Is the 2023 Toyota 4Runner the Most Controversial SUV in Its Segment?

The Toyota 4Runner is one of the most reliable SUV models in the Japanese automaker’s lineup. The 4Runner is beloved among the off-roading community and has built a strong following due to its dependability. So, why is the trusty midsize SUV ranked so low by experts and automotive publications? Let’s explore the pros and cons of getting a new 2023 Toyota 4Runner.

The Toyota 4Runner is the last of a dying breed

A gray 2023 Toyota 4Runner midsize suv
The 2023 Toyota 4Runner | Toyota

It’s clear that the Toyota 4Runner is very different from most vehicles in its segment. It doesn’t have much in common with popular midsize SUVs like the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, and Chevrolet Traverse, for better or worse.

Whether you’re a die-hard 4Runner fan or a consumer who trusts the opinions of experts and automotive publications, it’s easy to see what separates the 4Runner from more popular midsize SUVs in its segment. It’s the last of a dying breed, and that’s either a selling point for you or a reason to run from the 4Runner. The 2023 Toyota 4Runner is one of the few truck-like midsize SUVs left on the market.

The midsize SUV shares many traits with Toyota trucks, including decent power, low maintenance costs, and longevity that’s hard to top. There’s no denying that 4Runners can keep on runnin’ for longer than most rivals. The average Toyota 4Runner can easily last for 250,000 miles when well-maintained. That works out to over 17 years of ownership for a new 4Runner based on the average annual driving range.

The 4Runner is uniquely designed to take on rough terrain, and stock models can conquer mild off-roading challenges. Toyota also offers off-road trims, and consumers can even add off-road tires and a lift kit to make the base version of the midsize SUV more capable. There are plenty of reasons to buy a Toyota 4Runner, but there are reasons why the midsize SUV is becoming increasingly unpopular as well.

2023 Toyota 4Runner cons

A red 2023 Toyota 4Runner midsize SUV is parked off-road.
The 2023 Toyota 4Runner | Toyota

No vehicle is perfect, and the 4Runner has its cons that will deter many consumers from choosing it over rivals. First off, the 2023 Toyota 4Runner seems pricey compared to more popular midsize SUVs. It may provide more value over time, but thousands of consumers consider the initial price of a vehicle over how much money it will cost or save them down the line.

The 2023 Toyota 4Runner starts at $39,555. This price is still well below the average new vehicle price for 2022, but there are several more affordable rivals. The popular Kia Telluride starts at $35,690. Chevrolet’s Traverse starts at $34,520.

Aside from a high starting price, the 4Runner’s fuel economy is also noticeably worse than its competitors. It gets 16 miles per gallon in the city and 19 miles per gallon on the highway. That may be a fair trade-off for its capability to off-roading enthusiasts, but what about the thousands of midsize SUV buyers looking for family SUVs? Decent fuel efficiency is a crucial factor in the minds of many consumers when choosing a new SUV, and the 4Runner’s gas mileage doesn’t cut it for many Americans.

The 2023 Toyota 4Runner is divisive

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The Toyota 4Runner is a polarizing midsize SUV because it provides great value for a specific type of owner and little value to the consumers that exist on the opposite end of the spectrum. So, if you want a truck-like midsize SUV that’s tough, rugged, and can stand the test of time, the 4Runner makes sense.

In the same breath, automotive publications like Car and Driver can justify ranking the 4Runner dead last on a list of best midsize SUVs. Several Toyota nameplates, like the Tundra and Sequoia, have been revitalized through redesigns. If Toyota truly wants the 4Runner to exist in the middle ground between hardcore fans and the average consumer, it has to improve its fuel economy, interior quality and make its value proposition bolder to appeal to more drivers.