2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary: Hot Truck Time Machine
Since its primordial days of unkillable four-cylinders, cassette decks, and convertible tops, the 4Runner has always been—undeniably—a truck. Just as it was drawn up in 1983, it’s a body-on-frame rig, and from behind the wheel, the ride feels like it.
Throughout its 40-year existence, the Toyota 4Runner has remained committed to these rough-and-tumble roots. Though reasonable concessions to safety and comfort have made inroads over the model’s five generations, the 4Runner is one of the few enduring SUVs in this genre that has resisted devolving into a round-edged soft-roader.
Indeed, the 4Runner drives like a light-duty truck, bobbing and trundling along highways and city streets. Road feel reminds me of my daily-driver Chevy Colorado. On the other hand, the 4Runner carries gobs more social cachet than any truck. Here in Michigan at least, you rub shoulders with plenty of fellow 4Runners, replete with aftermarket hop-ups like big bumpers and cargo racks. If you don’t want to join the Jeep Army or Bronco Nation, the 4Runner platoon seems to be an attractive alternative.
Gone are the days of Toyota’s bulletproof 22RE four-cylinder engine, of course, and even the V-8 that graced the fourth-gen rig. In their place remains a tried-and-true 4.0-liter V-6, its 270 horses doing just enough to propel the Toyota’s 4675-pound heft. The 4Runner’s 5000-pound towing capacity is more than Wrangler, but less than other domestic body-on-framers.
With more than 47 cubic feet of cargo space, this old-school five-seater will happily swallow people, gear, and luggage, returning about 17 mpg hauling it all around. During a recent move, the Runner accepted box after box, like a magic wardrobe. Compared with softer unibody SUVs like the Honda Passport Trailsport, the 4Runner’s boxy greenhouse provides an unabashedly tall, truck-like seating position with great sight lines.
Specs: 2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary
- Price:$40,990 / $47,720 (base / as-tested)
• Powertrain: 4.0-liter V-6
• Output: 270 hp and 278 lb-ft
• Layout: Four-door, five-passenger SUV
• Weight: 4675 lb
• EPA Fuel Economy: 16/19/17 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
• 0–60 mph: 7.7 seconds
• Competition: Jeep Wrangler, Ford Bronco, Kia Telluride, Dodge Durango
This 4Runner has been on sale essentially since 2014, yet Toyota sells 100,000-plus of them each year regardless. For 2023, buyers have the option to double-down on some Toyota nostalgia with a 40th Anniversary Special Edition package that introduces 17-inch bronze wheels, retro-inspired vinyl exterior graphics, and a sprinkling of special edition flair throughout the cabin, where a leather-wrapped steering wheel and cozy heated SofTex synthetic leather seats await you. I only wish that Toyota included a more-aggressive tread for this heritage package; some BF Goodrich A/T KO2s would look stellar here.
Additional references to the 4Runner’s big 4-0 birthday are embossed on the floor mats, the logos on the front headrests, and the badges on the center console and above the glovebox. Production volume is limited to 4040 examples. We get it, 4Runner—you’re 40.
This birthday-party doesn’t come cheap, however, with a starting price of $47,120. Compared with the original 4Runner’s $10,500 price tag (about $30,000 today), the truck itself isn’t the only thing that has ballooned. You’re probably better off saving about seven grand and purchasing a base SR5 4Runner instead. Then again, with a new-generation 4Runner on the horizon—one that could be a drastic deviation from the body-on-frame, sliding rear-glass off-road darling—this may be worth an additional dive in the couch cushions. After all, reliving your golden years is priceless, and time travel isn’t cheap.
2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary
Highs: 40th Anniversary package properly evokes 4Runner beginnings. Fun retro stripes; Squint, and it’s “Suddenly Last Summer.” Can haul a lot. Back glass still rolls down.
Lows: Extra goodies are purely cosmetic. A special engine or a knobby tire would make it all feel more … special.
Takeaway: If you would consider getting a 4Runner tattoo, the 40th Anniversary edition is for you. If you want a 4Runner with unique flair, buy a base SR5 and spend $7000 in the parts catalog.