2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary Edition
An Anniversary Edition For A Cult Car
The 4Runner has been around since forever, actually “fourever” might be more appropriate - this is, after all, the 40th Anniversary Edition we’re reviewing.
By J-F Wright
Fri, May 26, 2023 03:16 PM PST
Ah, the 4Runner… Everyone has a 4Runner memory - if it’s not from owning one, it’s from riding in one. If you follow #camping, #outback, #adventure, or some similar hashtag on your social media platform of choice, you’ll undoubtedly see lots of 4Runners. Often they’ll be parked next to a tent - or maybe with a roof-tent adorning its rails - with magnificent views in all directions. The route to the coveted camping spot is probably not posted with the image, keeping it a secret for whoever ventured the farthest away from the beaten path. Most of us can’t get there anyway, so had gps coordinates been included we’d need to secure a 4Runner to get there anyway.
My 4Runner memories come from my early teens… My climbing coach had one, and whenever there was a chance to, I would make sure to get to ride with him to any outing or excursion. I have specific memories from a climbing/camping trip to Joshua Tree and a climbing day in Redrocks, but I also remember seeing it parked outside the climbing gym. It always looked like it was on its way to the next adventure - which, indeed, it probably was.
The 4Runner Cult
The Toyota 4Runner has a bit of a cult following. Buy “a bit”, I mean that the 4Runner is probably the most cultish SUV out there. And I say that in the most loving way. The Honda S2000, Mazda Miata, Nissan Z all have their followings - substantially large groups of people who have at least one, and many times multiple, editions of their beloved model. The 4Runner has all that, but the fact that it’s an SUV sets it a bit apart.
Solid - Sans Modern Day Features
Known as a solid SUV that will get you wherever you choose to go - and that includes the “off the beaten path camping destination” mentioned above, just as much as an urban jungle parking lot - the Toyota 4Runner is more a truck than what we’ve become used to when it comes to SUVs. The highest trim-level of the current model Toyota Highlander, not to mention the current Toyota Sequoia, offer a plethora of fun, safety, and convenience features. The 4Runner does not. In the 4Runner we’re happy that we have Apple CarPlay available (yes, Android Auto as well) - albeit we need a cord, as it does not work through bluetooth. But beyond that, the 4Runner has yet to catch up to modern-day Toyota.
In talking to Toyota representatives, we learn that it mainly has to do with the electrical systems available on the 4Runner. As it hasn’t seen a total makeover in quite some time, it just can’t handle the extra needs of the newest technology, infotainment systems, and/or convenience features. The good news? The techs I talked to at Toyota are sooo looking forward to whenever the 4Runner gets its much needed overhaul, they assure me it has not been forgotten.
But, then again - the Toyota 4Runner buyer is probably not factoring into their car purchase details on whatever the newest tech out there is, much less if it’s available on the 4Runner or not. The 4Runner buyer probably already has a 4Runner on their driveway - maybe multiples. They are well aware of what is offered in the way of tech, or, rather, what is lacking. But, more importantly, they are also aware of what a 4Runner really is and how solid it has proven to be. Not only is it a Toyota, which in and of itself means that the car will probably last (almost) forever, it’s the 4Runner: one of the most hardy models to come from the Japanese manufacturer. So, even if you don’t treat a 4Runner kindly - how can you, if you’re heading out to that Instagram-friendly camping spot down a muddy dirt road? - the 4Runner will thank you for the experience and be ready for your next outing. Wash off the mud, change the oil as instructed, and you’ll have a problem-free relationship with your camping buddy.
Comfort And Handling
If you’re thinking something along the lines of “camping and adventure is what I’m all about, but unfortunately I also have to live my ‘normal’ life.. What about driving around town?” you’ll be happy to know that the 4Runner will work on asphalt as well, not just muddy dirt roads.
Yes, this is a large vehicle, and it has plenty of roll - in all directions. Sideways-roll is somewhat expected (albeit not always appreciated), but I was surprised to see so much leaning forwards and backwards when braking and accelerating. When this beast comes to a complete stop you can feel it sit down and take a breather - the front of the hood will come from way below the horizon (where it was when you were braking) and level back up to the horizon. When you accelerate you’ll see the hood come ever so close to the horizon as the 4Runner’s weight transferres backwards.
As any member of any 4Runner club will already know, the current generation of this iconic Toyota has definitely not been keeping up to date with the latest Toyota tech. Nor has it been fitted with the latest Toyota interior. The navigation system feels clunky and outdated, reminding me more of what I’m used to in my personal 2008 Highlander than it does of modern day Toyotas.
The center console also looks like it has for the last century. Sure, there might be some updates, but at first glance one might have a hard time figuring out what model year this 4Runner really is.
The 40th Anniversary Edition 4Runner is a limited edition with 4040 vehicles produced. The interior badging notes “One of 4040 vehicles” - I suppose that’s a big enough series that one can’t expect to see the actual number of each car.
The exterior of the 2023 Toyota 4Runner stays true to its heritage. Anybody who knows what a 4Runner is will instantly be able to recognize this model year as well. Keeping with the current exterior design of any Toyota, the headlights and taillights stick out from the rest of the car - in the case of the 4Runner this accentuates the boldness and ruggedness more than enough.
The Toyota 4Runner is an icon - 40 years and still going strong. It’s still a 4Runner - with everything that entails. If you’re already a 4Runner-person you’ll probably be happy in the latest iteration, especially the 40th Anniversary Edition.
If you’re not already a die-hard 4Runner-lover you might wonder why this Toyota lacks so much in the Toyota-finess department. In that case you might want to remind yourself that this is a truck-like SUV built to last forever, not the plush SUV-wannabe that you may be comparing it to.
About The Author
John-Fredrik Wright was born in Sweden, but raised on both sides of the Atlantic. His experience in the automotive industry starts with a summer-job as a host at Volkswagen’s premier showroom in Stockholm. Later, he worked as an instructor at Swedish Active Driving, teaching safe driving (among other things the renowned "elk-avoidance maneuver") and advanced driving techniques.