2023 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 TRD PRO V6 – Review by David Colman +VIDEO
The champion of the SUV World
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Let's journey back in time to those halcyon days when an SUV was considered to be a truck, not some tarted-up crossover derived from a sedan. Forty years ago, Toyota's 4Runner helped launch the SUV craze in America. That original 4Runner ingeniously mated an enclosed shell to a 4WD pickup truck frame. Little did Toyota know back in 1983 that their unheralded 4Runner formula would eventually eclipse the family sedan as the vehicle of choice in the USA. With the latest incarnation of the 5th generation 4Runner for 2023, Toyota continues to hew closely to their original vision for SUV success: body-on-truck frame, live rear axle, 4-wheel drive, big ground clearance, and a spunky V6 motor to power the little brute. A legion of Toyota off-road enthusiasts will rejoice that the 4Runner recipe remains fully intact for 2023.
One of the leading motoring publications in the US recently had the temerity to rank the latest 4Runner 28th of all the compact SUVs they evaluated. Personally, I would rank their magazine as my 28th favorite automobile read. They objected primarily to the dated looks and feel of the 2023 4Runner, especially its interior appointments. I suppose that if you've become so enamored of hapless haptic instrument panels activating teeny-tiny visual cues splayed across huge black screens, the classic knob and button dash of the 4Runner must seem positively Stone Age. Well, as it so happens, some of us still love the tactility, ease of operation, and general legibility of the 4Runner's positively archaic dash architecture.
The same goes for the jilting truck-style rodeo ride of the bullet-proof ladder frame, the thumping roar of the V6 when you squirt the gas, and the excellent frontal, side, and rear visibility from the driver's seat. Most of all, however, the 4Runner TRD Pro we tested, will take you off-road anywhere with utter confidence. Try that trick in your pretty little car-based "SUV" and you'll wish you hadn't. We could start out by extolling the long list of dedicated off road chops that distinguish the TRD Pro model from lesser 4Runners. But first, let's get to the sensational "Solar Octane" metallic orange paint that coats this beauty. In bright sunlight, the new Toyota dazzles the retina. In shade it glows like an incandescent ember. For a "Special Color" fee of just $425 you will own the most wicked looking SUV in the universe. So the Great Pumpkin does exist. and Linus was right after all.
Now, back to those TRD upgrades that distinguish the Pro model from all other 4Runners
If you want to go all out on this hot setup, there's a price to pay. Of the 6 variants Toyota offers, the most expensive is the TRD Pro, which carries a base price of $53,270. That's a bump of more than $10,000 over the middle-range TRD Off-Road model which carries a base price of $43,485. So is the TRD Pro worth the extra outlay? If you plan on spending serious time exploring places where the pavement ends, you'll never regret parting with that extra ten grand. Here's a partial list of what the upgrade will get you. Because your contact patch is your only connection to terra firma (or infirma), Toyota bolts on a set of 17 x 7.5J "TRD Pro Matte Black Alloy Wheels" shod with wicked looking Nitto Terra Grappler All-Terrain ground pounders (265/70R-17 M+S). To maximize their grip on the turf, Toyota supplies TRD-tuned Fox shocks and springs. To keep the 4 liter V6 immune from obstacles, they protect it with a TRD stamped aluminum front skid plate. A locking rear differential insures good bite when the going gets tough, and a driver-operated multi-terrain selection system optimizes suspension and ride height for a multiplicity of surfaces and conditions. Crawl Control is part of the package, as well as Hill Start Assist Control. You really have to work hard to get the TRD Pro stuck in the mud.
These technological advantages are almost all missing from car-based SUVs. In addition to the off-road sophistry, Toyota also equips the 4Runner with a full complement of Safety Sense P monitors: Pedestrian Detection, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert, and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. With all these updates, you realize that old soldiers like the 4Runner not only don't die, they also refuse to fade away.
2023 TOYOTA 4Runner 4X4 TRD PRO V6
ENGINE: 4.0 liter DOHC 24-valve V6 with dual independent VVT-i
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 16MPG City/19MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $55,380
HYPES: Olympic Decathlete of the SUV World
GRIPES: Needs Snazzier Interior to Match Solar Octane Paint
STAR RATING: 9 Stars out of 10