2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th
2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th; (photo/Toyota)

Toyota Goes Retro for 40 Years of 4Runner

Forty years of Toyota’s midsize off-roader means it’s time for something unique.

The Toyota 4Runner has been taking drivers off road for 40 years. So Toyota is throwing a party with a 4Runner 40th Anniversary special edition for 2023. Toyota will build 4,040 copies of the 40th 4Runner (40Runner?) in three colors with loads of heritage design cues.

A great retro-style, three-stripe sticker livery is the coolest part of this special edition. Well, either that or the Toyota Heritage grille — we haven’t decided.

Before we dive into this special-edition 4Runner, a bit about the vehicle’s history.

Where It All Started

1984 Toyota 4Runner
(Photo/Toyota)

4Runner was born as part of Toyota’s legendary Hilux truck lineup. The Hilux pickup saw a significant redesign in 1983, and part of that was the Hilux Surf. Toyota took a Hilux truck and chopped the back off of the cab. The automaker then fitted a removable fiberglass canopy and a new rear seat. It was like the Ford Bronco and Chevrolet K5 Blazer but smaller, lighter, and more efficient.

The Hilux Surf name didn’t quite stick outside of its home market in Japan. Everywhere else, it was called the 4Runner.

Second Generation Toyota 4Runner
(Photo/Toyota)

For the model year 1990, Toyota introduced a second-generation 4Runner. It was still based on the Hilux frame, but it was more than a pickup with a fancy cap this time.

The second-gen 4Runner had a full-metal body, and even if it didn’t have a removable roof, it did have four doors. Most of them, at least. Toyota did make a two-door model, though it sold only a handful in the U.S. in the first couple of years.

The third-generation 4Runner launched in 1996. This one used its own body and chassis for the first time, though Toyota shared some running gear with the Tacoma pickup. More upscale than the second-gen, this was still a serious off-roader that you could get with locking differentials and a low-range transfer case.

third-gen Toyota 4Runner
(Photo/Toyota)

Toyota upgraded the 4Runner to generation four in 2002. Based on the Land Cruiser Prado chassis this time, it had more luxury bits inside but was every bit as tough on the outside.

This generation came with a V8 for the first (and only) time. If your off-roading companions got tired of the great outdoors, you could even get this rugged SUV with a DVD player in the back. That also came in handy if your campsite view wasn’t what you’d hoped for.

Gen five arrived in 2009, and that’s the model on sale today.

All About That Retro Stripe

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th
(Photo/Toyota)

We’re unsure where Toyota’s retro red, yellow, and orange stripe pattern started. But we know that Ivan “Ironman” Stewart and his off-road racing Toyota trucks turned it into an icon in the 1980s.

That tricolor runs down the side and up the C-Pillar of the 4Runner 40th Anniversary edition. It looks fabulous on white trucks, blends in on red, and absolutely pops on Midnight Black Metallic.

Toyota keeps the retro graphics going on the nose. Though the 40th Anniversary 4Runner is based on an SR5 trim, it gets the front grille from the TRD Pro. It has big, bold heritage Toyota lettering and the three-color blaze on the big grille bar.

Bronze wheels in a 17-inch diameter make for a nice contrast with the rest of the paint and styling. Matching those wheels, Toyota has given this 4Runner unique bronze lettering and a T-logo badge on the tailgate.

Toyota has more bronze accents in the cabin, including the shift knob stitches and on the black faux-leather seats.

They won’t help you when off-roading, but 40th-birthday badges and logos on the dash, front headrests, and floor mats will help you feel special inside this 4Runner.

Good Looks Don’t Compromise 4Runner Grit

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th
(Photo/Toyota)

This special-edition package is big on looks, but you’re still looking at a 2023 Toyota 4Runner. So it has 9.6 inches of ground clearance as well as a 270-horsepower 4.0L V6 and a time-tested five-speed automatic with the ability to tow up to 5,000 pounds.

You can get a standard 4Runner with two- or four-wheel drive. The 40th Anniversary 4Runner is 4×4-only and gives you SR5 Premium trim.

Toyota didn’t say when exactly the particular model will arrive or how much it might cost. But you should probably call your dealer sooner rather than later if you want one in your color of choice.

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Evan Williams
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Evan has been drooling over cars since the time he learned to walk. Since then he's worked on controlling the drooling and expanded his interests to include hiking, cycling, and kayaking. He went to school for engineering but transitioned into a more satisfying career and has been writing automotive and outdoors news for nearly a decade