Behind the Wheel

2023 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro — Tough and Dependable

2023 Toyota 4RunnerModel tested: 2023 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

Engine: 4-liter V6

Transmission: 5-speed automatic

Horsepower: 270

Torque: 278 lb.-ft.

EPA ratings: 16/city, 19/highway, 17/combined

Base price: $53,270

As tested: $55,380

Overview: The 2023 Toyota 4Runner is a body-on-frame truck-based, midsize SUV made for real off-roading — the kind way tougher than Costco parking lot speedbumps. The 4Runner has stood the test of time by being periodically updated during its 40-year lifespan, selling over 4 million units. A special limited edition 4Runner with a limited 4,040-unit build will celebrate this anniversary. There are eight trim levels. Our test-driver was the TRD Pro, and this review focuses on that model.

Walkaround: TRD stands for Toyota Racing Development, but its influence extends past the racetrack into the entire Toyota line. If you appreciate things like ground clearance and approach angles, then the 4Runner TRD Pro may just be for you. The body hasn’t changed much in years — still being the most rugged-looking of the Toyota lineup with 17-inch black alloy wheels, all-terrain tires, a model-specific black grille, specialized suspension and a TRD roof rack.

2023 Toyota 4RunnerInterior: Instrumentation and interior design have changed significantly since this 4Runner body style originally debuted 13 years ago, but both remain functional, with plenty of simple-to-use, large controls. Upgrades since then include an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel as standard, 8-inch infotainment touchscreen controlling a system that includes Apple and Android smartphone integration, Amazon Alexa compatibility and JBL audio. The TRD Pro has the usual five-seat layout and the driver sits up high. Leather upholstery is standard. The rear seats are split in a 40/20/40 configuration. They can split, recline and fold flat. Legroom in this position is adequate, but not great. Ingress and egress isn’t as simple as some car-based crossover SUVs, but there are optional side steps. Outward visibility is generally good. Cargo room measures 47.2 cubic feet behind the second row to a maximum of 89.7 with it folded down.

Behind the wheel: Built utilizing the body-on-frame truck foundation, the four-wheel-drive 4Runner is tough and capable, boasting Toyota’s legendary dependability. Under the hood is a naturally aspirated 4-liter V6 putting 270 ponies to the pavement with 278 lb.-ft. of torque. A five-speed automatic sends that to either the rear wheels in a part-time four-wheel-drive system or optional full-time four-wheel-drive setup. On-road, the ride is on the soft side and steering lacks some precision. The powerplant isn’t aggressive with only five gears pushing it, but this is just a way to get to the TRD Pro’s happy place — away from the pavement. Mud, snow and even climbing rocks are all in an easy day’s work. A terrain response system is standard, enabling drivers to select the right mode for the right conditions. We drove the 4Runner in a head-to-head competition with the Jeep Renegade and others, finding it to be monumentally superior in every way. It was mystifying why others didn’t, except the Jeep was new and had a world-class sales rep in the passenger seat on every test-drive.

Bottom line: There are newer midsize, third-row SUVs with greater refinement and better fuel economy. But the 2023 4Runner TRD Pro is as tough and dependable as they come. It also enjoys exceptionally strong resale values.