2023 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro Review: A Simply Solid Off-Roader
Toyota’s top-of-the-line 4Runner is capable and will last for decades, but it’s hard to ignore how dated it is compared to its rivals from Ford and even Jeep.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: the 2023 Toyota 4Runner is charming because of its simplicity, not in spite of it. I'm okay with a body-on-frame SUV that rides more like a throwback 4x4 than a luxury car. Heck, I'm almost OK with its underpowered V6. So what's there to debate about with the top-tier TRD Pro trim?
Well, there are a few points to bring up. As the most expensive 4Runner of the bunch, it has to pack even more off-road capability. Not only that, but it has to do so without sacrificing daily drivability as most buyers are looking for a single-car solution. It's a tall order, one that's made even loftier by the fact that the next-gen 4Runner is right around the corner.
Plainly put, the 4Runner TRD Pro handles the task fine. It'll go where you tell it to without griping, which is the main point at its core. The rub comes with the $55,000 sticker price, though, which makes it a much tougher sell.
2023 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro Specs
- Base price (as tested): $53,270 ($55,510)
- Powertrain: 4.0-liter V6 | 5-speed automatic transmission | selectable rear-wheel or four-wheel drive with high and low ranges
- Horsepower: 270 @ 5,600 rpm
- Torque: 278 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm
- Curb weight: 4,750 pounds
- Max towing capacity: 5,000 pounds
- Off-road angles: 33° approach | 26° departure
- Wheelbase: 109.8 inches
- Ground clearance: 9.6 inches
- EPA fuel economy: 16 mpg city | 19 highway | 17 combined
- Quick take: It's the right size for families and going off-road with excellent capability. But it shouldn't cost this much.
- Score: 7.5/10
Toyota isn't known for building the most technologically advanced 4x4s, even as new models like the electrified Tundra and Sequoia tweak its public perception. The existing 4Runner TRD Pro is more in line with what we're used to seeing from the automaker. Toyota found a formula that works and has stuck to it for years, resulting in a rig that's more like its competitors' predecessors, especially when it comes to powertrain and interior tech.
That's not to say it's bad, though. I'm still a fan of this 4Runner generation's exterior design, especially since it was facelifted back in *checks notes* 2014. It works especially well in Solar Octane, the vibrant orange hue that made my tester unmissable in every parking lot. I like it and, for what it's worth, it beats the 50 shades of gray you see with most other cars on sale today.
Everything inside the car is easy to use thanks to chunky knobs and big buttons. I could do without the carbon fiber on the center console—nothing about this rig is sporty—and the piano black plastic surrounding the infotainment screen. Just more to smudge. That said, the seats are comfortable and I'm a big fan of the lever that controls the two-speed transfer case.
The powertrain is nothing special. The 4.0-liter V6 makes 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque, sending its oomph through a five-speed automatic transmission. While it would definitely benefit from more power, it doesn't exactly need to be usable off-road or on the interstate. Four-wheelers like the turbocharged Ford Bronco are way peppier, but that alone doesn't make the driving experience much better.
Driving the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro
I won't go on groaning about the engine because that isn't the point here. The 4Runner TRD Pro is still a decently agile 4x4, even if it's not quite as pleasant on the road as that 40th Anniversary Edition I reviewed a while ago. That's largely due to this truck's chunkier Falken Wildpeak all-terrain tires, which make noticeably more noise on pavement. Fortunately, the 4Runner is built well enough that it doesn't drone terribly inside the cabin unless you're really driving fast.
Everyday driving is fairly uneventful in the TRD Pro, which I'll count as a good thing. It's convenient and spacious because it's an SUV, but since it doesn't have to make room for three rows of seating, it's not so huge that it becomes cumbersome around town. The 15-speaker JBL stereo is pretty good, too, even if it doesn't thump quite as hard as other name-brand car audio systems.
Where this 4Runner really needs to impress is off the asphalt. In a strangely fortunate turn of events, a flood ripped through my family's creekside property just a week before the TRD Pro was dropped off at my house. That meant I had plenty of obstacles to climb over, testing the 4x4's articulation in deep gravel pits as well as its ground clearance while straddling big rocks and downed trees.
This is where the Toyota genuinely won me over. I know that's the point, but after driving the larger Sequoia TRD Pro, I came to appreciate just how right-sized the 4Runner is. I rarely scraped the skid plates, even when driving up or down steep ledges, which was a testament to its approach, departure, and breakover angles. And while those Falken Wildpeak A/Ts are a little less road-friendly, they grip nicely on loose surfaces, propelling the SUV along with minimal slippage. The locking rear differential helps there as well. It's a nice, capable rig in stock form.
The Highs and Lows
To use an old adage, the 4Runner TRD Pro does what it says on the tin. There's something to be said for a rig that goes where you tell it to, no matter what's in the way (within reason). Simplicity is an ageless attribute that so many other 4x4s are leaving behind and while some reviewers might criticize the Toyota for that, I won't.
At the same time, some features really need a redo. Crawl Control, for one, is as unusable as ever. Toyota fixed it on the new Tundra and Sequoia, but this 4Runner still lags behind. Off-road doo-dads like that and Multi-Terrain Select might as well not exist on this rig, and pointless excess doesn't make the price tag any easier to justify.
Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro Features, Options, and Competition
The TRD Pro trim is pretty much as loaded as a 4Runner comes. You can add options like running boards ($345) or a sliding cargo tray for the trunk ($350), but outside of that, it's all baked in.
Compared to the Jeep Wrangler and Ford Bronco, the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro might be the most fun you can have in an off-road SUV without taking your top off. To keep with the double entendre, the 'Yota is indeed more modest than its rivals. It doesn't have a disconnecting front stabilizer bar like the Wrangler Rubicon or Bronco Badlands, nor is it available with steel bumpers from the factory. If you prefer icing, this might not be the cupcake for you.
As you can well tell, the 4Runner does not impress when it comes to fuel economy. Its 4.0-liter is larger and thirstier than anything else in the segment as its highway mpg can't even match the Bronco's city mpg. If you're buying a 4x4, you already know you'll be paying at the pump, but here's hoping the next-gen 4Runner is at least a little easier on the wallet.
Value and Verdict
If the 2023 4Runner TRD Pro cost $45,000, it'd be worth every penny—even with its ancient engine, its ancient transmission, and its ancient platform. But it costs $55,000 instead. It's hard to justify buying a new one when you could potentially get a gently used one for a few grand less. And no, I haven't forgotten that resale is a top-tier perk of driving a Toyota.
I won't explicitly tell you to skip it, especially with the next-gen 4Runner being another year away at least. Just know that you aren't getting anything groundbreaking for your money. For some folks, that's OK—reliability should be a priority in every car buying decision—but there are cheaper ways of owning a capable 4x4 that won't break down or break your piggy bank.
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