Happy 40th Birthday to the Toyota 4Runner!
It’s hard to believe that the Toyota 4Runner has been around for forty years now. Back in 1983, Toyota brought to market a revolutionary vehicle based on its rugged four-wheel drive pickup truck. By adding a fiberglass top covering the cargo area (which could be removed for open air driving) and four-wheel drive capability, the 4Runner was born. Now in its fifth generation since 2009, the 4Runner remains one of the best choices for those wanting a genuine SUV.
The 2023 Toyota 4Runner remains true to its roots in that it is a “real” SUV – one that is meant to be put to work, both on road and off. It is not a car-like SUV – you know the ones that look the part, but utilize a car platform underneath. No, the 4Runner is a truck, through-and-through and caters to the true outdoor enthusiast.
And the 4Runner looks as if it means business – decked out with mud guards and skid plates. A few years ago the 4Runner received a face-lift which included a more aggressive front grill and meaner snout which carries on today.
Toyota offers the 4Runner in a number of trim levels. From the base rear-wheel drive SR5, to four-wheel drive TRD models, to the luxury oriented Limited model, if you like the styling of the 4Runner, there is trim level for you.
And to celebrate the 4Runner’s 40th birthday Toyota is offering a retro-themed 40th Anniversary Special Edition. Basically it’s an SR5 Premium (an SR5 with simulated leather interior and heated front seats) but with a special grille, bronze-colored 17-inch wheels, tri-colored exterior stripes and special 40th Anniversary floor mats. It is available in either White, Midnight Black Metallic or Barcelona Red Metallic and all come equipped with four-wheel drive. Only 4,040 40th Anniversary 4Runners will be made.
Under the hood of the 4Runner, things have remained the same for many years now. A 4.0 liter V6 is the sole engine available and it cranks out 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. The transmission continues to be a five-speed automatic.
As with all Toyotas, interior trim is top-notch. It’s not really fancy, but it certainly is built to last. Big knobs and controls used throughout the cabin make the 4Runner feel robust on the inside just like it is on the outside. Seating for five passengers is more than adequate. If you need room for two more, a third row seat is offered, but if you really need to move seven people around, you’re better off with a Highlander or better yet, the Sienna minivan.
On the streets, the 4Runner feels just as big as it looks – and it looks big. I’m experiencing a smooth albeit firm ride in my tester, the new 40th Anniversary Edition. It really feels like it wants to go off-road and tackle just about anything you throw at it, and with it’s sophisticated four-wheel drive abilities, it nearly can.
SUVs like the Toyota 4Runner are the last of a dying breed of vehicles. The days when the rough-and-tough body-on-frame trucks seem to be numbered, although we have seen a slight resurgence since Ford has released their new Bronco. But the 4Runner’s main competitor, the Nissan Pathfinder, is no longer a real off-road vehicle and the Xterra is long gone. Could this generation 4Runner be the end of true SUVs as we know it? I sure hope not. But there is no question that this 4Runner is a survivor – maybe even the last of its kind. Happy 40th birthday 4Runner!
– Christopher A. Randazzo
By The Numbers:
2023 Toyota 4Runner 4×4 40th Anniversary Special Edition
Base Price: $46,370.00
Price as Tested: $47,085.00
Layout: front-engine / four-wheel drive
Engine: 4.0 liter DOHC V6
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Horsepower: 270 hp
Torque: 276 ft-lbs
EPA Fuel Economy: 16 city / 19 highway mpg
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