New Toyota 4Runner Will Learn From Bronco And Wrangler

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But not in the way you might think.

Aside from a bright new orange paint color and a 40th Anniversary Special Edition trim, there's not much new with the 2023 Toyota 4Runner. And that seems just fine with buyers. Toyota managed to sell 144,696 units in 2021 (up from 129,052 in 2020) and despite current supply chain disruptions, the 4Runner shows no signs of slowing down in 2022. In fact, many dealers are getting over MSRP for their TRD Pro trim stock. We can beg Toyota to reveal the next-generation model all we want, but why fix what isn't broken?

Toyota has been extremely tight-lipped about any details regarding the next-gen 4Runner, so when CarBuzz had a chance to speak with Mike Sweers, Executive Chief Engineer for the Toyota Tundra, Sequoia, Tacoma, and 4Runner vehicle programs at Toyota Motor North America, we had to see if there was anything we could extract about this highly anticipated (and seldom mentioned) model.

With a new off-road competitor arriving in the form of the Ford Bronco and the Jeep Wrangler adding new variants like the 4xe plug-in hybrid and Rubicon 392 V8, we wondered whether Toyota is paying close attention to these competitors.

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But according to Sweers, the Bronco and Wrangler aren't direct competitors.

"They're competitors, but they're not competitors. They are body-on-frame vehicles, but it's a different customer," Sweers explained in greater detail. "There is a balance between on-road capability and off-road capability. Those vehicles are more purpose-built than a 4Runner and because of that, they are more raw."

This may not be the answer off-road diehards were seeking, but it shows Toyota's commitment toward keeping the 4Runner as a capable road vehicle that can also handle itself when the pavement ends, not the other way around. Ford managed to make the Bronco formula more livable with independent front suspension and rack-and-pinion steering, but it still feels more at home on the trail than on the highway.

Toyota may not transform the next-generation 4Runner into a purpose-built off-roader with a removable roof and doors, but Sweers and his team have taken an important lesson from the popularity of the Bronco and Wrangler.

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"You can see the customer's desire for customization in their vehicles for these types of SUVs," he said. "Bronco has done a great job of getting into the Wrangler's secret sauce for customization. How do we consider that in the future? Those are things we are talking to our dedicated customer base (and future customers) about how much customization they'd expect if they purchased a 4Runner."

So what does the future hold for the 4Runner? The picture is still fuzzy, but it's coming into focus. We now know Toyota is experimenting with more personalization. Toyota already offers great paint options on its TRD Pro models, but perhaps we will see more wheel/tire options, decal kits, and accessories. As for the 4Runner's overall mission, it seems like Toyota isn't ready to lean deeper into the vehicle's off-road roots, instead wanting to strike a nice balance between road and dirt use. Like we said before, why fix what isn't broken?

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