Any off-road-capable SUV, especially a true body-on-frame such as the 4Runner, is going to suffer somewhat on the road for it. Depending on the model, however, the 4Runner can be made to remain somewhat civilized on the road as well. And what it lacks in on-road composure, it more than makes up for off-road, assuming you plan to use it in the rough stuff.
The 4Runner is big but nowhere near as bulky as Toyota's own Sequoia. It's offered with a sole drivetrain, pairing a 4.0-liter V-6 engine, making 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque, with a five-speed automatic transmission. The combination is strong enough to deliver competitive acceleration, whether taking off from a stoplight, climbing a steep trail or driveway, or passing at highway speeds. And there's enough torque to handle even difficult rock-crawling situations. The quick-shifting automatic always seems to be on its game, though it's at least one cog behind the state of the art, if not three.
There also are some differences in how the various 4Runner models deliver their power to the pavement--or the ground, anyway. SR5 models are offered either with rear-wheel drive or a part-time four-wheel-drive system, while Trail and TRD Pro Series models are only offered with that 4WD system.
Limited models get a full-time four-wheel-drive system that's more road-oriented. They also include the X-REAS system, with electronically adjusting dampers, geared for flatter cornering and smoothing out rough pavement.
In TRD Pro and Trail models, the 4Runner includes a host of electronics and systems meant to complement the sturdy off-road hardware. Crawl Control uses electronics to maintain a slow, steady speed when in low range, while a Multi-Terrain Select system allows driver-selectable levels of electronically allowed wheel slip for terrains ranging from soft sand or snow to solid rock. The Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) that's optional in the Trail model and included on the TRD uses hydraulics to reduce motions on-road or increase off-road traction and riding comfort, with more wheel travel in that situation.
Considering its off-road ability, the 4Runner is pretty well behaved on pavement. Steering feel and maneuverability are unexpected delights in the 4Runner; at low speeds especially, the 4Runner handles with better precision and control than most would expect from such a big, heavy model, and visibility isn't bad. But you'll be reminded you're in a tall vehicle with big sidewalls and a soft suspension if you attack corners too aggressively. It's all about expectations: if you're hoping for carlike maneuverability and visibility, you'll be disappointed, but as an updated version of the SUV circa 1990, the 4Runner feels downright advanced.
The TRD Pro Series model, new for 2015, should raise the bar once again for the 4Runner off-road. A new suspension with reworked springs and Bilstein remote-reservoir dampers is paired with Nitto all-terrain tires and other TRD parts like skid plates to ensure that this old-school SUV keeps its capability up. And with the FJ Cruiser gone for 2015, the 4Runner has a little more on its shoulders.