Alright hoons, this one is going to be a bit different, a bit more personal if you’ll indulge me. As Ferris Bueller said, “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” So, I decided I was at a point where I needed to get away from the daily grind, and decided that the great American road trip was about the best possible option (short of flying somewhere tropical and sitting on a beach). I reached out to my friends at Toyota who offered up a RAV4 Adventure for as long as I needed it, with no mileage limit. Excellent!
“Wait, what” is what you might be saying. This “Lime Rush” green Toyota is certainly not a RAV4, obviously. There was a day-before scheduling issue and after a mild freakout on my side I got a text saying “how about a 4Runner with a tent on the roof”. “Yeah, that’ll do nicely” I said. Now, I knew that I had already reviewed a 2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro, but figured this was going to be a different article. It’s more about how a 4Runner tackles a 3,000 plus mile road trip while I ponder the future.
What I didn’t realize is that this is…literally the same 4Runner TRD Pro I had last time. Still, I have a lot of new stuff to say about it, so let’s get after it. Plus, this time it has a damn tent on the roof, and I did some legit off-roading in it.
As a refresher, you’re looking at a fairly reasonable $54,089 for the top trim 4Runner (tent not included) which is competitively priced compared to a decent spec JL Wrangler Rubicon. My trip took me from home near Washington D.C. to San Antonio, TX by way of New Orleans and Houston and a grand total of 3,385.5 miles.
2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro On The Road
Ah, the open road. There’s no better way to…oh shit time to stop for gas again!”
Me, on this trip. A lot.
A good friend on Twitter, who ended up being a part of this trip noted that driving cross country with a five-speed transmission (and a tent on the roof) was going to be a little costly at the pump. And it was. The 4Runner’s trip computer showed between 14 mpg and 17 mpg along the route. That’s pretty close to the EPA-estimated 16 city, 19 highway and the 17 mpg combined number. Also, like Brian O’Connor I’ve got a heavy foot which likely affected the numbers. Some quick math on the final trip ends up with about 199 gallons of gas used. Multiply that by the national gas price average at the end of October ($3.74) and I likely spent around $744.26. Dang, maybe I could have ended up on a beach somewhere?
Still, it was surprisingly comfortable for long distance driving. I had the driver’s seat lumbar extended all the way out and fatigue wasn’t that bad, even on some of the longer driving days. For reference, my previous two cross country trips were both in (different) JK Jeep Wranglers, so maybe comfort is relative. The 4Runner had some quirks, but it was a smooth trip on the highway. With the radar cruise control on, it would occasionally get stuck at fourth gear or start hunting for a gear. Also, and admittedly I didn’t notice until halfway through my trip, the blinker doesn’t go off with one click to change lanes. So I apologize to all those motorists I thought I was signaling to, but was not.
From a tech perspective, there were no issues. During two 15-hour driving days I passed the time with a audio books, so I relied heavily on the Apple CarPlay connection, and it worked flawlessly. There are some weird things going on that just show the age of the 4Runner. It announces when you cross into a new state, and the infotainment system even asked if I would like to change the clocks as we changed time zones, which was handy. Only it doesn’t change the clock on the dash, just the one on the touchscreen.
The first day I hit some rough traffic and bad weather and the TRD Pro was getting blown all over the road. So I decided it was time to pull over and sleep for the night. While it sucked down some petrol, it did save me some money because I skipped hotels altogether!
Can You Sleep In It?
Despite having a rooftop tent, I chose to sleep in the back since I wasn’t pulling into camp sites, but Wal Mart parking lots. I’ve done that in previous road trips to save a few bucks, and it’s surprisingly easy. I’ll do a more detailed article later on some tips and tricks, but suffice to say, the 4Runner was a reasonably comfortable hotel. The rear is spacious and with 47.2 cu. ft of space with the seats up, and darn near 90 cu. ft. of space with them folded. The household outlet in the back was very useful to plug in the air compressor to top up the air mattress. On this trip, I wasn’t totally sure what to use the sliding gear rack ($350) for, but like I mentioned in the other article, it could be nice for getting access to camping gear.
The second day was a grueling double-digit hour trip to New Orleans. I got in late and found a surface lot to park for the night since garages were out (in many cases) because of the height of the 4Runner with the tent attached. After a nice evening of wandering around Bourbon Street I retired to the 4Runner. The next morning I took a stroll through town and quickly remembered how dirty things are down there. Time to get back on the road.
After New Orleans, I found myself heading towards Houston and decided to drop in on a long-time Twitter friend Zerin and meet him IRL. Give him a follow for a ton of cool car stuff. He, and his gracious wife, invited me to stay at their place and watch game 2 of the World Series. It was a nice break from car-camping and the next morning I took him to pick up his gorgeous new Shark Blue 718 Cayman GTS 4.0 from the detailer.
We took a great drive out into the Houston countryside and I got a turn behind the wheel. The trip was going pretty well. We had some fantastic Mexican food and I hit the road for San Antonio. My final destination was the home of two really good college friends who indulged my road trip needs with a great spot to crash for a few days. Even though it wasn’t super warm, I lounged by the pool and had a great time. They have a lifted JL Rubicon, so naturally we had to go off-roading.
Queue the super-mega-off-road gallery!!1!
2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro Off The Road
The trail we chose was near their house and is an old access road put in when the big power lines were built. It’s a mix of easy gravel and dirt trails and some pretty tough rocky bits. There were a couple of Tacoma dudes that went in just ahead of us, so I joined their trek heading down some rocky bits. Being more of a performance car guy historically, they (as well as my Rubicon-owning buddy) gave me a lot “slooooowwww down” directions as I traversed down the first section. We reached the bottom and they decided to tackle the hardest section, a steep climb back up. Both of the lifted Tacos were on big tires and had a bunch of other mods.
The red one made it, the black one didn’t. So I didn’t try with the 4Runner, they noted that my running boards ($345) would likely become free from the vehicle. And really, that was the only limitation I found on the trails that day. The approach and departure angles were solid and the skid-plating kept the bottom from getting too beat up. There were several sections where we had to be careful to not drag the running boards over some big rocks, which took some solid direction from my new friends. The trail camera was neat, but the resolution was pretty low so it was hard to see enough detail in the shadows on the rocky terrain to make it as useful as it could be.
Overall, the 4Runner TRD Pro worked as advertised and navigated some difficult terrain despite my best attempts to Ricky Bobby it (I wanna go fast!). So, here’s a fun little GIF I made to celebrate.
In the end, the 4Runner reminds me of Bodie, the golden retriever that I hung out with at my friends house in San Antonio. He was kind of big and dumb, but super loyal and a great companion. The fifth generation (N280) has been with use since 2010, and a dozen years on it’s certainly showing it’s age. However, it was a great traveling companion and helped me through a difficult time. I had some significant life decisions to make out on the open road, and I think was successful in accomplishing that on this trip.
If it was updated with a fresher exterior and interior (and better mpg) I’d very much be in the market for one. I’d love to see the twin-turbo 3.5-liter V6 engine that is part of Toyota’s new i-FORCE MAX hybrid powertrain. Even if it doesn’t have the same 400+ horsepower output, it will be a massive improvement, as will a new transmission with more gears.
Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing what 2024 brings! Until then, I’ll have a soft spot for this lime green road trip truck.