Let’s get this out of the way quickly: I am not a truck person. I neither haul stuff nor have any desire to do so and, being quite short, ingress and egress to trucks, as they’ve gotten larger, has become an issue. For that reason, when the vendor near Indianapolis offered the use of a 2019 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 TRD Off-Road Premium during my Indianapolis 500 stay, I was hesitant to accept the vehicle.
There wasn’t anything else available, though, as the midwest journalist association was having its annual “track days” and all hands needed to be on-deck. So it was with trepidation that I turned in the fob to the Lexus RC F coupe and accepted the key to the Nautical Blue metallic 4Runner. At least it had running boards to help me get in and out, and to lift my service animal to her adjacent seat.
The first thing I noticed is that there is a key for this truck. Second is that there are no nannies other than a backup camera. With just over 6,000 miles on the odometer at pick-up, this enclosed truck is broken in and will accomplish the stated horsepower and economy goals as intended.
The looks are Toyota generic. With its tall hood – I needed help getting it open – and visible hood intake, the 4Runner looks like a real truck. Dressed in a deep Nautical blue paint job, the frontal area is quite sleek with Toyota’s protruding headlamps, inset fog lamps and workmanlike grille. There are no frills to the side of the truck and the rear is, like the front, sleek and intended for work, capped by a rear wing/hood over the hatch glass.
Toyota’s 4-liter V6 engine produces 270 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 278 lb-ft of torque at 4,400; redline is 6,000. A five-speed automatic transmission is fitted, as are double wishbone front and coil spring four-link with lateral rod rear suspensions. Power assisted rack and pinion speed-sensing steering and four-wheel disc brakes with multi terrain ABS complete the technical array. Toyota fits P265/70R Dunlop tires together with seven-spoke polished and black 17-inch alloy rims to the 4Runner.
This 2019 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 TRD Off-Road Premium model is rated at 17/20/18 mpg from its 23-gallon tank and our first tank together, encompassing freeway and back-road travel amounted to just under 19mpg, better than Toyota was granted by the government. The numbers got better throughout our week-plus and we averaged closer to 21mpg using regular fuel. After our final pit stop, and heading to Chicago with rain-affected traffic, we achieved nearly 23mpg.
The 4Runner is no lightweight, coming in at 4,750 pounds and it’ll tow 5,000 pounds behind it. Because it is a ladder-on-frame truck, it tends to skip over road imperfections, and a less attentive driver might change lanes on a pockmarked highway without realizing it, a reminder to keep full attention to driving. While its 37.40-foot turning circle might seem large, for a big vehicle with the 4Runner’s intent on being a working truck it’s really not bad at all. It took a few tries to parallel park the first time, but after that, no problems.
In its 4X4 TRD Off-Road Premium guise, the 4Runner has part-time four-wheel-drive, a locking rear differential with crawl mode, Toyota’s KDSS, a kinetic dynamic suspension system that increases suspension travel at low speeds to aid stability on rocky terrain. It worked extremely well in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media lot, which became a bog when rains hit. The overhead console has multi-terrain selection for the two-speed transfer case, active traction control, locking rear differential crawl control switches. Got us out of trouble when others needed to call for help.
This is no dilettante’s truck. It’s not meant for people who want to look like they go off-road or want to pretend they do. It has few of the simple niceties we find on cars, SUVs and near-trucks currently available on the market today. While it does have standard heated seats and fog lamps, there are no auto lights for the 2019 Toyota 4Runner, no light dip for turn signals and only a backup camera. It’s still not fitted with either Android or Apple’s vehicle integration.
There is rear air conditioning to go with plenty of second-row space and there are good carve-outs for folding the back seats. Toyota fits plenty of 12-volt plugs around the cabin and in the hatch area (which also has a 115W outlet), where this decade’s vehicles calls for added USB plugs. Both driver and passenger have power seats, with lumbar support for the driver. Effective rubber mats adorn the floors and soft plastics are pretty much AWOL in the 4Runner, which does have carbon fiber accents at the central tunnel as a nod to Toyota’s TRD racing division.
The 2019 Toyota’s 4Runner’s steering wheel has audio controls on the left with phone and info center on the right. Standard Toyota cruise control is fitted as a separate stalk and is not radar-controlled. With Toyota’s Entune system, it’s possible to connect your phone for audio use, which is how we listened to music throughout the week. Entune includes the 6.1-in high resolution touchscreen, eight speakers, Bluetooth phone capability (easy to pair) and Sirius/XM radio, HD radio and even a CD player.
The 4Runner’s cargo hold – with power sliding rear window – is testament to this vehicle’s 9.6-in ground clearance – it’s difficult to reach the cargo area, which negates putting heavy stuff in the back without help (for this shortie). Yet with 46.3 cubic feet of space with rear seats up and 88.8 cubes with them folded flat, this ride became the 4Runner Motel the night before the Indianapolis 500 and was very comfortable, thanks to a borrowed air mattress, blanket and pillow. A long hanging soft handle allows even short folks to close the hatch.
The 2019 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 TRD Off-Road Premium driven here has a starting, list price of $41,040 including freight charges. There are five options and a single savings “option”: the sliding rear cargo deck allows for easier loading and can serve as a tailgater’s bench ($340), the kinetic dynamic suspension system explained above ($1750), running boards for $345, door edge guards ($79) and all-weather floor liners and cargo tray for $269. “Keep it wild savings” deletes $750 from that total, giving this machine a list price of $43,083.
This is a tough truck, as is four stars for overall safety attest (it gets five stars for a side crash) and one that became more familiar and pleasing to drive throughout our week together. It felt safe, it was a great motel, hid delectable items with its privacy glass and was a winner for the beer lovers at the house (three bottles can fit in the front door holders). So thank you to Toyota for continuing to build an enclosed truck that’s meant for working and traveling, both on- and off-road. It ay not be the most modern iteration in the world, but every guy who looked at it said this was a truck they’d love to have.
Words and photos by Anne Proffit