The Toyota 4Runner has been around in its current generation since 2010. That’s 13 years. By automotive standards, this is a senior citizen. But despite its age, there are a lot of 4Runners out on the roads. Why is that? Why is this boomer still such a popular SUV?
Engine – It is not popular for the engine’s power. The 4Runner has a big V6 at 4.0L of displacement but it only produces 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque (201 kW & 377 Nm). Furthermore, the SUV tips the scales at 2,120 kg (4,675 lbs). This V6 has enough power when the SUV is unloaded but when you throw in cargo in the trunk and ferry 4 passengers around, it can feel underpowered. Particularly when merging onto a highway or climbing a steep hill while it’s loaded.
Not helping its cause is the mapping of the throttle. It feels, for a lack of a better term, lazy. You have to push hard on the throttle pedal to get any sort of reaction from the engine and you pretty much have to full throttle it to get the transmissions to downshift a gear or two. Additionally, the 4Runner does not have any drive modes to choose from for a sharper throttle response.
Fuel Economy – With such a big engine and big body, the Toyota 4Runner is not fuel efficient either. It is rated for 14.8 L/100km (15.9 MPG) in a city and 12.5 L/100km (18.8 MPG) on a highway. During my time with the SUV, I averaged 13.6 L/100km (17.3 MPG) which consisted of mostly highway driving. Had it been more city driving, it probably would’ve been closer to 15 L/100km (15.6 MPG).
Transmission – This 2023 Toyota 4Runner has a 5-speed automatic transmission. When was the last time you saw a brand new car with only 5 gears? Thankfully, the shifts between gears are very smooth. However, the shifts are not fast and, as mentioned earlier, it takes a lot of throttle actuation to get the transmission to downshift because it likes to keep the engine’s rpms as low as possible.
Braking – The 2023 Toyota 4Runner has string brakes that have no issue in bringing the over 2 tonne car to a stop. The problem is that the brake pedal is hydraulic assisted instead of the more common vacuum assisted. This means that the brake pedal has a “mushy” feel under light braking applications. If you press the brake pedal harder, it firms up but then you’ll be stopping too quickly. Additionally, the SUV has a lot of body movement under braking which takes some getting used to.
Handling – For an SUV that is based on a truck (Toyota Tacoma), the 2023 4Runner feels pretty stable around corners. There is some body roll and the steering is light but it doesn’t feel like a heavy duty pickup truck.
It’s when the pavement turns to dirt that the 4Runner begins to show its strengths. This particular demo vehicle only has Hi and Lo 4WD along with A-Trac traction control. However, if you opt for the TRD Pro version of the 4Runner, it will come equipped with a lot more off-road goodies. These include a locking rear differential, Fox shock absorbers, Crawl control with multi-terrain select off-road programs, and an aluminum skid plate. This is an SUV that feels much more at home in the dirt than in the big city. Additionally, the Toyota 4Runner can tow up to 5,000 lbs.
Ride Comfort – For a body-on-frame type of SUV, the 2023 Toyota 4Runner is actually quite comfortable. It’s not perfect, however, but for what it is, it’ll satisfy the needs of most families. It is on roads that have a lot of manhole covers and potholes that are closely packed that the ride begins to be a bit more bouncy as the suspension tries to settle the body.
Interior Space – The 4Runner is available with either 5 or 7 passenger seating. This demo vehicle was a 5-passenger SUV. Front occupants have a lot of leg space and just enough headroom. The seating position, even if the seat is lowered, is still high up. This provides good visibility over smaller cars and some small crossover SUVs.
Legroom in the back seats behind my tall 6’4” driving position is adequate. My knees are just barely touching the back of the front seats. Headroom is a bit less than the front and the rear seat cushion makes you sit quite a bit higher up than than in the front. The rear seats can also recline for a bit more comfort and they recline by a lot.
With the rear seats up, the Toyota 4Runner has 1,337 L (47.2 cu-ft) of cargo space. The opening is large and the rear seats can be folded for more cargo space. Up to 2,514 L (88.8 u-ft). But the bottom cushion needs to be pulled up first before the backrest can be folded. Additionally, the rear window can be lowered for quick access to the trunk or for ventilation for your big dog or a safe way to use the 4Runner as a camera car.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – With its boxy shape, the Toyota 4Runner induces a lot of wind noise on highways. This is the most evident sound that intrudes into the cabin with tire noise following a close second. It’s not so bad that you have to yell at your passengers in order to have a conversation but it’s definitely noticeable. Engine noise is fairly well subdued so long as the rpms remain below 2,000.
Odds and Ends
Pricing – The 2023 Toyota 4Runner starts at $51,890 CAD ($39,555 USD, SR5 4X2). This 40th Anniversary Edition will cost you $55,220 CAD ($47,120 USD).
Gadgets – So what do you get for the $3,330 CAD price of this package? Well, it is essentially an appearance package. There are bronze Toyota and 4Runner badges around the SUV, there’s the 4th Anniversary badge on the trunk, classic graphics on the side and front grille, more 40th Anniversary badges on the interior, satellite navigation, and the awesome looking 17” TRD bronze wheels. I really like the wheels but I don’t think they’re worth $3,330 CAD.
Other features of this standard 4Runner include heated front seats, heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, power sunroof, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat, 4-way for the passenger, SofTex upholstery, keyless entry, and push button start.
The infotainment system is displayed on an 8” touchscreen and it is the older Toyota infotainment system. It looks really old when compared to the new Toyota infotainment system but at least it supports Apple CarPlay & Android Auto.
Interior Design – This being a vehicle from the 2010’s, the interior reflects that. I’ll be the first to say that it looks old but just because it doesn’t have a 50” touchscreen like modern cars, doesn’t mean that the interior isn’t functional. In fact, I much prefer all of the physical buttons and chunky knobs over the latest generation of MBUX interface. It’s far less distracting to use the buttons to change something as simple as the temperature than a touchscreen. The interior almost feels a bit more relaxing because it’s not stressful to have to dig through a touchscreen to change something so simple.
Exterior Design – The exterior has remained fairly unchanged since the 4Runner received a facelift for the 2014 model year. It has a rugged but boxy design. The 4Runner has a presence on the road that is very different from the more “curvaceous” designs of modern SUVs. The standard Toyota 4Runner has an approach angle of 30°, a departure angle of 26°, and 9.6” of ground clearance.
Safety – The 2023 Toyota 4Runner comes equipped with standard Toyota Safety Sense which includes pre-collision system, auto high beams, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. There’s also blind spot sensors with rear cross traffic alert and a standard backup camera.
The IIHS gave the 4Runner Good ratings for the front moderate overlap crash test, side impact test, roof strength, and head restraints. However, it received a Marginal rating for the small overlap front driver’s side impact test.
Warranty – Like many other Toyota vehicles, the 2023 Toyota 4Runner is covered by a 3 year / 60,000 km basic and 5 year / 100,000 km powertrain warranty. For more information on Canadian warranty, click here. For information on USA warranty, click here. (Scroll to bottom of page)
Conclusion – So why is the ancient Toyota 4Runner still so popular in 2023? It’s not for the power. It’s not for the fuel economy. It’s not for the technology or gadgets. It’s not for the driving dynamics. I think it’s because of its simplicity and off-road capability. This is an SUV in which you can throw in all of your outdoor equipment, your kids, your pet, and tackle light to rough off-roading. Depending on the trim level of course. You can also throw in all of your groceries, take the kids to school and never have to worry about breaking down or being stressed out by technology that doesn’t work as it should. The 2023 Toyota 4Runner is a simple, analog, straightforward SUV in an increasingly complex automotive market.
Thank you to Toyota Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Toyota.ca