Whether you call it a crossover, sports utility vehicle, off-roader, or simply just 4×4, there is only one vehicle that comes to mind when we are talking about a reliable off-roader. The 2023 Toyota 4Runner is still on the market with minimal changes since the beginning of the 2000s. Unlike most entries that are busy crawling the malls, the 4Runner can go to trails, forests, or places that the others simply can’t.
2023 is an important year for the 4Runner as it’s the 40th anniversary of the nameplate, and Toyota introduces a special edition to commemorate the success. However, if you are more interested in having the best off-road capability, you should choose the TRD Pro trim like our tester, which adds Locking Rear Differential, Crawl Control, Multi-Terrain Select, front skid plates, rock rails and better suspension components.
I personally think the TRD Pro trim offers the best looks overall, as it makes the 4Runner’s front fascia look a little bit more masculine and menacing, mainly due to the more off-road capable tires, huge front grille, higher ground clearance, and a hood scoop. The 4Runner with TRD Pro trim offers 9.6 inches of ground clearance as well as 33 degrees of approach angle, which is 3 degrees more than other trims.
From the side profile, the 4Runner cannot hide its age. The boxy profile isn’t unique to this generation 4Runner, but the difference is quite minimal and hard to see for untrained eyes. The current generation has been on the market since 2009 and updated in 2013. Of course, having more ground clearance and fat off-road tires give it more road presence. TRD Pro trim also has the basket-style roof rack and it is a great addition if you go to camping and need extra storage. I think the Solar Octane colour with black accents is a terrific choice for the 4Runner. Other colours make the 4Runner show its age more.
The rear end just looks like other 4Runners, and of course it comes with a unique feature that rear glass can go down like doors, it is a great feature for outdoorsy lifestyle as you do not have to use the tailgate to grab small items from the trunk. Of course, you don’t see the latest design trends like the other crossovers, you still get 100% real exhaust tip located on the side of the rear bumper, huge mudflaps, no sharp lines and design gimmicks, and spare tire is located under the trunk. The 4Runner TRD PRO comes with a departure angle of 26 degrees, and even if you exceed 26 degrees, the rear bumper comes with protective unpainted plastic cover.
The interior is a great place for someone looking for an old-school experience where most manufacturers implement digital dashboards, screens, touch sensitive buttons anywhere they can find. The 4Runner is a truck platform, and you feel the truck vibe as soon as you sit behind the wheel. Toyota has attempted to keep the 4Runner relatively fresh by adding new tech and features including adaptive cruise control, but it still feels outdated despite having those features. The 4Runner comes with additional off-road features, like the transfer case shifter and buttons located above the windshield.
Although the fit and finish isn’t the best, everything feels rugged and it will last forever. The only digital feature is the updated head unit which allows you to use smartphone integration and Bluetooth connectivity, but the screen also looks old and the resolution does not belong to 2023. The instrument cluster also has a TFT screen located in the middle and it shows a lot of information.
I found 4Runner seats comfortable with limited amount of adjustability. At the end of the day, 4Runner prioritizes off-road utility more than being a family hauler. The rear seats offer decent amount of legroom and excellent headroom due to the boxy design. Rear seat passengers also get HVAC vents, as well as USB outlets for extra comfort.
The 4Runner’s trunk space is exceptionally well. It has 47.2 cubic feet (1337 L) of space behind the rear seats and 89.7 cubic feet (2540 L) with the seats folded down. You can also get the 4Runner with third row seats, but the off-road oriented TRD PRO trim only comes without the third row. In the trunk, you will find power outlet as well as JBL subwoofer located on the right side.
2023 Toyota 4Runner only comes with 4.0L naturally aspirated V6 engine and 5-Speed torque converted automatic transmission. The 4.0L engine generates 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque. It generates the maximum power at 5600 rpm, which means you have to keep the engine rev high to have decent amount of power like any naturally aspirated engine. The V6 engine still has port-fuel injection, meaning that it does not have the deficiencies of a direct injection engine.
The naturally aspirated V6 engine might not feel sporty, and it definitely doesn’t feel fast. Due to the tall gear ratios, big off-road oriented all-terrain tires, and heavy curb weight, the 4.0-liter engine feels a little bit underwhelming in the mid-range. For 4Runner, it’s time to move to forced-induction engine options like the competition. However, the engine really shines when you take the 4Runner to the off-road trail with its smooth and predictable character.
The TRD Pro trim comes with Fox struts with reservoirs, which comes with an internal bypass technology that controls both compression and rebound damping. The suspension tune is definitely on the firmer side, but it offers more travel compared to non-TRD Pro trims, allows the 4Runner to go over obstacles much faster and in a much-controlled fashion. They aren’t adjustable in any way, but it is a nice “factory” upgrade if you are not planning to go aftermarket.
Despite having huge off-road oriented tire and wheel setup, the steering is surprisingly accurate and gives you decent amount of feedback. It is one of the few modern vehicles available with an actual steering pump. Unlike an electric assist steering, it does require maintenance, and more complex, but it offers smoother and better steering performance which can be useful on and off-road.
Off-road capability is crucial for many 4Runner owners, many people consider the 4Runner not because its practicality, but it is the most reliable hardcore off-roader for several decades. You basically get the most reliable drivetrain along with excellent off-road features, such as the differential lockers in the middle and rear, crawl control, and off-road driving modes. In real life, the 4Runner TRD Pro goes over any terrain without any problem, it gives the driver a lot of confidence. I just wish the locking differential could be activated without switching to low gear ratios, this would offer more stable high speed off-roading performance.
From the technical and engineering standpoint, the 4Runner really belongs to the Jurassic era, but the most important feature that makes the 4Runner is something the others can’t offer. The rugged aggressive looks, a very reliable drivetrain, excellent four-wheel drive system and off-road capability are the most appealing features for the audience. However, I think the 4Runner stands out when it comes to the nostalgia aspect, as it feels more analog and it gives you the impression that it would last forever.
|Engine||2956cc naturally aspirated V6, port fuel injection|
|Transmission & Drivetrain||5-speed automatic|
|Max power||270 hp @ 5600 rpm|
|Max torque||278 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm|
|0-100 km/h||7.8 sec|
|Curb Weight||4800 lbs – 2177 kg|
|Fuel Economy (Combined)||15 MPG – 15.6L / 100 km|
|Price (as tested)||$70,599 CAD|