Road Test Review – 2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary Edition – Celebrating 40 Years Of Off-Road Prowess

The trend of nostalgia has been a persistent presence in the automotive world. While it’s not as prevalent as it was during the 1990s and early 2000s, automakers know that paying tasteful tribute to the past is always a reliable way to increase sales. Toyota is very familiar with this strategy and has prepared a tasteful tribute for the Toyota 4Runner’s 40th anniversary with the all-new 2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary Edition.


Happy Birthday 4Runner

At first glance, you might be hard-pressed to find what’s exactly new about this 40th Anniversary Edition 4Runner. The standard 4Runner is already a throwback in its own right, with the model last receiving its major update back in 2010. However, Toyota chose to focus its efforts on adding retro styling touches that harken back to the 1980s, including a large hockey stick-shaped stripe that runs along the upper portion of the 4Runner and even into the front grille. All 40th Anniversary Edition models are based on the SR5 Premium trim, with the model also getting special 40th-anniversary badging and 17-inch bronze-colored wheels. These models also get a choice of only three colors: Barcelona Red Metallic, Ice Cap, and Midnight Black Metallic. Our favorite easter egg item, though, is in the liftgate, with Toyota adding golden silhouettes of all the prior 4Runner models.

Meanwhile, the interior carries over much of the core essentials that have always defined the 4Runner for years. Large knobs and switches help put many crucial functions within easy reach of the driver, while the chunky four-spoke steering wheel fits perfectly in the driver’s hands. The 4Runner’s lack of updates makes its biggest mark in the infotainment system. While the 4Runner does not have access to the bigger screens that we have seen in other newer Toyota models, it’s still a usable unit and comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay standard. Push button start, leatherette seating, and blind-spot monitoring are also standard too. The crude plastics also show the 4Runner’s age, but as a whole, the 40th-anniversary model is a tasteful tribute to the 4Runner’s past but without going overboard. We also like the 40th-anniversary logos that are embossed into the front headrests; nice touch Toyota.


Performance Keeps It Simple, And We Like It

The 40th Anniversary model is a styling exercise, and that means there are no changes to be found in the 4Runner’s performance hardware. Lurking under the hood of the 40th Anniversary is the same aging 4.0-liter V6 that also sees duty in the rest of the lineup. It makes 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque, but it does so at the cost of refinement, with the engine sending more noise into the cabin than a herd of angry elephants. It’s mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission (arguably our least retro thing about it), with the transmission doing a good job of delivering smooth shifts. However, the lack of gears also causes the 4Runner to get poor fuel economy, with the model getting a rather paltry 16 mpg in city commuting and an equally laughable 17 mpg in combined driving.

Fuel economy is not a high-priority item in the minds of 4Runner owners, and ultimately capability rises to the forefront of any discussion. While the SR5 trim the 40th is based on is not quite as trail-ready as the TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro models, the standard all-wheel-drive system and the Dueler H/T tires still do a commendable job in helping the 40th Anniversary handle the task of trail running. Trail running is also where the 4Runner likes to be, with our tester’s driving dynamics leaving plenty to be desired in urban and freeway commuting, with our tester feeling extremely floaty at speeds over 55 mph.


Value Quotient:

Pricing for the 2023 Toyota 4Runner Anniversary Edition starts at $49,055, which includes the $750 Keep It Wild savings credit that Toyota tacks onto all 4Runner models. Our tester arrived with a light sprinkling of options which helped keep the final as-tested price firmly within the $49,000 mark. That’s not a bad amount of coin to pay for a rolling tribute to 4Runner history, and our tester was also good at attracting attention, with a few passersby even complimenting the stripes and the slick red paint. These models will also get a special plaque commemorating their place in the production order, with the company only producing 4040 examples.

While the 2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary Edition is not the long-awaited 4Runner update that loyalists have been clamoring for, it’s a nice trip back in time to the 1980s, where bold colors, graphics, and rugged SUVs ruled the era. Let’s hope that the 4Runner will continue to be around for decades to come.