It’s hard to believe the Toyota 4Runner is already 40 years old. The firstborn child of the Toyota Land Cruiser and the Toyota Hilux, the 4Runner has royal oil in its lines. Yet, in recent years the 4Runner has stayed somewhat in the background among off-road capable SUVs even as sales have exploded. But why? It seems Toyota has been catering to suburban drivers when dressing up the 4Runner for the market in the past few model years, but things might be changing with the 2023 Toyota 4Runner.
The 4Runner has always been an incredibly capable machine. The 2009 4Runner finished second in its class in the Baja 1000, a hardcore off-road race that is a grueling test of both driver and vehicle. But in recent years, experts feel that the 4Runner has lost its edge when it comes to being an all-around great SUV. Toyota took note, however, and gave the 4Runner greater presence and capability than ever before. Is it still the great off-roader and all-purpose SUV we’ve come to know and love over the past four decades? Absolutely––in fact, it’s even better than ever.
Decoding the 2023 Toyota 4Runner Trims
The 2023 Toyota 4Runner is offered in eight different trims. This may seem staggering at first glance, but there’s a method to the mayhem. The base trim is the SR5, and there’s also an SR5 Premium model with more features. The Toyota Racing Development (TRD) engineering team has also added their contributions to the TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, and TRD Pro. The Limited trim serves as the chrome-plated luxe model of the lineup.
There are differences not only in performance and features but in the configuration of the 4Runner itself. The SR5, SR5 Premium, and Limited versions have an available third-row seat that can be added, creating space for up to seven passengers. The TRD trims are offered with two-row, five-passenger seating only. Another configuration difference is that the Limited trim has a unique full-time four-wheel drive system optimized for performance on the road.
To celebrate 40 years of the 4Runner gracing the streets and trails, Toyota is also issuing a 40th Anniversary Special Edition that is limited to 4040 units. This trim is similar to the SR5 Premium but includes special 17-inch bronze wheels and bronze stitching on the interior upholstery. A bright tri-color exterior stripe pays homage to the first-generation 4Runner and the retro yellow-orange-red TRD racing colors.
Each trim offers its own unique personality. The TRD trims are tuned for performance, from the X-REAS suspension on the TRD Sport to the Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select systems on the TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro. Meanwhile, the SR5 and Limited trims focus on providing drivers exactly what they need to enjoy the drive––no matter where they plan to roam.
The 2023 Toyota 4Runner’s Standard Features
One area in which the 2023 4Runner excels is the standard features offered across the lineup. For drivers who want to get the most out of their investment, Toyota provides not only a reliable ride but a desirable ride for many drivers.
The standard Toyota Safety Sense suite of driver assistance technology includes a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beams, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. A Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert is also standard, along with a Rear Occupancy Alert.
An eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system comes standard as well. AM/FM radio, Bluetooth connectivity, and compatibility with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa are standard, along with voice commands, hands-free calls, and music streaming. A power rear liftgate window and power-adjustable driver’s seat are also standard. Equally important are the 10 standard cupholders, which turn into 12 when a three-row model is selected.
Moving up the trims adds some pretty fun features, such as SofTex-trimmed seats, heated front seats, auto-dimming rearview mirrors, a 15-speaker JBL premium sound system, and front and rear parking assist sonar. The TRD Pro is unique because it is equipped with TRD FOX high-performance shocks and TRD-tuned front springs to give this 4Runner a little extra pep. The TRD Pro trim is also outfitted with flow-form alloy wheels and Nitto Terra Grappler all-terrain tires.
Those who are especially interested in the 4Runner’s capability away from the pavement might be drawn to the TRD Off-Road and TRD Off-Road Premium. The TRD Off-Road trim includes Hill Start Assist Control, off-road floor mats, and an electronic locking rear differential. The Off-Road Premium adds to this with SofTex seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a Premium Audio package with Dynamic Navigation.
Getting the Most From a 2023 Toyota 4Runner
Not all 4Runners have 4×4 capability. In fact, the 2023 model is offered with rear-wheel drive, part-time four-wheel drive, or full-time four-wheel drive, depending on the trim you select. However, many argue that rear-wheel drive 4Runners don’t offer the authentic 4Runner experience. That’s for you to decide, but if off-roading or slick weather conditions are a concern, choosing some version of four-wheel drive might be a wise decision. Whichever option you choose, the 2023 Toyota 4Runner is powered by a standard 4.0L V6 engine that provides 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque. It is also rated to tow up to 5,000 lbs, making it a helpful companion for weekend campers, boaters, and adventurers.
Cargo space within the 4Runner is impressive, as the seating can be easily reconfigured to provide up to 89.7 cu.ft. of space for all your stuff. The second-row seats offer a 40/20/40 split and can recline. When the third row is present, it folds on a 50/50 split. As a result, drivers can use the split seat feature to create a perfect space for passengers and their belongings. Even with all seats occupied, the two-row 4Runner still provides a versatile 47.2 cu.ft. of cargo space. One fun feature offered on the 4Runner is an available rear pull-out cargo deck. With a weight limit of 440 lbs, this can be used to help steady and load cargo or even as an extra seat when the 4Runner is parked.
Balancing Off-Road and On-Road
Toyota understands that each driver has a different definition of adventure. While some 4Runners spend days covered in mud and sand, others never venture too far from civilization. As a result, the eight available trims encompass many different driving styles. Whether you’re more interested in a stylish, sporty, or sturdy SUV, Toyota has designed a 4Runner to meet your needs.
When we first met the Toyota 4Runner, the world was a much different place. Seat belts weren’t entirely mandatory, and there were miles upon miles of space that could be explored on a whim. Today, both the 4Runner and the drivers have slightly more grown-up tastes in that both appreciate modern safety technology and the creature comforts that make any drive a little better. Though some feel the 4Runner has been neglected in previous years, the 2023 model has more sophistication and a refined sense of purpose, providing drivers with all the things they need in purpose-built trims that behave remarkably both on and off the road.