this color just brings all the design elements together in a stunning way.
Truck Meets Tech
Open the door, and you’ll find a familiar interior built in big, chunky, durable gear. There’s black SofTex trimmed seats with the look of leather, but the durability of vinyl. Major controls are large and easy to use – even with gloves on. Sprucing things up are TRD stitched logos on the front headrests, as well as TRD Sport floor mats and a TRD shift knob.
Pop into the comfortable front seats and you’re greeted by a fat leather wheel that feels great to the hands, with easy to decipher wheel-mounted controls. Behind that wheel are handsome analog gauges, including a 7,000-rpm tach, and 120-mph speedo with a handy 4.2-inch multi-information display in between.
While the gauge package feels old school and familiar, the info-tainment is up to date with a sharp 8-inch touchscreen serving up Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa compatibility. We like that Toyota also gives you Connected Services with Safety Connect and a 1-year trial, plus Wi-Fi Connect for up to 2 GB or 3-months trial, whichever comes first. Tech? Check!
There are a few compromises inside. With body-on-frame construction, you get a little less headroom than unibody SUVs, and feel like you are sitting close to the floor. But since our Sport didn’t have a sunroof, it still felt pretty roomy.
The rear seats are comfy for adults, too. Another compromise – you have to flip the lower seat cushions forward before you can fold down the rear seat back. At least you don’t have to remove the headrests. Most of the competition though, is a single fold and go movement. On the bright side, once you fold the rear seats, the cargo hold is huge.
OK, one more grumble, while the rear hatch has a wide opening for easy loading, there’s no power control. You get a bit of a workout, especially when pulling it shut, and those vertically challenged may find it a reach as well. Don’t get the feeling we’re hating on these things – in the 4Runner it just adds up to the rugged, tough charm. This is an honest vehicle that feels like it was built to run and hold up forever.
Built to Run Forever
It’s interesting, Toyota will tell you that the TRD Sport is made to look off-road but is more of a road vehicle. Well, yes, the other TRD models are mountain goat-like in their off-road skills, but every 4Runner can handle rugged terrain – it’s deep in the DNA.
Toyota knows how to build bulletproof powertrains, and they don’t mess with success. Under the hood is the familiar 270 horsepower, 4.0-liter V6 with a muscular 278 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s plenty of muscle, with a nice throaty growl, but you might be surprised at how smooth and refined it is as well.
The standard 5-speed automatic is tested and true as well, and we liked keeping it in Sport mode to get a bit better acceleration. You can hand shift the transmission to wring out a little more performance. Our tester had the available part-time 4WD system, which features Active Traction Control to bolster off-road capability with a 2-speed transfer case with selectable low-range. Honest, tried and true gear for the tough stuff. What goes up must come down, so you’ll be pleased to find that the Sport also features standard Downhill Assist Control.
Filling out the 4Runner’s off-road resume is its body-on-frame construction, with a four-link rear axle and coil spring suspension. While it is firmer than some unibody designs, we found the ride supple and comfortable in most conditions, and if you are going to get serious about off-road, you’ll appreciate body on frame.
The Sport adds handling confidence with X-REAS adaptive damper suspension (also found on 4Runner Limited) that’s hydraulically linked at opposing corners to reduce pitch and roll. It definitely works, even though the 4Runner sits tall in the saddle, there’s no leaning or wallowing as you get around.
Another benefit of body on frame – excellent towing capability. With the Sport’s integrated tow-hitch receiver and wiring harness you can tow a maximum of 5,000 pounds – so go ahead, bring your big toys or campers!
Old school strength gets teamed up with modern safety, thanks to standard Toyota Safety Sense P, with standard Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Sway Warning, and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. We also loved our tester’s 360-degree overhead view monitor, that made parking a snap, plus Rear Cross Traffic alert that helped save our bacon when backing out of tight spots in crowded parking malls.
Can I Afford to be the Sport(y) Type?
Price may be the best part about the 4Runner Sport. The 4Runner lineup starts with the SR5 model, starting at $38,805 in 2WD. For a tough-as-nails SUV you can hand down to your children, and probably your grandchildren, that’s a great price. Next up on the lineup is the Sport model, and our 2022 model with 4WD carried a starting price of $42,025.
Our tester added the Premium Audio Package ($1,585), Technology Package ($1,310), All weather floor liners ($269), and delivery, and we range the bell at $47,404.
There are plenty of SUV’s out there – but few as tough and capable. In the head-for-the-hills division, we’d look at the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk at $56,425, and the slightly larger Kia Telluride SX at $50,055. So, we’d say that the 4Runner is also the value play here. And off course you’ve got that famed Toyota reliability as well.
Off-road looks, on-road comfort, and legendary capability and durability, the 2022 Toyota 4Runner Sport is a stylish SUV that you’ll want to keep forever!
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.