“They don’t make them like they used to.”
This is a phrase that could be used to describe just about any new car on sale today. This week at Daddy’s Digest, we have one exception being tested and reviewed courtesy of Toyota Canada: the 2021 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro. It could easily be considered as a cult classic – but the catch is, this cult classic is still in production. The fifth-generation 4Runner debuted for the 2010 model year, and is still going strong today. Even better, it uses an engine that mostly dates back to 2003, and does business with a transmission that’s been around since at least 2005.
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Here’s the thing: that’s what people love about 4Runners, and the dinosaur factor is half the appeal. Buyers seeking out a simple, robust, and reliable sport utility vehicle almost automatically flock to them, and Toyota can barely keep up with demand. As such, the 4Runner’s resale value on the used market is especially strong, and nothing else holds value like one.
I should know – I tried to buy a fourth-generation model (2003 to 2009) within the last year. If it’s a lower mileage, rust-free example that’s been well maintained, it could be worth nearly $20,000 Canadian Dollars even without the inflated used car market that’s been brought on by the pandemic. In the end, after a lot of time and an almost-sure deal that fell through, my search was unsuccessful and I wound up with something else. Even so, my heart still longs to own a 4Runner someday.
You might ask: if it’s been in production for so long, why buy new? Surely, there are plenty of good used examples out there! The short answer is that yes, there is usually a good number of slightly (or more heavily) used 4Runners to choose from. However, with the strong resale value, one can practically buy and sell a new 4Runner every few years without losing too much money – there’s always someone in line who’s willing to pay good money for one regardless of trim level.
The 2021 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro is the top end of the 4Runner range and gets the full set of off-road kit that can be had from the factory. This includes a locking rear differential, Fox shock absorbers, a TRD-stamped aluminum front skid plate, and a basket-style roof rack. Cosmetically, the Pro gets unique badging, a matte black hood scoop, and unique 17-inch matte black alloy wheels. Other features include navigation, 15-speaker JBL audio, LED headlights and taillights, and a power moonroof.
While the cheapest 2021 4Runner starts at $46,200 for the bare-bones Trail model, the TRD Pro will set you back $62,430 Canadian before taxes and fees. With the 2022 models arriving in the showrooms around now, expect only a few updates: LED high beam headlights now complement the existing LED low beam and fog lights, and an awesome new Lime Rush colour will become available on the TRD Pro. A new TRD Sport trim level bridges the gap between the base models and the higher-end luxury Limited, and the Lunar Rock colour on the 2021 TRD Pro (pictured) moves down to being available on lower TRD trim levels.
The 4.0-litre V6 engine of the 4Runner carries through unchanged after all these years, but thankfully, it’s a smooth power plant that makes 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque and provides a just-adequate amount of thrust to keep things moving. Speed isn’t the name of the game here, but the good news is that the V6 and its five-speed automatic are among the most reliable setups, ever. For those inclined to use their 4Runners to tow, towing capacity is 2,268 kilograms (5,000 pounds), and all 4Runners come standard with a Class IV trailer hitch.
The interior of the 4Runner TRD Pro isn’t exactly the stuff dreams are made of, but at the minimum, it’s well put together and has just enough creature comforts to work in today’s modern age. Occupants get to take advantage of power-adjustable and heated front seats (but no heated steering wheel), automatic climate control, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration. The 4Runner’s roll-down rear window is a party trick that’s been around for decades, and becomes useful for large cargo or when enjoying outdoorsy activities.
From a comfort and family practicality perspective, the 4Runner is a good choice for those who typically only need two rows of seating and a good amount of cargo space. While a seven-passenger model is available in Limited trim, third row use is best relegated to emergencies only. Overall ride comfort is made better with the off-road spec Fox shock absorbers, and the 4Runner will accommodate space-eating rear-facing child seats with ease. No power liftgate is available in any trim – a curse if your hands are full, but for many 4Runner buyers, not having some of these features is actually a blessing in terms of avoiding costly repairs over the long term.
Starting with the 2020 model year, the 4Runner did get some improvements on the safety front – namely with Toyota’s TSS-P driver-assist system. Forward-collision warnings with automatic braking, daytime pedestrian detection, lane departure alert (without steering assist – thank the hydraulic power steering system for that), automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control (high speed) are all standard equipment on all trim levels.
Although a full model changeover is likely coming for the 2021 Toyota 4Runner in the next couple of years, demand for the existing model is still brisk. Toyota likely won’t stray from the current formula too much – the 4Runner is and must remain one of the best options for long-term reliability, durability, and residual value. Its body-on-frame construction makes it a real truck that can be subjected to intense abuse, but it still manages to be comfortable enough for daily street use. It strikes a balance that’s hard to find in the SUV market these days, and hopefully, it’ll remain in one form or another as powertrains become more and more electrified. For now, it’ll roam this earth as a living legend.
Jerry Vo cut his teeth in writing as an automotive journalist and is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Having reviewed cars since 2015, he takes pride in providing relevant and technically savvy consumer advice, and is extending that over into reviews in various other categories at Daddy's Digest. He is a proud dad of one and is letting the wonderful journey of parenthood teach him new things every day.