Last Updated on November 27, 2023
The Ultimate 5th Gen 4Runner Model Guide – A Detailed Comparison Of Every Model From 2010-2023
The 5th Gen 4Runner has been blessed with a rather long life. When it first came to market for the 2010 model year, the FJ Cruiser was still available in the United States. Also, the Tacoma was still in its 2nd Gen. Now, it seems likely that the 5th Gen 4Runner will also outlive the 3rd Gen Tacoma that was launched in 2015.
The 5th Gen continues the 4Runner’s legacy of putting the “utility” in SUV. It allows drivers to easily cross difficult terrain whether that be rocks, mud, snow, or just a foul weather commute.
However, that doesn’t mean every 4Runner model year is the same. So far, Toyota has offered the 5th Gen 4Runner in six main models. If you include the subsets of each model, that brings the total to about 15. It all depends on what you count as a “model”.
As the 5th Gen 4Runner starts its turn into the sunset, we wanted to help current and future 4Runner enthusiasts and owners understand the significance of each model.
The 5th Gen 4Runner SR5 continues Toyota’s tradition of designating well-equipped vehicles with the SR5 trim level. While it may be the base model, it’s still reasonably well equipped. Available in both 4×2 and 4×4 drive trains, it is easily the most popular 5th Gen 4Runner. They are the most available from dealers, both new and pre-owned.
There were a few unusual features offered for the SR5 over its run. That includes the available 2.7L 2TR-FE four-cylinder engine (4×2 only) in 2010. From 2010 to 2013, leather was also available as a factory option.
For the most part, they were fairly consistent across the generation. Namely, a 4.0L 1GR-FE V6 engine with Dual VVT-i (good for 270hp and 278lb-ft) that’s attached to a five-speed automatic transmission. They have a 33° approach angle, 26° departure, and 9.6″ of ground clearance on 4×4 models. All of which are the same as every other (4×4) model for the 5th Gen 4Runner.
The 4×4 models also come with A-Trac, Toyota’s off-road traction control system. This system uses the antilock braking system to limit wheelspin and improve traction in slippery situations. 4×2 models feature an automatic limited-slip differential. This closes some of the performance gaps off-road, especially in high-speed situations.
The SR5 4Runner is kind of like vanilla ice cream. Before you think about that as a negative, consider what kind of ice cream you use to make a sundae. This is where the SR5 really shines; as a foundation that you build off of while making a rig that’s uniquely your own.
With identical ground clearance, approach/departure angles, and the same part-time 4×4 system (when equipped) as the higher-end models, the SR5 is quite capable in its stock form. That makes it very popular with people who have no intention of modifying it. Its lack of expensive extras also makes it a popular choice for buyers intending to make significant modifications. Those dollar savings can go much further in the aftermarket world.
See also: 40th Anniversary and “Premium”
Trail Edition (2010-2016)
Note: Not to be confused with Trail Special Edition (2021-2023), which is listed below.
Carried over from the 4th Gen 4Runner, the Trail Edition model was built to enhance the 5th Gen 4Runner’s already impressive off-road credentials.
Getting the most attention in that regard is the electronic locking rear differential. Arguably the gold standard of off-road technology, a locking rear differential ensures that both rear wheels spin at the same speed. This provides essential traction in off-camber or slippery situations. When paired with A-Trac, it makes the Trail Edition a strong competitor to Jeep’s Wrangler Rubicon, even with its electronic locking front and rear differentials.
All Trail Editions also come with:
- CRAWL Control – A sort of off-road cruise control.
- Multi-Terrain Select – Allows drivers to fine-tune the functionality of A-Trac for improved performance on various pre-set terrain types.
The most stand-out feature of the Trail Edition is the optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS).
Vehicles equipped with KDSS have a hydraulic system linking their front and rear anti-sway bars. By connecting the two, KDSS is able to essentially stiffen the vehicle during high-speed cornering on flat surfaces, and soften it in low-speed off-camber situations. The result is a vehicle that corners better on-road, while also allowing for extended articulation off-road.
More importantly, KDSS is not tied into the vehicle’s shocks, struts, or springs. This means replacing or upgrading those components (for example, when lifting your 4Runner) does not compromise the KDSS’s ability to operate. Though, you may need to slightly modify it to retain full functionality. Or, choose suspension components that are compatible with KDSS.
With regard to CRAWL Control, Multi-Terrain Select, and KDSS, the Trail Edition 5th Gen 4Runner represents the first time these technologies were offered by Toyota on a vehicle outside of the Land Cruiser line.
All Trail Edition 4Runners are 4×4 and feature a lever-actuated transfer case. That’s in contrast to the dial-operated one found on SR5 models. On the cosmetic side, the Trail Edition 4Runner gets unique 17″ wheels, a non-functional hood scoop, a blacked-out grille, and rear fascia.
See also: TRD Off-Road and “Premium”
If the SR5 represents a blank canvas, and the Trail Edition was a factory-built off-roader, the Limited represents a distinct third persona.
The Limited trim provides a more refined experience. It came standard with leather upholstery, a moonroof, JBL sound system, and was the first 4Runner to have an optional navigation system.
These comfort and convenience features give the Limited the most luxurious interior of any 5th Gen 4Runner. That carried through to the outside as well. Limited 4Runners have a distinct front facia, 20″ wheels, and unique chrome accents. However, these aren’t the only differences.
The most significant difference is the 4×4 system. Instead of the part-time system found in every other 4×4 4Runner, the Limited gets a full-time system.
This means instead of the standard transfer case, you get a center differential. That allows the Limited to safely operate on dry pavement in 4WD. Being a 4Runner, the center differential is lockable to maintain off-road performance. This gives the Limited model performance that is practically identical to the non-Limited 4×4 system, including the option to shift down to 4LO for improved torque at the wheels and smoother throttle control off-road.
Lastly, there is the X-REAS Sport Enhancement Suspension. Not to be confused with KDSS (see Trail Edition, above), X-REAS is a fully integrated suspension system.
It links the shock absorbers in all four corners of the vehicle through a unique and proprietary system. The primary result of this is that despite their weight, size, and body-on-frame construction Limited 4Runners are able to provide a ride so smooth it’s comparable to true luxury vehicles.
Since it responds independently to forces at each wheel, it also gives the Limited 4Runner a more planted feel while cornering. Not quite like a sports car, but definitely sharper handling than any other 4Runner.
This ride enhancement does come at a cost. The X-REAS system is a wear item. That means over time, it will wear out and eventually need to be replaced. In theory, it is possible to pay Toyota to replace your X-REAS system, but the prohibitive cost of doing so means that many Limited owners opt to remove it and go with an aftermarket suspension instead.
Likewise, anyone considering modifying a Limited 4Runner should keep in mind that lifting the suspension will require removing the entire X-REAS system. Not only will this be more work than on any other 4Runner, but it will also be removing one of the features making a Limited 4Runner well, a Limited.
See also: Nightshade
TRD Pro (2015-2023)
The TRD Pro would quickly become the flagship model for the 5th Gen and something of a halo car for Toyota in general. Mechanically, it shares much with the Trail Edition (and eventual TRD Off Road) in that it comes with an electronic locking rear differential, CRAWL Control, Multi-Terrain Select, and a non-functional hood scoop.
However, it went a few steps further with a pair of popular TRD accessories which previously had to be purchased separately. Specifically, the stamped aluminum front skid plate and the TRD SEMA 17″ wheels. The suspension was also upgraded with Blistein shocks (replaced by Fox from 2019+) that gave an improved ride and mild lift at the front end. Up top, there’s the basket-style roof rack exclusive to the TRD Pro. All of these accessories came straight from the factory.
Visually, the most impactful features of the TRD Pro were the grille and the unique color offerings.
Described in Toyota’s marketing as the “Heritage Grille”, the front end of the TRD Pro didn’t have the standard three-oval logo found on every other Toyota. Instead, it joined the recently departed FJ Cruiser in being one of the few Toyota trucks to bear the company’s full name on the front in several decades. That is of course until the aftermarket realized just how much people loved the look and started offering DIY kits.
The unique color offerings have stayed fairly exclusive to the TRD Pro, with the exception of the handful of more standard colors that were eventually issued as standard colors for other models. Regardless of their eventual fates, each TRD Pro color is offered for one year and one year only alongside the standard black, white, and magnetic gray (depending on the year).
The available TRD Pro year colors are as follows:
The TRD Pro is unquestionably the top dog when it comes to factory 4Runners. However, that doesn’t mean it’s the one that everyone wants. Yes, the locking rear diff is a desirable feature for those looking for off-road performance, but the Bilstein or Fox suspension creates an unusual problem.
It is unquestionably a significant upgrade over the stock suspension of all other 4Runners, but the mild front lift leaves it lagging behind aftermarket alternatives in the minds of many.
The general wisdom on this model is that the TRD Pro is obviously the choice if you’re interested in one of the unique colors. Or, if you have no intention of making major modifications to your vehicle. Anyone looking to make their 4Runner uniquely their own usually winds up looking elsewhere as mods can very quickly undo the reason people pay a premium for a TRD Pro.
TRD Off Road (2017-2023)
Simply put, the TRD Off-Road is a branding change for the Trail Edition (2010-2016). It retains all of the mechanical goodies, including an electronic locking rear differential, CRAWL Control, Multi-Terrain Select, as well as the non-functional hood scoop, unique blackout trim, and model-specific 17″ wheels.
The most significant change is the C-pillar badge, declaring the vehicle to be a TRD Off-Road and no doubt trading on the buzz generated by the TRD Pro which preceded it.
See Also: Trail Edition (2010-2016), Venture, and “Premium”
TRD Sport (2022-2023)
Possibly the final new model for the 5th Gen 4Runner, the TRD Sport was introduced to bridge the gap between SR5 and Limited for on-road focused owners.
It features the Limited’s wheels as well as its front fascia, though it replaces much of the chrome with body-color accents. It also gets the TRD Off Road’s non-functional hood scoop. Inside, the SofTex-trimmed seats are the same as the Limited’s and there’s an option for an upgraded infotainment system with upgraded speakers and an 8″ navigation-capable touch screen.
The big headline here is the X-REAS system. Previously only found on the Limited, X-REAS makes the TRD Sport one of the best-handling 4Runners on the road. Albeit, one of the most difficult to modify if you choose to take it off-road.
If you really wanted the X-REAS system but the Limited trim was out of your price range, the TRD sport is for you.
What counts as a stand-alone model is somewhat subjective. Depending on who you’re asking, and when you’re asking, something can be its own model one year, and “just” an option package another year.
Does installing over-the-parts-counter accessories make something a new model? Whether they’re stand-alone models or not, some clarity can be helpful when trying to understand exactly what you’re looking at.
The 2014 Facelift
For 2014, all three models of the 4Runner received a “mid”-cycle refresh. That included new front ends across the board and new wheels for both the SR5 and Trail.
On the inside, the SR5 was no longer available with leather, and the Trail no longer got water-resistant textile seating. Instead, both got optional Premium packages, described below.
Arguably, four years is pretty early for a “mid-cycle” refresh. But considering the longevity and success of the post-facelift look, it’s hard to argue that Toyota didn’t get it right. There are many though, that prefer the pre-facelift look, and their limited initial sales numbers make them something of an aficionado piece now.
Offered for both the SR5 and Trail/TRD Off Road models, Premium models got a moonroof, upgraded infotainment system, and a seating upgrade. Pre-facelift, the SR5 Premium included leather seating, and the Trail Edition got water-resistant textiles.
After the facelift, both models got SofTex seating. SofTex is a textured vinyl material, providing the look and most of the feel of leather seating, but with much easier care and maintenance. In either model, this makes the Premium upgrade a worthy consideration for families or messy outdoors types, as the SofTex material is both durable and extremely easy to clean.
Based on the Limited, the Nightshade 4Runner simply tweaked the appearance of the vehicle. Instead of the Limited’s acres of chrome and bright wheels, the Nightshade got smoked chrome in the grille and trim, and a blacked-out version of the standard Limited wheels. There is even still “Limited” badging on the C-pillar, though it has been blacked out to complete the look.
Available for just two years, the Venture 4Runner started out as a TRD Off Road Premium. This means it starts off with the same hood scoop, moonroof, SofTex seating, locking differential, and electronic assists.
However, unlike the TRD Off-Road, there was no badging on the C-pillar, and much of the vehicle’s exterior has been blacked out. That includes the three-oval logo in the grille, mirror housings, and door handles. There were also all-weather floor mats and up top was a Yakima MegaWarrior roof basket attached to the factory roof rack.
This gave the Venture all the capabilities of the TRD Off-Road while giving buyers several popular accessories straight from the factory.
Trail Special Edition (2021-2022)
Note: Not to be confused with Trail Edition (2010-2016) listed above.
Confusingly named, the Trail Special Edition was launched in 2021 as a cosmetic option on the SR5 platform. It featured blacked-out trim on the exterior, a popular aftermarket mod now available directly from Toyota.
Up top, there was a Yakima LoadWarrior, a smaller brother of the MegaWarrior found on the Venture.
The most talked about feature was the Toyota-branded cooler. It featured roto-molded construction, a freezer-style gasket around the lid, and a closure secured by stretchy rubber straps. It’s very similar to popular, and expensive, coolers from brands like Yeti or RTIC. There were two significant differences; built-in bottle openers in the lid straps, and “Toyota” embossed on the side.
40th Anniversary Edition (2023)
The original 4Runner launched in 1983. To celebrate four decades, Toyota released the 40th Anniversary Edition 4Runner for the 2023 model year. It starts as an SR5 Premium and is only available in White, Black Metallic, or Barcelona Red Metallic.
Minor details include the bronze TRD “SEMA” wheels, bronze badging on the rear hatch, center console, and dash, and bronze-colored stitching on the shift knob and seats.
As you’ve surely noticed, that isn’t what makes the 40th Anniversary Edition special. There are heritage stripes on the side of the vehicle and in the grille, featuring Toyota’s iconic yellow/orange/red racing colors.
The grille is noteworthy as well, as it’s a color-matched version of the Heritage Grille to whichever paint color your 4Runner is. It also features bronze lettering instead of the usual grey. Limited to just 4,040 units, this may be the swansong for the 5th Gen 4Runner.