The 2025 Toyota 4Runner Has Tons of Buttons Inside. That’s on Purpose

Rather than slapping an iPad on the dash and calling it a day, the 4Runner’s interior designers considered how to make its interface useful and practical.

byJames Gilboy|
2025 Toyota 4Runner center console buttons


Like all modern vehicles, the 2025 Toyota 4Runner uses a touchscreen to control a laundry list of functions inside the car. But unlike many, it also has big, accessible physical controls—buttons and dials—for the things that really matter. That's because a team led by the 4Runner's Chief Interior Designer Benjamin Jimenez looked past what seems flashy and new today, and instead considered what really matters: What the new 4Runner will be like to use in the long run.

"In our approach, we try to focus on what the user is thinking about and what will work for them," Jimenez told The Drive at the 4Runner's reveal. "Sometimes you have to follow a trend and go where it’s going, because one of the things you want people to think is, 'This is a new product. This is fresh.'"

"But the other side of it, we also know that trends come and go," he continued. "We have to think about the real-world usage. We're always trying to find that balance of hitting the trend, but let’s be conscious of what that trend is, that it’s just temporary. Once the person is over it, what do they think? How does it work? The product actually has to be better."

2025 Toyota 4Runner center console buttons. Toyota

The trend he refers to, of course, is touchscreens. Fortunately, the auto industry is starting to retreat from themregulators are following too. Their popularity surged in the 2010s because they looked high-tech, while in reality being a manifestation of cost-cutting at the expense of safety. Distraction quickly became a concern, with touchscreens' complication of basic tasks worsening a distracted-driving trend that injures and kills innumerable people every year. They're also difficult to operate in some scenarios, such as with gloves on, which ruined two Tesla drivers' races at Pikes Peak in 2022. There's also the consequences of cheaping out on the screen itself.

"One of the things we talk about, mainly because we're in Michigan and it's really cold sometimes, we wear gloves," Jimenez said. "But also, buttons are immediate. You’re driving down the road and it's cold, you want to get that heat turned on. There's no menus—it's instantaneous. So yeah, we kept the buttons for those kinds of reasons."

Then there's the bland uniformity of touchscreen-centric interiors. You can't stand out if you're doing what everyone else does; that doesn't create a memorable experience. All of us can remember the feel of buttons from cars we grew up with—the real thing leaves a mark that no touchscreen can.

"As a designer, from an aesthetic standpoint, there's a certain mechanical authenticity to them that’s very difficult to reproduce," Jimenez said. "We paid attention to the shape and size of them, so the dials are a little oversized in this because of gloves and off-roading."

What we see in the 2025 4Runner is the result of intentional design choices. It required an involved process, as Jimenez recounted by saying, "We have this idea in our head that’s kind of ambiguous because it’s a feeling, but then you start to see the sketches. In this case, the designer put together this sketch that was like, ‘Wow, that’s it.’ Then we just push it more."

This is the type of work that breeds not only sharp interiors but functional ones. Here's to more of those in the car world going forward.

2025 Toyota 4Runner Trailhunter Toyota

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