Toyota introduced the 4Runner 40 years ago and it has since seen only five generations. The current fifth generation launched in 2009 and received a slight facelift in 2013. It's a staple in the Toyota SUV lineup that has a significant and loyal fan base. Despite its aging platform it continues to sell well with annual sales regularly increasing or holding steady around 130,000 units. As a 4th generation 4Runner owner (2007 Sport Edition), I am partial to this rugged body-on-frame SUV and all that it is capable of.
For the 2022 model year, Toyota introduced a new TRD Sport model which is a road-tuned version that joins the more trail-oriented TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro models. Other changes include the addition of standard LED lighting and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert to most grades. And new for 2023 Toyota has introduced a 40th Special Edition model to honor its heritage. The 4Runner is available in eight total trims for 2023 that include the SR5, TRD Sport, SR5 Premium, TRD Off-Road, TDR Off-Road Premium, 40th Anniversary Special Edition, Limited, and TRD Pro. Prices start at $39,555 for an SR5 and climb to a starting price of $54,020 for the TRD Pro.
All models come with a 4.0L V6 engine that delivers 270 horsepower. It's available in either 2WD or 4WD and mates to a five-speed automatic transmission. 4Runner is off-road capable thanks to its low-range 4WD models and body-on-frame construction featuring a four-link rear axle and coil-spring suspension. All models can tow a maximum of 5,000 pounds, with a maximum 500-pound tongue weight. Primary off-road competition includes the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler, and Ford Bronco. Other similarly sized SUVs and crossovers include the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Kia Telluride, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, and Volkswagen Atlas. I spent a week in the new TRD Sport model and here's what stood out...
Exterior Style (+/-)
While I like the current style, I am ready to see a refreshed 4Runner. The current styling has held up well with its rugged looks in all grades. Toyota has kept it fresh with the introduction of new paint colors, wheel designs, and optional roof baskets on some trim levels. All models now get LED lighting up front to flank the large front fascia. The new TRD Sport model shares a front end with the Limited model, however it is all body-colored whereas the Limited gets a chrome treatment. Special Edition and TRD Pro models both get heritage inspired grilles which replace the Toyota emblem with T-O-Y-O-T-A spelled out across the front.
The SR5 and TRD models ride on 17-inch alloy wheels that are available in three designs: 6-spoke for SR5 models, 7-spoke for TRD Off-Road models and flow-form matte black alloy wheels for TRD Pro. TRD Sport and Limited models both come with 20-inch alloys in silver or dark gray.
Variety of Trims (+)
With 8 grades, there's a 4runner to appeal to all kinds of buyers. Toyota has kept the lineup fresh by offering a variety and making annual changes to models. A few distinct grades stand out including the TRD Pro, TRD Sport and 40th Anniversary Special Edition.
TRD Pro models get a new color every year. For 2022 they were offered in Lime Rush green and for 2023 the new color is Solar Octane (a red/orange combo). TRD Pro models are at the top of the lineup and most capable off-road. Black TRD alloy flow-form wheels are equipped with Nitto Terra Grappler tires, and specially tuned Fox internal bypass shocks and TRD-tuned coil springs yield an inch of front lift for improved trail-tackling capability. The rear Fox shocks feature piggyback-style remote reservoirs to maintain damping performance over demanding off-road terrain. Delivering the best of both worlds, the shock tuning improves trail driving isolation and high-speed performance without compromising on-road comfort and steering response. Other features include a 1/4 inch thick aluminum front skid plate with TRD lettering, TRD-branded cat-back exhaust, TRD roof basket, and a TRD-branded cat-back exhaust. Inside, the TRD Pro features HVAC controls like the one found in the Limited grade, plus a standard moonroof and Premium Audio with JBL speakers.
Added in 2022 was the TRD Sport which blends the sophistications of the Limited models with some off-road style. They are differentiated with 20-inch dark gray wheels, color-keyed accents on the grille, rocker panels and body molding, plus the signature TRD-style hood scoop, front spoiler, and black roof rails. Inside, the TRD Sport replaces the SR5 grade's cloth seat surfaces with power-adjustable black SofTex-trimmed seats. The seats feature unique gray contrast stitching, and the front headrests have gray TRD stitched logos. TRD Sport floor mats are included, and a standard TRD shift knob completes the cabin makeover.
And finally, new for 2023 is the 40th Anniversary Special Edition which is based on the SR5 Premium Grade. It is available in three colors: White, Midnight Black Metallic and Barcelona Red Metallic. It comes with bronze-colored 17-inch alloy wheels, a body-color-matching TOYOTA heritage grille and a bronze-colored 40th Anniversary exterior tailgate badge. The biggest eye-catcher, though, is likely the heritage graphics package created for this anniversary model. As an homage to early Toyota racers, the 4Runner 40th Anniversary Edition will be wearing retro-inspired yellow/orange/red body graphics. Inside, it gets exclusive badging on the center console and features a bronze-colored cross-stitch shift knob, bronze-colored seat stitching, 40th Anniversary floormats and a 40th Anniversary logo on the Black SofTex-trimmed seats. Topping it off is a standard power moonroof. Get one while you can as it will be a one-year limited run of 4,040 units.
Road Performance (+/-)
All 4Runners get the same 4.0L V6 that pushes out 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. It's an older powertrain but proven reliable. It pairs with an outdated five-speed automatic transmission that is sluggish as it shifts through the gears. It feels heavy as you hit the accelerator to deliver a 0-60 time of 7.7 seconds. Once it gets going, the road manners are reasonable as it holds its own on the highway and around town. There's significant road noise and hum that comes when you hit the accelerator, the same sounds I get in my 2007 4Runner. As a truck-based SUV, you'll get that truck feeling while driving it.
It won't win any agility races as steering is soft and not very precise. There's a good amount of lean around corners and occupants will feel some road imperfections. This is improved with the new TRD Sport model that adds X-REAS to the suspension to improve its ride quality on paved roads. If you're comparing it to others, keep in mind that the 4Runner differs from vehicles like the Telluride, Pilot, and Pathfinder which are all on unibody platforms and tuned to have more car-like rides. The ride is worth noting, but it is a somewhat unfair comparison since the 4Runner is truck-based.
Off-Road Performance (+)
Countering everything mentioned above is the 4Runner's ability to go off pavement and conquer most kinds of terrain with ease. For those inexperienced with off-road travel, it's primarily low speed and focuses on a different kind of agility. With 9.6" of ground clearance, the 4Runner comes ready to climb. Shifting into low range is done via a dial control and is intuitive. It features a four-link rear axle and coil-spring suspension. Standard Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC) provides additional control when accelerating from a stop on a steep incline. The system helps to briefly hold the vehicle stationary while the driver transitions from the brake pedal to the accelerator.
The TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro models add the capability of an electronic-locking rear differential and Toyota's Crawl Control feature. The latter helps maintain a constant speed in low-speed, off-road situations, enhancing vehicle control when driving up, over or down obstacles. With the transfer case shifted into low range, CRAWL regulates engine speed and braking force to slowly move the vehicle forward or in reverse at one of the five driver-selectable, low-speed settings. This function allows the driver to focus on steering without having to also modulate the throttle or brake pedal in challenging terrain. As trail conditions change, the driver can adapt the vehicle using the standard Multi-Terrain Select system using a dial to choose a mode that matches surface conditions. The system will adjust wheel slip control accordingly. Settings include rock, rock & dirty, mogul, loose rock, and mud & sand.
TRD Off-Road models can also be equipped with Toyota's Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), which allows extended wheel travel at slow speeds for greater off-road capability and control. The KDSS system hydraulically adjusts the lean resistance provided by the stabilizer bars. Sway resistance is reduced for off-road driving to help minimize any tendency for wheel lift. On pavement, KDSS enables the bars to work conventionally, reducing body lean to enhance agility and control. Bottom line is that the 4Runner is ready to get dirty, climb rocks, and crawl through rivers. It's highly capable and I've experienced it firsthand in both my own and new versions of the 4Runner.
Fuel Economy (-)
When the 4Runner arrived, it offered a range of around 385 miles with a full 23-gallon tank. EPA estimates are 16/19/17 MPG city/highway/combined, which are among the worst in the class. It does run on regular grade fuel. After a week of primarily suburban driving, I averaged 16.5 MPG.
Interior Layout / Technology (-)
While Toyota has tried to update the 4Runner with band aid tech updates, it has created a choppy looking interior. The interior has been relatively unchanged for 13 years and styles have changed. This 2022 4Runner doesn't feel much different inside compared to my 2007 and is certainly not modern. It features a rugged look with chunky knobs and controls that are beneficial for the trails versus a more tech-oriented touch screen layout. A small multi-information display is at the center of the standard gauge cluster and at the center of the dash is an 8-inch touchscreen. The system integrates with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The system is basic and intuitive without requiring any education to operate. It does the job it's intended to but needs an update all around.
Interior Seating (+/-)
The 4Runner comes standard with a five-seat layout, cloth upholstery, an 8-way power adjustable driver's seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. It offers respectable room with decent head, leg, and shoulder room. The driver's position is high as is the SUV which requires some effort to get in and out of. The back seats comfortably accommodate three kids across and include two sets of LATCH connectors for child safety seats. A third row is optional on the SR5 and Limited models, but that seat is tight, barely accommodating two passengers. Also available is synthetic or genuine leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, drivers' seat memory settings, four-way power adjustable passenger seat and reclining second row seats.
The 4Runner has 47.2 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 89.7 cubic feet with the second row folded down. Models with a third row have 9 cubic feet of space behind the rearmost seats, 46.3 cubic feet with the third row folded and 88.8 cubic feet with all rear seats folded. Those figures are above average for a midsize SUV. Other storage features include a pull-out load floor, ample pockets, and the ability for roof top cargo. Another bonus is the power rear window which goes down and can accommodate longer items as needed with the ability to stick out the hatch.
All 4Runner models come standard with Toyota Safety Sense P, an advanced suite of driver-assist technologies that includes Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Sway Warning System, Automatic High Beams and High-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. They also come equipped with Toyota's Star Safety System that includes Vehicle Stability Control with traction control and Anti-Lock Brake System with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist and the Smart Stop Technology brake-override system.
Despite its age, I'm still a fan of the 4Runner. It's proven reliable and still performs well enough to be a contender in the class. It offers a unique positioning with its capabilities off road and comes with street cred in the enthusiast world. I think it still looks good outside and am a fan of the variety of grades available. The interior is the most disappointing, primarily based on the competition's upgraded materials and technology. The 4Runner is still functional, just not as tech oriented. This one is worth considering if you're up for an adventure and want something that can withstand the test of time.
First Impression Summary:
Test Vehicle: 2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Sport
Exterior Color: Lunar Rock
Interior Color: Black Synthetic Leather
Notable Options: Premium Audio ($1,545), Sliding Rear Cargo Deck ($350), Automatic Running Boards ($1,500), Technology Package ($1,310)
MSRP as tested (including delivery & processing fees): $48,297