10 Months Of 4Runner Ownership & Frequent Modifications: We Like About Our 2022 TRD ORP 4Runner Build
I come from a background of performance cars and living in the UK. Although it rains a lot there, the terrain and extremes of seasonal weather don’t vary much compared to Boulder, CO. I have lived here now for the last few years with my wife and professional climber, Alex Puccio. Our active lifestyle demanded a vehicle that could keep up, so we decided on a 4Runner build.
My past with BMW M cars influenced my wife and me to buy the X3 M40i when I moved here. This turned out to be a lemon within the first 6 months, so we upgraded to the BMW X3M in 2021. 510bhp and RWD bias made for good fun, but again, this turned out to be a lemon within 6 months!
That was it, my wife demanded we get a reliable SUV that we could and can use for our passion and part of her job, rock climbing.
The 4Runner isn’t a car that exists in the UK. We used to import the Surf in the 90s, but the 4Runner is just too big for UK roads. It was one of the first cars I noticed when visiting here. I loved the bulky and tough looks and had only heard great things from climbers around the US.
So, in January 2022, we took delivery of our TRD ORP. I’m sure many of you are aware that only 400 TRD Pros are imported to the US every year and these were going for $20k(!) above MSRP. No way were we doing that, so our dealer advised us to get the TRD ORP and spec it how we wanted with aftermarket mods.
How The Build Started
I had been researching our 4Runner build for the better part of 6 months – when our BMW first went into the shop. I knew that some mods were a must and others were on the “if I can convince my wife” list.
When it turned up at the dealership, we had it taken to RSG Off-road (Denver-based) immediately. Here, we had the following parts installed before I’d ever driven the car:
- Bilstein 5160/6112 Suspension
- SPC Upper Control Arms
- C4 Fabrication Lo-Pro Winch Bumper w/ Extreme LED 30” Light Bar
- SSO High-clearance front bumper
- TRD Pro Grill w/ Raptor lights
- Baja Design Squadron Pro Fog Lights
- Baja Design Squadron Pro Ditch Lights
- Prinsu Full-length Rack w/ Wind Deflector & Cali Raised LED 40” Light Bar
- Black Rhino Chamber Wheels w/ BFG K02s (285/70R17)
- Toyota OEM Rock Rails
- TRD Pro Exhaust
- RSG Armor
- “Blacked-Out” Rear Valence From Toyota
Over the next 10 months, there were a few more things added:
- Full Interior/Exterior LED Lighting
- Partial Smoked Tail Light Kit
- Wind Deflectors
- Pedal Commander
- Center Arm-Rest Cover
Coming from a small SUV with 510bhp, the obvious thing that was lacking was power. However, I’d mentally prepared for this and told myself that the 4Runner will get us to areas where the BMW can’t. To be honest, the power wasn’t bad. I’d certainly made the MPG drop with the lift and added extras, but the only thing I thought was poor, are the (well-documented) gear ratios and the fact that the car is constantly searching for another gear.
I simply cannot ever drive with the cruise control on as it just hits 4.5k revs and stays there. Driving without it, you can keep it around 2.5k revs. A few months ago, I ordered the Pedal Commander to see if things would improve. I’m sure many of you have done the same and I’d be keen to hear your thoughts.
Initially, I stuck it in ECO Level 5 – hoping that my MPG would go from 10/12mpg to 15/16mpg. This didn’t happen, so I put it in Sport-Plus Level 5 for better throttle response. For my heavy right foot, I liked that setting more and that numb throttle was brought to life.
Moving forward a few months, I typically have it in City Mode Level 3. On long journeys, I see 14.6mpg and I’m okay with that. I certainly try cruise control every journey, but quickly turn it off when it hits 4.5k revs again. This is something I will definitely address in the next 6 months. Whether to tune/remap or to go the Magnuson route, I’m unsure as of yet.
I have a huge history of modifying cars – from my very first car and in fact every car I owned up until a BMW M2 Competition I had before coming to the US. I go off-road and certainly don’t want to alter the 4Runner’s ability there, but I think both the remap/tune and the Magnuson Supercharger route should be okay. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
I mentioned that my wife is a professional rock climber. We are both also professional climbing coaches. We own a 7-year-old Mini-Australian Shepherd and typically go climbing 2-4 times a week and on multiple trips every year around the world. In the U.S. we can almost guarantee trips to Red Rocks, Vegas; Hueco Tanks, Texas; Moab, Utah; Leavenworth, Washington; and Tahoe, California, every year.
Living in Boulder, CO, we go to the Rocky Mountain National Park, Lincoln Lake, Mount Evans, and many other surrounding areas 2-3 times a week during the summer. Some areas require a lifted suspension, under armor, and the 4WD.
Sometimes I’m amazed at how the 4Runner can handle the terrain. I expect bangs, to hit the armor, and get stopped in my tracks. However, it is a truly impressive beast and in its element when it comes to off-roading.
I felt guilty the few times we took the BMW X3M off-road. We had to turn around in Red Rocks, Vegas one time when searching for a bouldering area to climb. The wash we were following was covered in small rocks and boulders and we simply couldn’t get passed it.
Since having the 4Runner, we’ve been back to that place multiple times, taking the 4×4 route which was just incredible to see. The sheer angles that it can handle are impressive. We often fill the car with people, climbing equipment, and dogs. The Prinsu rack is always full of crash pads (when we hit 10mpg) and the 4Runner hasn’t missed a beat.
The last 10 months and 19,000 miles have been an utter joy. We both look back with fond memories of where our 4Runner has taken us.
Favorite Mods On Our 4Runner Build
The suspension, wheels, and tires are perfect for what we wanted/needed. I love the terrain they get us over as well as their looks.
The Prinsu roof rack – I mentioned that we use it for crash pads – which we do almost daily. That allows us to fill the car with friends. We definitely scratched the roof of the BMW doing this in the past. Since the above photo, I started using the Prinsu tie-down hardware kit to strap everything to and it is far superior to the old system!
We are often going down winding off-road tracks coming back from climbing areas at 11 pm or into the early hours. All of our auxiliary lights are not only fun but essential. Our field of vision has increased exponentially, as well as acting as a deterrent to animals too. I use these daily and cannot stress how much I love them.
In fact, I can’t think of a mod I don’t like. Perhaps the least effective is the Pedal Commander. Maybe that’s unfair as all it is there to do is increase/decrease the sensitivity of the throttle response, which it does well. Perhaps I’m just hungry for more horsepower and torque?
I fitted the smoked light kit from 4Runner Lifestyle and thought it was very poor quality. The kit wasn’t fit for purpose and I only ended up using the top section.
For future mods, I just ordered some Spidertrax WHS007 spacers which should be arriving in the next few days along with a GoPro Prinsu mount to get some of our journeys on camera. I’ve fitted spacers on previous cars for better track performance, but for this car, I think it’ll just be for aesthetics if I’m being honest.
As mentioned above, we are certainly looking into the engine. With road trips that take us all over the US, I’d like the engine to be more powerful and less hungry for gears. I know many of you will criticize us for wanting more power. Sure, we could have bought a Ford Bronco or something with a V8, but I love the looks of the 4Runner and the off-road capabilities were too good to ignore.
Other than that, we are currently looking into a rooftop tent. We often go to climbing areas and drive 45-120mins each way from an Airbnb (or home) to get to the climbing area (daily). We want the flexibility of camping, but neither of us like being in a ground-tent, nor all of the faff surrounding camping. Many climbers have Mercedes Sprinter conversions, but they cannot get to the climbing areas we go to.
The 4Runner is perfect for off-roading, carrying people, dogs, and equipment, but adding a tent to this will be awesome. With the added weight and blocky nature of the tent, it adds all the more reason for the engine to be looked into as well.
After this, I think we’ll be good for a while. It will perfectly fulfill our lifestyle and what we need/want of it. I can’t wait to share some of our journeys with you and the next installments.
I hope you enjoyed this little insight into our 4Runner build and I look forward to reading more of yours too.
Careful with the pedal commander. I had one those installed on my 2016 trail and after 4-5 months it threw a check engine light for the pedal sensor. Put my car in limp mode. Took it off and reset the ecu and haven’t had an issue since then. It was fun but not worth the risk in remote areas
I added Magnuson supercharger 2 years ago and have been totally satisfied with the extra horsepower for highway passing and climbing hills. Best mod that I’ve added. The 4Runner needs the extra hp, especially when driving in the Rocky mountains.
Awesome! Any reliability issues? Has your local Toyota dealer been OK with servicing it still?
About power: I had my BMWs when I had the 4R. First was E30 318is and that thing was quicker than the 4R even with a 1.8 M42 LOL then got myself a E90 M. I was happy like that already.
BMW quality had went down, as they got themselves into whatever the newest technological hypes are. That’s the difference between BMW of E- era and F and beyond. Too many computer stuff.
The 4Runner is the same in some ways. The 5th gen is ancient, but it is reliable. They are the E- era in BMW speak. The next one will probably be turbo-ed with all kinds of electronic bells and whistles, and that’s when reliability goes out the window like F and G series in BMW speak.
What other BMW you had?
I agree, although in the UK never seemed to have issues with my cars.
Had an e60 335i for a bit, an M140 (B58 engine, tuned to 450hp for 4 years, an M2 competition for 1 year or so and also had use of an e92 M3 and still do in the UK.
Your gear hunt is not a power problem but a ratio problem. Re gear to 4.88 or 5.29. I have a full modded and very heavy 4R. regeared to 4.88 and Magnuson. The Magnuson was done after regear. Regear solved the hunting. S/C solved the torque.
Thanks Cameron. Booked in for tuning and rehearing to see.
Exactly, I regeared my FJ Cruiser with this issue. Regearing with a tune and some other bolt-on modifications helped a ton. After I got a tune my FJ is enjoyable! I cannot wait to have 4.88 gears in my 4Runner and a front locker.
Hey Robin, did you guys end up throwing a winch on the build?
I was also looking at the supercharger but re-gearing the 4Runner has helped me with my power itch. Might be something to look into
Thanks Keith. Did you do it then have a remap?
Awesome thread. Also curious on the move you make with your engine performance. Sitting at 4.5k revs on cruise control is wild. And almost takes away the love for the new TSS up front.
Thanks Ian. A lot of people said there’s a good tuner in Denver who can remap the car. That said, I like the idea of the supercharger being reliable and making it more livable for longer 2000+ mile journeys. i.e. this month we drove from Boulder to Dallas and now we are about to drive to Hueco Tanks TX for Jan and then Vegas for Feb before going back home.