Toyota is gearing up for the 40th anniversary of the 4Runner, the venerable SUV based on the popular Toyota Tacoma truck. Since the 4Runner was introduced in 1983 as a 1984 model the company has sold more than 4 million 4Runners and it’s kept updating it to meet demand. Sure, 4 million is a lot. But, that pales in comparison to the 50 million Corollas Toyota has sold. Regardless, the 4Runner has continued to be a reliable, competitive, popular four-wheel-drive SUV that takes all the good from the Tacoma, but makes it easier to live with. Now that it’s reaching the big four-ohh, will there be a 2023 4Runner upgrade?
The 4Runner didn’t start out as much more than a special version of a truck
According to Toyota, in the late 1970s, Toyota announced that it would stop importing the Jeep-like Land Cruiser FJ40 to the U.S. But, there was demand for a Toyota four-wheel drive, off-road vehicle. So, in 1981 Winnebago, the R.V. folks, partnered with Toyota to design the Trekker, which integrated a camper shell on Toyota Hilux truck for camping. It became the inspiration for the 4Runner, with a non-removable camper and a couple of seats in the back.
We didn’t call the first 4Runner an SUV. We didn’t know what to call it at the time, and the original 1984 4Runner (introduced in 1983) is a far cry from what we know today. It had two vinyl or cloth seats in the front, none in the back, and the fiberglass roof panel popped off to give it truck utility. The base engine was a 116-horsepower four-cylinder. Honestly, it was simply a pickup truck with a factory-installed camper shell.
And, in some cases, it was worse than a pickup truck. The internet is littered with pictures and stories of the original 4Runners rear suspension giving out due to the extra weight of the shell.
By the second generation, it became a proper SUV
The second generation added three more seats in the back and, Toyota says, additional interior comforts. The 4Runner was still based on the basic truck, so the “comforts” were air conditioning. But in reality, it was defining the SUV landscape. Toyota added more ground clearance, independent front suspension, more powerful engines and more. The last year of the now-collectible two-door model was 1993. We’d love to see a two-door in if there is a 2023 4Runner update.
In 1990, finally, Toyota did something that would define the 4Runner: It eliminated the removable top and made it a fixed-top tall wagon based on a Toyota truck. Over the next 10 years Toyota continuously, but slowly, upgraded the 4Runner. It added antilock brakes, a stiffer chassis, and some new engines and trims.
The 2001 model had all the goodies that Toyota could add at the time, including traction control, four-wheel drive, and a two-wheel four-wheel-drive selector. Later upgrades, including downhil assist control, navigation, and special Bilstein shock options came throughout the decade.
Will there be a big 2023 4Runner Update?
Today’s 4Runner comes in SR5 and Premium for urban adventure The TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and Off-Road Premium will take you into the wild. It’s also embracing some luxury touches and ditching its two-vinyl-seats heritage with dual-zone climate control and leather seats. IThe 4Runner is the SUV that is expected to hold its value better than any other SUV.
For 2023, Toyota is trading on the model’s history with a special anniversary edition, but maybe there’s a 2023 4Runner update in the cards?
The last time the 4Runner was redesigned was 2009. While it holds its own off-road, the competition is building for rough-and-tumble SUVs. For 2023, many of us are expecting a redesign of the 4Runner. Toyota is updating several of its vehicles, including the seven-seat Sequoia SUV that is based on the full-sized Tundra. It’s also time that Toyota added a hybrid version to the 4Runner, like in the Sequoia, and possibly one with more creature comforts that can take on the Kia Telluride or the Jeep Grand Cherokee.