2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary Review

Last chance for the past.

By Chris D'Alessandro Wheels.ca

Aug 4, 2023 5 min. read

Article was updated 2 months ago

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It wasn’t so long ago I was bemoaning the Toyota 4Runner. My last tester, a fully loaded TRD Pro, felt like a vehicle from another decade. Because, frankly, it was. The current 4Runner generation was introduced for the 2010 model year and it feels every bit its age.

While I loved the indestructible, unstoppable off-road capability of the 4Runner, I couldn’t get over the dated interior and wheezy drivetrain which felt like it couldn’t get out of its own way. Overall, it felt like a product whose time had come and gone. It needed to either evolve or die — especially with so many incoming competitors.

Next year, the 4Runner will evolve into its sixth generation. The first full refresh for the model in nearly a decade and a half.

This year, however, knowing that this was the last of the “old school” 4Runner… I felt nostalgic and even mournful to be driving my 40th Anniversary tester.

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th

Maybe the marketing sold me. I have to admit that I was completely charmed by the 40th Anniversary badges, the throw-back exterior body graphics (I heard every reference from Starsky and Hutch to the A-Team in describing the stripes), the bronze rims, and matching interior stitching. The truck made me smile every time I walked up to it. I count that as a win.

And while the 40th Anniversary package is really just a cosmetic add-on to the base SR5 model, I actually found it a little easier to live with than the King Kong TRD Pro. Sure, you don’t get the locking diffs, Crawl Control, or trick Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System or Fox Shock Absorbers. But I also didn’t need to climb up any mountains, so I got by just fine… and honestly, more comfortably. And because I didn’t have the bicycle roof rack which comes on the TRD Pro, I could park this 4Runner underground.

I found that the standard SR5’s near 10 inches of ground clearance, combined with the chunky P265/70R17 tires made navigating unmarked, hill-laiden, gravel and mud back roads perfectly easy. It also ate up Toronto’s pothole infested roads like they were an appetizer that had arrived at the table 20 minutes late.

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th

The interior is still a throwback to the first term of the Obama administration. The essential design hasn’t changed and even a layperson, at a glance, will comment on just how dated it all looks. However, Toyota has made efforts to ensure it’s not totally spartan in terms of modern content.

Every 4Runner now comes with the myriad of driver-assistance technology that you would expect from a vehicle manufactured in this decade. Automatic high-beam headlamps, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert are standard. So are collision warnings, automated emergency braking, lane departure warning, and lane-keep assist. Adaptive cruise control is also present.

But, mercifully, none of that stuff ever got in the way of actually using the vehicle. In fact, I barely noticed it was there. During the long weekend, I took the 4Runner on a little getaway up north, and I often caught myself feeling grateful for just how unmodern the vehicle was.

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th

When you get in the truck, for example, the entire thing doesn’t immediately light up like a stadium concert with a million greeting screens. Which means you can easily grab things you left in it without draining the battery.

It also doesn’t immediately hit you with an alarm that would be more appropriate on a submarine with a hull breach when you slowly drive it a few feet without your seatbelt on.

You can still run the 4Runner on 87-octane fuel. All of a sudden, you don’t find yourself lusting over a turbo four-cylinder or 8-speed automatic transmission. That lazy 4.0 V6 may have all the enthusiasm of an old dog, but it’s also refreshingly dumb. I am still puzzled by the 5-speed transmission when a 6-speed is available in the Tacoma. Maybe it’s simply a case of, “if it ain't broke…” in which case, I applaud the stubbornness.

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th

The price feels right too. Shelling out for the TRD Pro, if you’re not a serious off-roader, feels a little like buying a UFC t-shirt — burning a disproportionate amount of cash just to let the world know how cool and tough you are without actually participating in the thing that makes you cool and tough. But at under $60,000, there’s just a lot of value and content in the 4Runner SR5. Plus… you get cool wheels and stripes on the 40th Anniversary. And as we’ve already established, I’m a sucker for that.

It was a somewhat solemn experience returning this one to Toyota. I left my experience with this final 4Runner thinking, “Well, that’s it, then. This is the last analogue SUV I’ll ever test.”

No hybrid powertrain. No digital screens in place of analogue gauges. No overbearing electronic nannies.

And that bummed me out a little. It made me feel old. And not just because of the ‘70s body graphics. But because this 4Runner is, as a whole, indicative of a simpler time. One that I was more familiar with… more comfortable with.

We’ll have to of course reserve judgment of the 2024 4Runner for when it launches next year. But for now, if you want to recall a time before constant notifications and all-consuming digital screens, the 4Runner 40th Anniversary is a wonderful throwback.

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary Special Edition


DRIVE METHOD: Front engine, 4x4, 5-Speed automatic transmission

ENGINE: 4.0L V6 (270 hp, 278 lb-ft torque)

FUEL ECONOMY: 15/13/14 L/100 km city/highway/combined

TOW RATING: 5,000 lbs

PRICE: (as tested) $57,283

WEBSITE: Toyota 4Runner


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