Overland Runner: A Supercharged 2015 Toyota 4Runner Built for Form & Function
Overlanding to me is being capable of going off-road in any terrain and easily setting up camp for the night with everything you need. Which was the main goal when it came to building out my Toyota 4Runner. But being that it also serves as a daily driver and camera rig, going too far on the build wouldn’t work, so each part of the rig would have to serve multiple purposes and contribute to the overall plan.
I have been into custom trucks and the automotive industry for almost 20 years primarily with lowered or air-bagged street trucks. But the call of off-roading in Southern California, with our open deserts and pine tree-topped mountains, has always been there. My goal was to blend the two styles together for an overloading SUV that still has a clean look but is full of functionality.
Build as You Go
The build on this 2015 Toyota 4Runner was done in a couple of quick stages to be able to use it and test it off-road and on overlanding trips. So there have been some adventures along the way, figuring out the best setup and what is really needed when you are miles away from anything and anyone else. And some minor body work and fixes of course!
I started with a 5th-gen SR5 as opposed to the more built-out and popular TRD Pro editions. I knew that nearly everything that made a TRD Pro desirable would be replaced and upgraded, or at least mimicked on the SR5.
The suspension, wheels, and tires were first up. I headed to LGE CTS Motorsports for the installation of an Icon Stage 3 suspension system and its maiden voyage off-road was up to the Holcomb Valley trails in Big Bear, hitting the trails alongside the Baja Forged/LGE CTS Ford Ranger (featured previously on Driving Line) to test everything out.
As with a lowered performance-driven truck, the suspension setup makes the most difference both visually and in terms of handling capability off-road. From the factory, the suspension was great on the highway, but was not set up for handling off-road bumps, and whoops as much, it would bounce and even catch a little air at higher speeds off-road. I needed a setup that would suck up the bumps, and allow for more travel and articulation while still handling well at 90 MPH (65 I mean!) on the freeway.
I went with Icon Vehicle Dynamics Stage 3 system that is designed as a kit with a set of replacement adjustable coilover struts to increase the travel and ride quality. With increased suspension travel a billet upper control arm with Icon’s Delta Joint helps reduce the chance of binding and keeps the suspension geometry correct.
In the rear, as part of the Stage 3 kit, a set of 2-inch lift coil springs were installed along with the Icon billet lower control arm. However, we learned later, with the extra weight of a roof rack and rear drawers once the 4Runner was finished; there was a need to swap them out for a set of heavier-duty springs. Three-inch lift dual-rate springs from Icon, dubbed Overland Series springs, were perfect for handling the extra gear and accessories. Progressive bump stops were also installed to further prevent any issues of bottoming out or binding when off-roading.
It was immediately apparent that the Icon Vehicle Dynamics suspension paired with the Nitto Ridge Grappler tires rides better than the factory for daily driving and has made a huge difference when off-road and on trails.
Rugged Wheels & Tires
The most common wheel size for off-road Jeeps and SUVs the world over is 17 inches, with tire sizes being fairly standardized depending on the rig and suspension/body clearance. But of course, I had to plus-size it slightly for a better overall look. A set of Black Rhino Duggar 18x9-inch wheels were mounted up. The wheels feature removable poly resin rock guard rings that mimic beadlocks, but also protect the wheel from rock damage out on the trails, which they have seen their share of.
The Icon lift was adjusted upwards for a 2.5-inch lift from factory height to take into account the added weight of the new front bumper and winch. For the 33-inch tall tires (275/65R18) only minor trimming on the inside of the front fender liners and the lower part of the front valence was needed. If you go any bigger, the body mount chop mod and more trimming are required.
I've found that the Nitto Ridge Grappler tires have been the perfect hybrid tire for daily street use with enough off-road traction to have some fun. Currently, the set has about 15,000 miles on the set, both on and off-road. Traditional, more aggressive off-road tires can often be louder or rougher on the highway. But blending a performance-inspired tread with an aggressive shoulder and sidewall is the best of both worlds on the Ridge Grappler tires.
Airing down, the tires perform well and comfortably off-road. To save time when airing back up, a PowerTank 5 lbs. air tank was mounted using a MORE 4Runner mount sitting under a window-mounted molle panel. The molle panel helps keeps all of the emergency gear tucked out of the way, but still easily accessible, especially the fire extinguisher.
On & Off-Road Performance
A noticeable loss in power, and gas mileage, of course, comes with the territory of larger wheels and tires and additional overlanding gear weight. While the Toyota 4Runner’s tried and true 4.0L V6 has remained long unchanged and has some decent power on its own, having had supercharged trucks before, it was high on the short list for the Toyota.
Powerhouse Performance installed the Magnuson Supercharger kit pushing the 4Runner over the 300 horsepower range. The added (and replaced) power not only helps passing cars on the freeway but off-road when getting over obstacles without getting stuck. And, if that does happen (which naturally it has), a Mile Marker winch is mounted inside of the Victory 4x4 Blitz front bumper.
Protection & Mounts
The Blitz bumper fits within the factory bumper location to keep the now iconic front design of the 5th-gen 4Runner intact. It also allows for a flushed-in 20-inch Rigid LED light bar that acts as the perfect long-range spotlight. For more upfront lighting, a 40-inch light was mounted to the low-profile GOBI roof rack that also allowed for simple mounting points for side and rear lights as well.
Also mounted to the roof rack is an ARB awning that serves not only as shade but by attaching their Awning Room turns into a large tent for overnight trips. Providing protection under the 4Runner is a skid plate and set of Victory 4x4 rock sliders that are tucked up nicely, include LED lights of their own and if needed, serve as side steps.
Toyota hadn’t kept up with the technology inside the 4Runner until just a few years ago. So replacing the outdated factory radio with an Alpine Halo 9-inch head unit that had CarPlay was a must. A 4-channel amp was tucked inside of the dash on a custom bracket by Define Concepts, adding power to a set of OEM replacement Powerbass speakers.
High-end seats in an off-road rig aren’t common, and probably not really the best idea. But throwing on a seat cover when off-roading keeps everything protected. Plus vinyl and leather are easier to clean than cloth seats. So, a custom set of Alea Leather seat covers were installed by Al’s Garage Interiors.
As the 4Runner also serves double duty as a daily driver and camera rig, I did not want to overly accessorize it with gear. Everything had to serve its purpose, and then some. Allowing gear to be tucked away during the week and come out to play on trail trips.
A custom Rockland Customs drawer setup was designed to the dimensions of the rear cargo area of the 4Runner. The setup came complete with a pull-out table for camping needs and camera rigging with two locking drawers for plenty of gear. The top of the box is a non-slip surface with mounting points for containers and a Blizzard Box plug-in fridge.
When it comes to overlanding, it is not just about the off-road journey, but the end destination and having everything you need to get you there and back. The Toyota 4Runner has been nicknamed the minivan of the off-road world, but that works for me as I did not plan to build the ultimate overland rig; but to build it for daily driving, work, weekend trips, and tackling off-road terrain!
|VEHICLE||2015 Toyota 4Runner SR5|
|OWNER/BUILDER||Jason Mulligan/LGE CTS Motorsports|
|ENGINE/TRANSMISSION||4.0L V6 with Magnuson Supercharger, AIRAID Air Filter, Gibson Black Elite Cat-Back Exhaust, Hypertech React Throttle Controller|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||Icon Vehicle Dynamics Stage 3 Kit including Billet Delta Joint Upper Control Arm, Icon 2.5-inch Lift Strut|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Icon Vehicle Dynamics Stage 3 Kit including Billet Lower Arm, Icon Overland 3-inch Spring, Energy Suspension Progressive Bump Stop|
|WHEELS||18x9-inch Black Rhino Duggar Wheels|
|TIRES||275/65R18 Nitto Ridge Grappler Tires|
|BODY||TRD Pro Grille Conversion, Victory 4x4 Blitz Front Bumper with Mile Marker Scout 8500 Winch & Skidplate, Victory 4x4 Blitz Rock Sliders, Gobi Stealth Roof Rack & Ladder|
|LIGHTS||Rigid Midnight SR Series 40-inch & E 20-inch LED Light Bars, SR-Q 5-inch Chase/Scene LED Lights, Southern Off-Road LED Fog Lights, Trigger Controller 6-Shooter|
|INTERIOR||Custom Alea Leather Seat Covers, Alpine Halo 9 Head Unit, Alpine Power Pack 4-Channel Amp, Powerbass OEM Toyota Speakers|
|OVERLAND GEAR||Rockland Customs Drawer & Slide Out Table Storage Box, Victory 4x4 Molle Panel with Emergency Gear, RAM Mount Dash Track, ARB 2000 Awning, ARB Awning Tent Room, Power Tank 5 Lbs. CO2 Air Tank in MORE 4Runner Tank Mount, Blizzard Box 40qt Fridge|