Happy Trail: The 2015 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 Trail Premium

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 Trail Premium
The 2015 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 Trail Premium.
Toyota's 4Runner is one of the few real truck-based SUVs left in its size and price class.  Most of the others, the Nissan Pathfinder among them, have become car-based crossovers.  In the face of this, Toyota has done something I find very admirable. It has embraced its inner and outer truck, and introduced a model that reminds us of the 4Runner's original mission from when it was introduced 30 years ago.

Rear 3/4 view of the 2015 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 Trail Premium
2015 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 Trail Premium.
It is called the Trail.  And it sets itself apart immediately as a no-nonsense rugged SUV by coming only in four-wheel drive.  Air conditioning?  It has it, but no automatic temperature control here.  No, you turn a knob toward hot or cold and another to turn the fan up or down.

The 4Runner Trail's base price is $36,115.  There's also a Premium trim level, which is how our test vehicle was equipped. That begins at $38,655. The extra money gets you some extra equipment like turn signals and puddle lamps built into the outside mirrors, a sunroof, an upgraded audio system that's an extra-cost option on the base model, the Entune app suite, Softex (faux leather) seats instead of cloth, a Homelink transciever and an auto-dimming inside rear-view mirror.  All a step up, but nothing to suggest that you are no longer in a serious, capable SUV.

Both levels of the 4Runner Trail have the same 4.0-liter, 270 horsepower V6 engine with a 5-speed automatic tranmission and both get an EPA estimated 17 miles per gallon city, 21 highway. Both have a locking rear differential, multi-terrain select crawl control and hill start assist.

Interior view of 2015 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 Trail Premium
2015 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 Trail Premium.
Our test vehicle had only two options, a sliding rear cargo deck ($350) and the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), a variable hydraulic suspension arrangement that allows better placement in uneven off-road situations while maintaining a more traditional suspension for pavement and other even surfaces ($1,750).  Minus a 30th anniversary discount of $750, but adding $885 delivery, processing and handling fee, the as-tested price of the 4Runner Trail was $40,890.

To our way of thinking, the Trail is the purest expression of the 4Runner...what Toyota originally envisioned the model to be.  Factor in the ruggedness of the vehicle and Toyota's legendary reliability and that $40,890 will likely take you a long way, and to some very interesting places, over many years.