CC Shopping: 2024 4Runner and 2025 Land Cruiser–Where Is Toyota Going With This?

It’s a tense time to be a Toyota truck fan.  By the end of next year, every one of the sombrero’s North American market body-on-frame models will have been replaced by full redesigns and we’re all waiting to see if they can meet long-awaited expectations.  No pressure.  It’s only been 15 years.

The changes are enormous for such a conservative company.  The platforms are brand new. The powertrains are brand new.  Big anvil-reliable fuel chuggers with 5 and 6 gear ratios are replaced by smaller-displacement turbos, hybrids, and turbo hybrids with 8 and 10 gears.  They’re powerful and they still chug, but with a modicum of restraint now.  Conventional wisdom said Toyota was going to do all this new-fangled technology correctly, but the Tundra has had a few teething issues and 381,000 Tacoma owners are now nervously watching their rear axles.  And that’s the old Tacoma that’s been out since 2016.  Hmm.  Maybe wait a few model years and avoid the fleecing dealerships give to early adopters.

I already made a firm commitment to replace the Camry before the 4Runner, so I’m watching the current developments from afar.  I’m at least 5 years out.  That Camry replacement search, incidentally, is still ongoing.  Work, weather, and travel have kneecapped it and I’m sure there are a few car salesmen at this point who don’t want to see me around again until I’m ready to play foursquare.

My Toyota service department is happy to see me, however, because I just paid them to replace brake pads at all four corners of our 2016 4Runner and I even threw some extra money their way for a rental car for the day.  And what did they rent me? A 2024 4Runner with a $50,000 window sticker.  This allowed me to answer a few questions banging around my head: what’s changed on the 4Runner in 8 model years (not much), and if I were shopping for my 4WD SUV today, would I still take a 4Runner home?

About that $50K price tag; it seems like a lot.  Because it is.  Consider, though, this is an upper-middle trim with some nice features and it is assembled on the other side of the planet in a country with high labor costs.  Inflation has a role as well: the price of my SR5 hasn’t changed since 2016 if you adjust for it.

This 2024 is a TRD Off-Road Premium.  It’s the trim I wanted but refused to pony up for 8 years ago, when it was known as the Trail.  It is really the same thing as my SR5, but with a locking differential, some automated off road crawl modes, and a few more creature comforts.  It feels like they recalibrated the brake pedal to be more responsive, the transmission to shift a tad more smoothly, and there’s a bit more acoustic matting on the firewall and hood to mask the grumbly engine.  All good things.  The Lunar Rock paint is the best grey I’ve seen on a mainstream vehicle (how do you make a grey rich and radiant?), and the coolest 4Runner color since Cavalry Blue.  I like this thing.

The extra frosting makes a difference.  The sunroof is nice if you can afford the loss of headroom, the synthetic leather seats feel price-appropriate, the gauge cluster and infotainment screen are updated (but still outdated), and this one had a heated steering wheel that I didn’t know was essential to my wellbeing until now.  Headlights are now LED, there’s adaptive cruise and lane departure and blind spot monitoring so the car can beep and flash at you and be a general pain in the ass.  Sparkly black plastic replaces the SR5’s faux aluminum on the dash face and console. That’s a lateral move. The faux aluminum shows scratches, but the black shows disgusting finger oil smudges. There have long been better hard materials that could be employed here, but Toyota is sticking with this stuff.

On the way to work, it struck me that this is still a nice vehicle if you don’t require a squishy dashboard and aren’t motivated by the latest tech.  It wields a few timeless and fundamental core strengths: road noise is nearly non-existent on the stock tires, wind noise is reasonable, it rides well enough, steers pleasantly, and shrugs off the crappiest pavement with impunity.  It has a vaguely imperial character from behind the wheel, with exceptional sightlines and good isolation from the outside world.  It is right-sized, feeling substantial and secure while being more maneuverable than something like a Tahoe or F-150.  When flowing along at this ride height, smothering potholes while being coddled by heated seats and steering wheel, I felt mighty fine.  The sound system is still lousy and fuel economy is poor, but I’m still fond of this vehicle and it doesn’t feel a day over ten. Maybe eleven.

Which leads us to the second question: how does this stack up against its modern 2024 competition?  In 2016 I couldn’t find a direct competitor to it.  Eight years later I still can’t.  What other fixed roof offroad SUVs exist for $50K?

The closest comps are tangential.  A Wrangler equipped like this 4Runner is sixty grand and is far more compromised as a daily driver.  A similar Bronco is closer to fifty grand.  It rides and handles better than the Jeep, but the interior plastics and dashboard design are truly abysmal, and, like the Wrangler, it is loud and packaging is compromised by the rollbar structures.  Grand Cherokee?  The $50K Limited is a very nice roadgoing wagon, but the old Pentastar is a disappointing choice for the price and if you want low range gearing and usable ground clearance it’ll cost you $66K minimum for the 4xe Trailhawk.  That one has a complex turbo-hybrid-plugin drivetrain and air suspension from the reliability wizards at Fiat-Chrysler.  You can guess what a Toyota boy thinks of that.

Too much fun for me; I need more space from my SUV.


Ugly and shockingly cheap.  For years people made fun of the 4Runner’s hard plastic dashboard. Then this landed after a blizzard of hype, and no one said a word.


Pilot Trailsport? Another very nice softroader but that’s all it is, and the same underwhelming formula is applied to similar versions of the Explorer, Telluride, and Pathfinder.   Land Rover Defender?  Very capable, very cool, but it begins at $62K with a 2.0-liter turbo four.  It’s a vehicle I’d be afraid to lease for a commute, much less rely upon to take my family forty miles from pavement.  It’s also thirsty, overcomplicated, and has the cargo space of an RAV4 despite its heft and bulk.

Blown front air suspension.  I don’t even trust Toyota with this technology.


And that’s really it.  If I were shopping today, as I was in 2016, for a reliable, well-packaged family wagon that can handle rough roads and still be comfortable on pavement, the 4Runner is still the only choice.  Weird.  I was certain someone else would fill this gap by now.

The only competition will soon come from the Toyota showroom itself.  The new downsized Land Cruiser.  Such a peculiar, head-scratcher of a vehicle. It’s now the same size as the current 4Runner, has the same boxy 5-door body-on-frame format, and its pricing starts just above where the 4Runner presently ends.  I was intrigued by the early specs, but once the $57K starting price was announced I became skeptical.

Given this shape and size, I’d have thought it the new 4Runner.


If you explore that entry-level “1958” edition on the Toyota website, what do you see?  A loss in ground clearance and approach/departure angles.  No roof rails.  Three greyscale exterior color choices, none of which approach the Lunar Rock of my rental.  A dour grey interior with 6-way manual seats, and a cheapo 60:40 split seatback that doesn’t fold anywhere near flat.  Judging from pictures, if the cargo hold isn’t 25% smaller than the 4Runner I will be surprised.  The door panels and arm “rests” are hard unpadded plastic in the launch reviews.  Picky?  Yes, for good reason.  Basic seat cranks and hard contact points are fine and dandy in a truck, but $57K ain’t no basic price.  The 4Runner has dual power seats (8 way on the driver side), comfortable places to rest left and right arms, a standard roof rail system, sunroof, more color options, and a rare 40:20:40 folding rear seatback I’ve found remarkably useful over the years.

The tweed cloth looks promising. The ratchet handle that lifts up only the back of the seat, dumping you toward the steering wheel, does not.


Circular outboard vents, blocky design, and that specific tone of grey give it a distinct mid-80s to early-90s Land Cruiser vibe.


What does that extra $7K get you over the 4Runner?  The big mechanical changes. The standard LC powertrain is a 2.4-liter turbo four-cylinder hybrid that makes over 400 lb-feet of torque (vs. 278 in the 4Runner), paired to a full-time 4WD system with two locking differentials.  The new chassis and suspension will likely improve road manners and I’m guessing real world towing performance is going to go through the roof. Those are large, potentially transformative changes, and they’re not coming cheap.

326 horsepower, 465 lb-ft of torque, EPA rating of 22/27 city/hwy.  All those numbers are so much better than my 4Runner’s.


Inside, the dashboard looks to be made of better materials and the onboard technology is far more contemporary.   Still, seven grand is a big jump and after 15 years of amortizing costs and raking in profits faster than Peter hauling in fish, I kind of expect a brand new vehicle to blow the old one into the weeds without such a price premium. The ancient 4Runner remains surprisingly appealing.

The $57K starting price does give space for a new 4Runner to slot beneath. There are no confirmed details on that vehicle that I can see other than an expected 2025 debut, but if Toyota is going to sell two similar brand-new SUVs with price overlap at the extremes, it will be interesting to see how they manage to differentiate them.  Stingier interior appointments and a decontented powertrain seem inevitable.  Who knows how they’ll do that to the interior when the current base $43K 4Runner comes with some niceties the $57K LC lacks.

This is a biggie. Full time 4WD for the crossover-conditioned, and two locking differentials for the off road purists.


Mechanically, though, the new Tacoma’s part-time 4WD and 2.4-liter turbo non-hybrid four cylinder seem more than likely.  That drivetrain is a big step down in power and fuel economy over the LC, but it will still be a nicer subjective experience than the old V6.  The highest Tacoma trim ($52K+ now, if you can believe it) will receive the LC’s turbo hybrid and full-time 4WD as an option for 2024.  If the spendiest redesigned 4Runner does as well, I don’t see how they avoid price overlap with the base LC.  Since that top-trim 4Runner is likely to have power seats, leatherette, and some real color options, it could be a nicer-feeling cabin than the base LC while carrying the same powertrain. That’ll be a confusing thing to see on the same showroom floor.  Perhaps Toyota planned this Land Cruiser to have a bigger presence globally than in the US and therefore expects a new 4Runner to outsell it 5:1 here.

I prefer the pop-up back glass to the power tailgate window in my 4R, which serves only to pull exhaust into the cabin when underway and then break outside warranty (which mine is about to do).


I’m interested to see how this plays out because at some point I’ll want to replace our 4Runner with a new one, but it has to meet the same objectives.  We won’t be doing it any time soon.  There’s nothing outside a Toyota dealership that can replace it, and the future within looks a bit mixed… and expensive.  After 8 years of depreciation, just trading “up” to my rental 4Runner would be a $25K proposition.  Twenty-five grand for the same vehicle, but with a reset odometer. That’s about as dumb a move as shopping seriously for a used Audi, and since I’m already engaged in that hubris I will be keeping the ‘ol red gal for a while and hope that Toyota hasn’t soured the formula by the time I do want to replace it.  I can say this, however: if I needed a Toyota SUV today, I wouldn’t buy that $57K Land Cruiser with its cost-cut furnishings and compromised interior packaging when this $50K 4Runner ($47K if you go for the SR5 Premium) is still available. The new vehicle should be the easy choice, but it isn’t.  After 15 years of waiting, that is a bit disappointing.