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2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary Review: Honour Thy Fathers

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary edition
Photo: D.Heyman
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Dan Heyman
Toyota taps into the world of “Rad” with the latest special edition 4Runner…but is such a special edition necessary?
Logo of 2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary edition
Logo of 2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary edition
Photo: D.Heyman
  • Auto123 reviews the 2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary edition.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but that hasn’t stopped Toyota from trying with the 2023 4Runner. And they’re doing it, unsurprisingly, by looking into the history not just of the 4Runner, but of the Toyota brand in general and more specifically, the Toyota brand’s various off-road racing efforts. 

Exterior of the 2023 Toyota 4Runner: 7/10

For 2023 that comes in the form of the Venture package you see here. It provides 17-inch bronze TRD-style wheels and graphics, a spectacular red, yellow, orange “hockey stick” graphic along the sides and a matching sticker on the front grille divide. Also, big “Toyota” script across the nose and a choice of three colours: red, white or black.

And well, it looks great in every shade. When I was told my tester would be red I was unsure. Would that fantastic graphic stand out against red paintwork? Yes. I’d still opt for the black, but that’s me. 

The colours represent Toyota’s off-road racing efforts through the years, namely the Baja racers found throughout the brand’s illustrious history. The retro 40th Anniversary badging tops off a very nice look.

There are practical items as well, in the form of blacked-out roof rails, fog lights and side steps. This really is the perfect stylistic tribute to such a storied model. 

Interior of 2023 Toyota 4Runner
Interior of 2023 Toyota 4Runner
Photo: D.Heyman

Interior of the 2023 Toyota 4Runner: 7/10

What can you say, really? It’s pretty spartan in here with the big dash and door panels, big centre stack loaded with chunky dials for your climate control and infotainment system. This on top of the big, chunky gear lever and big, chunky wheel. Even the throw on the indicator stalk provides a nice, positive action. Chunky truck, chunky bits. Makes sense.

The 40th Anniversary edition adds embroidered headrests and bronze stitching on the seats and shift lever, and another badge on the dash in front of the front passenger. They could have included a little more of the exterior’s tricolour motif on the interior. You do get synthetic leather seats, of which I am a fan.

Touchscreen of 2023 Toyota 4Rrunner
Touchscreen of 2023 Toyota 4Rrunner
Photo: D.Heyman

Technology and safety in the 2023 Toyota 4Runner: 6.5/10

To be clear, there is tech here. There’s no power tailgate option, but there is a power sliding rear window (awesome), adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and an infotainment display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

That’s all good, but we’re still working with Toyota’s previous-gen infotainment system here, and in terms of speed, graphics and touchscreen responsiveness it does lag behind most of the competition. 

While it may really be showing its age inside in the stylistic and tech senses, I like all the broad panels and right angles because it reduces the number of sharp edges and corners to knock my knees or lower thighs on. There’s a pile of space for front-seat occupants, a throne-like seating position no matter how low you set the seats and a great view out through the upright windscreen and over the hood bulge. 

Back seat occupants are less spoiled for comfort. There’s 200 mm less legroom back there than up front and it feels like there’s quite a lot less headroom, too. The seats have been mounted higher, to better see forward but it brings heads much closer to the headliner. At least the rear seats fold flat with a single tug of a shoulder-mounted lever. That’s good, as the rear cargo area is not all that long.

Seating of 2023 Toyota 4Runner
Seating of 2023 Toyota 4Runner
Photo: D.Heyman

Comfort? Cargo? Rear passenger space? What are you on about, man? This is a 4Runner, the latest in a long line of legendary Toyota off-roaders. Why says comfort is part of the equation?

The heated front seats, leather seating surfaces and dual-zone climate control aside, the 4Runner continues to display on-road manners that make it seem unstoppable, whether you’re going to the shops (“Hey! We’d be a lot quicker getting out of here if we just drove over the abutment and on to the street…”), on the highway or on a gravel road covered in loose shale and tire tracks that would defeat lesser SUVs.

Red 2023 Toyota 4Runner
Red 2023 Toyota 4Runner
Photo: D.Heyman

Driving the 2023 Toyota 4Runner: 8/10

Power for the 4Runner comes courtesy a 4.0L V6 good for 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque, fed to the wheels via a five-speed auto. Yes, almost unchanged since about 2010. But the 4Runner’s engine is deep-chested and muscular. It’s not fast per se, but you just get the sense that the way power is being processed sits somewhere between rock crusher and icebreaker. Just strong, confident push no matter the rev range, and able to work as well in the heat of the Sahara as the cold of Antarctica. Seriously, you feel like you could drive into a hail of bullets and they’d all just bounce off you, like Superman. 

Luckily, while the off-road area I headed for has had its fair share of hunting parties in the past, it’s no longer legal to hunt there so that’s a theory I wouldn’t have to test. 

What I would be testing, though, is the Toyota 4Runner’s formidable 4 x 4 system and Bridgestone Blizzak rubber. These aren’t as hardcore as the Dueler tires that come standard or the Nitto Terra Grapplers found on the TRD Pro version, but you wouldn’t know it from the way they performed as I crunched and munched over loose rock and gravel through a network of forestry roads just outside of Vancouver. 

With 4L selected and Loose Rock mode activated (there are five drive modes altogether: Mud and Sand, Loose Rock, Rock and Dirt, Mogul, Rock), the 4Runner ploughed through anything I threw at it, munching the terrain like a moviegoer does buttered popcorn. There was no wheelspin, no complaints from the powertrain just furious, undeniable and unstoppable force as I scrambled up grades, through elephant tracks and whatever else exists on roads like this. 

The new 2023 Toyota 4runner
The new 2023 Toyota 4runner
Photo: D.Heyman

The final word
When you think about it, a retro design package for the 4Runner seems perfect and somewhat needless all at once, doesn’t it? All these years later, the 4Runner continues to work exactly as its meant to. It’s an honest truck, a workhorse and so good at what it does you almost find yourself thinking: “so THAT’S why they haven’t really changed this thing in a decade.” 

It’s so good, in fact, that you don’t a retro package to prove that, right? The truck is, at the heart of its being, inextricably linked to all those trucks this package celebrates and…ahhh, forget it. The 40th Anniversary looks awesome, taps into the current “rad” craze in the car world and elsewhere and, at $3,300 over standard price, is a pretty affordable way to up the “cool” factor. You should get one. We would. 

Strong points

  • Driver confidence on road and off
  • Hydraulically assisted steering
  • 40th Anniversary graphics
  • Bronze wheels
  • Synthetic leather seating is nice
  • Wireless charging

Weak points

  • Two-stage headlightst
Logo of 2023 Toyota 4Runner
Logo of 2023 Toyota 4Runner
Photo: D.Heyman

Here are a few of your questions about the 2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary:

What trim does the 40th Anniversary start out at?
It starts life as an SR5 trim and is mechanically identical to that vehicle.

How is the fuel economy in the 2023 4Runner?
Not spectacular; we saw 15L/100 km in the combined cycle during our test. 

Competitors of the 2023 Toyota 4Runner

Ford Bronco
Jeep Wrangler
Land Rover Defender

Specifications sheet of 2023 Toyota 4Runner

The front of 2023 Toyota 4Runner
The front of 2023 Toyota 4Runner
Photo: D.Heyman
The rear of 2023 Toyota 4Runner
The rear of 2023 Toyota 4Runner
Photo: D.Heyman
Dan Heyman
Dan Heyman
Automotive expert
  • Over 12 years' experience as an automotive journalist
  • More than 70 test drives in the past year
  • Participation in over 150 new vehicle launches in the presence of the brand's technical specialists