Real World Driving

As for in-city driving, which 99% of you will will spend 99% of your time doing, the 4Runner absolutely does not disappoint. 18″ wheels fill the wheel wells nicely, and the Salsa Red 4Runner managed to make an understated statement, even on the infamous Louis Vuitton clad shoppers of Rodeo Drive where we took the photograph below.


Road performance, which we tested in Los Angeles rush hour traffic, is best summed up in what I like to fondly call “One (Thesaurus) Word Reviews”.

  • Stop & Go Traffic: Cinch
  • Braking: Impetuous
  • Passing, Lane Changing: Indefatigable
  • Drive Position: Grandiloquent
  • Hands-Free Driving Factor*: Elementary

*I don’t condone it, but there are times when you’ve got to cram a meal, a conference call, and an iPod playlist-change into your commute (probably on your way to the great outdoors). Sometimes you use your knee, elbow, or chin to steer. Sometimes all at the same time. Sometimes you’re essentially doing everything but driving, and this is a sad truth of reality. This is the “hands-free” driving we tested.

The Road Trip

gear-patrol-mohave-desert-mapIn an honest mistake of over overambitious travel planning, we (rather, I) planned to make the 140 mile trip from LA to Joshua Tree National Park, photograph our 4Runner, and make the 215 mile trip from Joshua Tree to Las Vegas in one afternoon/evening – just in time for a 9pm poker tournament at the Wynn. Simple, right?

Wrong. What we I didn’t account for was the complete lack of cartography (electronic or paper-based) skills, cell phone service, fueling stations, Red Bull, road signs, and/or paved roads. The lack of which makes for a successful road trip, unless you’re on a safari, and not scheduled to play in a poker tournament.

The Mojave National Preservation is 695,200 acres. I’m almost certain we saw every freaking one of them. Two… hundred… feet at a time (approximate distance the 4Runner’s Projector Beam very-bright headlamps illuminate). By the grace of navigational gods, we did finally emerge from the Mojave National Preservation unscathed, 13 hours later with -0.5 gallons of gas. We only frightened what I believe to be three desert dwelling creatures that have never seen a human, let alone a Toyota 4Runner. And never once treading on an illegal path (don’t quote me on that). We did finally make it to Las Vegas for a poker tournament, just not that tournament.

4runner-madgreekOur trip back from Vegas was far less eventful. The only excitement being a stop at Baker, CA for some baklava at the famous Mad Greek and a car wash.

It is said that the Mojave National Preservation is beautiful, and though our only encounter with beauty was the sweet glow of a Mobil gas station sign, we have no doubt that any road trip adventurer will want to attempt a (legal) crossing of the Preservation. Perhaps a trip to Joshua Tree National Park or Las Vegas. Perhaps, in a Toyota 4Runner.

Three Lessons To Take Away

  1. Don’t drive the Mojave National Preservation at night without fuel or maps.
  2. Get a Toyota Highlander… for your wife. Let her drive the family hauler. Your active lifestyle requires something like the 4Runner. Rugged, capable, and equipped with a deceivingly large fuel tank.
  3. Don’t let me plan your next trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

Cost: $28,640+


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