Update: ‘4Runner vs. Land Cruiser’ section updated.
In May 2022, Toyota announced the launch of the 2023 4Runner 40th Anniversary Special Edition in the U.S. market. With only 4,040 units allotted, this version of one of America’s most popular SUVs should have faced no issues finding buyers.
However, in this story, we’re discussing the future of America’s favorite off-roader. The next evolution of the Toyota 4Runner will likely see the gasoline-only model transform into one with a hybrid powertrain, gaining new looks, features, and a modern interior.
4Runner Hybrid in line with Toyota’s electrification goals
Toyota has assured 70 electrified global models by 2025. In fact, by 2025, all Toyota models will be available with electrified options. With the new and full-size Sequoia SUV and Tundra pickup already being hybrids, as well as the new Tacoma and Land Cruiser gaining electrification, it’s safe to expect the next 4Runner to be a hybrid, too.
Design & Mechanicals
The current iteration of the 4Runner has had its styling spruced up a few times since 2009 and shares several similarities with the Tacoma pickup stablemate of its time. The next-gen 4Runner may have similar commonalities with the just-revealed new-gen Tacoma. At the least, we expect Toyota to do the same when it comes to the future 4Runner, with double-slat horizontal grille bars and a boxy shape to differentiate it from Toyota’s own monocoque SUVs.
Toyota may offer the next-gen 4Runner in additional grades, including various equipment lines with exclusive styling and features suited to their purpose. From a bronze-accented “TOYOTA” heritage-inspired logo to a 20-inch LED light bar, a unique grille, white/yellow color-switchable fog lamps, special wheels, off-road tires, and many such features may differentiate the exterior of some of the grades.
Like in the 2024 Tacoma, the next-gen 4Runner should ride on Toyota’s TNGA-F platform. The latest iterations of the Sequoia and Tundra already use this platform. Improvements over the current SUV should include weight savings, better ride quality, improved on-road handling, cabin quietness, and better safety. We also expect the suspension system of the next 4Runner to be updated for additional comfort.
Toyota Audio Multimedia System
Following the Tundra’s footsteps, the new Toyota 4Runner should come with the new Toyota Audio Multimedia System, which was developed in the U.S. With the panel measuring between 8- and 14-inches, this system offers better resolution, faster response & crisper graphics, and can also integrate Toyota’s new Intelligent Assistant. Customers can even ask the assistant to tell them jokes after a hard day!
Even this larger screen will come with at least one physical dial to allow quick changes to the media volume. Apart from that, the new Toyota Audio Multimedia system also comes with various connected services such as Drive Connect, Cloud Navigation, and Destination Assist. Moreover, the incoming 4Runner would get wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Amazon Alexa compatibility, surround-view cameras, heated and cooled front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a JBL premium audio system.
IsoDynamic Performance Seat
Toyota may offer its new IsoDynamic Performance Seat for the driver and front passenger in the next-gen 4Runner, probably as an exclusive to the TRD Pro grade. These seats should seem mainly useful when driving on rough roads and uneven terrains. They have an air-over-coil shock absorber system, which allows for vertical and lateral seat movement to offset the jerks and stabilize the head and neck to keep alignment with the spine. The occupants can tune the level of dampening as per their liking via levers on the seatbacks.
Other highlights of the all-new 4Runner may include power-retractable sidesteps Digital Key, Qi wireless charging, and a 10-speaker JBL sound system with a subwoofer and a JBL Flex removable Bluetooth speaker.
Toyota Safety Sense 3.0
Toyota Safety Sense 3.0, Toyota’s latest package of active safety and driver assistance systems, should be standard on the next-gen Toyota 4Runner. All grades may come with Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Tracing Assist, Road Sign Assist, Automatic High Beams, and Proactive Driving Assist.
The next-generation Toyota 4Runner Hybrid may have the same i-Force Max powertrain as the 2024 Tacoma Hybrid. A report Automotive News published on July 30, 2023, also indicates that the 4Runner Hybrid’s powertrain would be related to the mill powering the new Tacoma.
The 2.4-liter turbocharged engine is assisted by a 48-hp electric motor built into the 8-speed automatic transmission. This combination could result in 326 horsepower and an impressive 465 lb.-ft. of torque. The electric motor may store energy in and retrieve it from a 1.87 kWh NiMH battery pack.
The Lexus GX Hybrid also uses a 2.4-liter turbocharged gasoline engine, which strengthens our speculation about the Toyota 4Runner Hybrid. The Lexus model pairs this engine with an all-new 8-speed automatic transmission with a front module that has a built-in electric motor and a wet clutch. The battery pack powering the electric motor lies at the rear, below the floor of the SUV. The purpose of electrification extends beyond the benefits of low-end torque in off-road conditions. It would also provide the vehicle with the ability to travel longer distances compared to its gas-powered counterpart on a full tank.
Next-gen Toyota 4Runner Release Date & Price
According to the aforementioned Automotive News report, the next-gen Toyota 4Runner is set to be released in the second half of 2024. As with recent launches, Toyota should unveil the redesigned model a few months ahead of its availability at dealerships.
According to IH8MUD.com forum member TexasFunRunner‘s source at Toyota, the company could reveal the next-gen 4Runner in Q1 2024. The company has scheduled the start of production (SOP) in Q2 2024, but there is a chance production getting delayed to Q3 2024. Toyota has said nothing about a new 4Runner, and we’ll update this section when there is an official update.
We expect Toyota to begin testing the next-gen 4Runner in the coming months. The addition of an electrified powertrain and other updates should push the price upward, with the hybrid version starting at around USD 47,000.
Ride, handling & transmission show room for improvement
While the 4Runner is an old favorite among SUV lovers in the U.S., most car reviewers and experts will tell you that the current-generation 4Runner is not without its fair share of drawbacks. Common points raised by reviewers and customers include the body-on-frame SUV’s reliable but thirsty V6 engine mated to a slow-responding automatic gearbox, expectedly bouncy ride & truck-like handling, well-built but an uninspiring and ancient-looking interior with tricky ergonomics.
Customers of the Toyota SUV in the U.S. have noted underwhelming engine performance that results in acceleration on highways being far from ideal for a vehicle with a 4.0-liter V6 under the hood. Poor fuel economy is another complaint that owners have in common, which boils down to the large-capacity old-school gas engine. Long-term owners found the cabin to be unrefined in terms of its NVH levels which aren’t satisfactory on paved surfaces. Owners also pointed out the exterior paint & interior trim quality as areas that need improvement.
Toyota is likely to address all of these complaints with the next-gen 4Runner, with many customers hoping to see a modern interior with more high-tech features and safety equipment. The brand would also wish to offer the new SUV with docile handling characteristics and a more forgiving ride than its predecessor while ensuring better-quality materials both in the cabin and on the exterior. Meanwhile, a 6-speed automatic torque-converter gearbox, if not an 8-speed unit, should address issues regarding the current model’s transmission performance.
On the roll down rear windshield
The 4Runner comes with a unique roll-down rear windshield that sets it apart from other SUVs and crossovers. The complete windshield disappears into the tailgate, when the switch placed between the front seats is operated. This feature allows for easy access to the cargo section and enhances ventilation. When driving with the windows down, the additional opening even contributes to the feel of driving a convertible!
However, we feel that given evolving customer preferences in design and increased safety considerations, it would be unlikely for the roll-down rear window to be retained in the new generation 4Runner.
4Runner vs. Land Cruiser
The arrival of the Land Cruiser Prado (Land Cruiser 250) in the U.S. in Spring 2024 has raised questions about the future of the 4Runner. Although Toyota hasn’t addressed these rumors in detail, it has hinted that the 4Runner will remain on the market, positioned differently from the Land Cruiser.
According to a report Automotive News released on August 4, 2023, David Christ, Group Vice President and General Manager – Toyota Division, Toyota Motor North America (TMNA), has said that both 4Runner and Land Cruiser have their own following. However, he thinks that for the most part, both models co-exist well in the line-up. The Toyota VP’s words clearly signal the continuation of the 4Runner in the U.S. and it’s only logical that the redesigned SUV is unveiled in the near future.
Toyota should design and develop the next-gen 4Runner as a less serious off-roader, suiting customers who don’t desire something extreme. Moreover, while the Land Cruiser J250 will start in the mid-USD 50,000 range, the next-gen 4Runner will likely be priced just slightly upward of USD 40,000, which would make it a fitting choice for customers on a smaller budget. While the former is hybrid-only, the latter should come in a gas variant, too.
Toyota 4Runner sales
The Toyota 4Runner’s U.S. sales reached an all-time high in 2021. With 144,696 units sold, it registered a 12.1% year-over-year growth (2020: 129,052 units) in its best-ever year. In 2022, though, sales reverted to 2020 levels, as the auto industry battled new supply chain issues and component shortages. Toyota sold 121,023 units of the 4Runner between January and December 2022, 16.4% lower than in 2021. In the first half of 2023, the company delivered 50,736 units of the 4Runner in the U.S., 24.1% lower than in the first half of 2022 (66,829 units).
In a market that is saturated with crossovers, Toyota has managed to keep the 4Runner afloat, thanks to its impressive off-road capability, robustness, and reliability. Toyota has a knack for revamping their lineup with positive results, as seen in the full-size Tundra and Sequoia’s recent overhaul after a decade. The redesigned 4Runner promises to address the primary shortcomings of the previous iteration, including handling, performance, safety, comfort, and connectivity, while maintaining a similar price point.
Will the new 4Runner be the complete SUV? Wait for our review next year!
Next-gen Toyota 4Runner FAQs
What is the new Toyota 4Runner release date?
The all-new Toyota 4Runner may go on sale in the U.S. in Q3 2024.
What will be the Toyota 4Runner Hybrid price?
The Toyota 4Runner Hybrid may cost around USD 47,000 onwards.
Featured image: TopElectricSUV’s rendition of the next-gen 4Runner