The Toyota Tacoma was fully redesigned for 2016.
The Toyota 4Runner was last all-new for the 2010 model year.
Both offer off-road ready TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro trim levels.
Back when the Toyota 4Runner came to market in 1984, it was basically a Toyota pickup with rear seats and an enclosed bed. A lot has changed in the 34 years since then, and while the modern 2018 Toyota Tacoma and the Toyota 4Runner share many components today, their similarities aren’t as cut and dried as they were back in the 1980s. Below we’ll take a look at the two vehicles and highlight their main differences, from the obvious to the not-so-obvious.
The Toyota Tacoma is the best-selling midsize pickup on the market, competing with the likes of the Chevrolet Colorado, the Nissan Frontier and the upcoming Ford Ranger and the Jeep Wrangler pickup. The Tacoma received a full redesign for 2016 and is now available with a bevy of driver-assistance safety features, as well as a few other modern amenities.
The 4Runner hasn’t been fully redesigned since 2010, but it did receive a facelift for 2014. Still, the 4Runner is one of the oldest vehicles on the market, and it lacks modern features like blind spot detection and automatic emergency braking. Still, the 4Runner is almost in a league of its own and is an extremely hot seller as a result. The 4Runner’s closest competitors include the Jeep Wrangler and the upcoming Ford Bronco.
The Tacoma and the 4Runner are offered in very similar trim levels. The Tacoma starts with basic SR and SR5 models. Next is the TRD Sport, which is meant to enhance on-road performance and features nicer looking trim pieces. Two off-road trims and a Limited model are offered. The TRD Off-Road offers Bilstein suspension, a locking rear differential and Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select modes. TRD Pro ups the ante with heavy-duty Fox off-road suspension that results in a 1-inch overall lift, an aluminum front skid plate, black wheels, a TRD exhaust and a black grille featuring the "Toyota" wordmark. Positioned between the TRD Off-Road and the Pro models is the Tacoma Limited, which offers luxury items like 18-in wheels, a sunroof and brown leather seats.
The 4Runner lineup starts with the SR5 model. Next up is the TRD Off-Road model, which many will argue is the most off-road ready 4Runner, due to its inclusion of Toyota’s Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, or KDSS, which can automatically disconnect the vehicle’s sway bars when it detects uneven terrain, allowing for increased articulation. The TRD Off-Road model also features Crawl Control and Multi Terrain Select, along with a locking rear differential, many of the same features found in the Tacoma TRD Off-Road. Positioned above the TRD Off-Road is the 4Runner Limited, which features full-time 4-wheel drive and a number of luxury features. At the top of the 4Runner lineup is the 4Runner TRD Pro, which features most of the same off-road features as the TRD Off-Road, but it lacks KDSS, a confounding omission given its positioning as the ultimate off-road 4Runner. The TRD Pro does offer Bilstein shock absorbers, a front skid plate, black wheels and a variety of tough-looking trim pieces.
When it comes to the Tacoma’s cab size, buyers have their choice of either an extended cab with rear half doors and room for four (barely) or a crew cab with four doors and room for five. The Tacoma does not offer a single cab model. Two bed lengths are available — a short bed measuring five feet in length and a long bed measuring six feet. The extended cab comes only with the long bed, while crew cab models are available with either a short or long bed. The Tacoma TRD Pro is only available as a crew cab with the shorter 5-ft bed.
As the 4Runner is an SUV, its basic configuration doesn’t change, although a third-row seat is available on SR5 and Limited models, increasing overall seating capacity from five to seven people.
Contrary to popular belief, the Tacoma and the 4Runner do not share engines, as the Tacoma was fitted with a new V6 engine as part of its 2016 redesign.
The 4Runner is offered with one powertrain — a 4.0-liter V6, mated to a prehistoric 5-speed automatic transmission. Most 4Runners you’ll find are equipped with selectable 4WD, but 2-wheel drive models are available. The engine makes 270 horsepower and 278 lb-ft of torque, while earning 17 miles per gallon in city driving, 20 mpg on the highway and 18 mpg overall.
The Tacoma is offered with two engines, although one is clearly better than the other. Base SR models come with a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder making 159 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque and paired exclusively with a 6-speed automatic. The better and more common Tacoma engine is a 3.5-liter V6 making 278 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque. This engine can be paired with a rather lackluster 6-speed automatic or a 6-speed manual. Equipped with the V6, automatic transmission and 4WD; by far the Tacoma’s most common configuration, the Tacoma earns 18 mpg city/22 mpg hwy/20 mpg overall.
The Tacoma and the 4Runner are known for being two of the most reliable and dependable vehicles on the market, and they both have excellent resale value as a result. Toyota offers a 3-year/36,000-mile basic and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.
The Tacoma performs much better in crash testing than the ancient 4Runner, and it offers a bevy of standard driver-assistance safety features, none of which are available on the 4Runner.
Technology and Infotainment
Both the Tacoma and the 4Runner offer rather weak infotainment experiences for 2018. A 6.1-in touchscreen is standard on every 4Runner, while most Tacomas are fitted with a 7.0-in screen. Both vehicles employ Toyota’s rather lackluster Entune infotainment system, and neither offers Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. The Tacoma offers two 12-volt outlets and only one USB port. The 4Runner comes with five 12-volt outlets and one USB port. Both vehicles are also available with a 3-prong AC power inverter mounted in the rear.
Both the 4Runner and the Tacoma offer an available JBL audio system, while the Tacoma is available with a wireless charging pad in the center console.
One of the 4Runner’s unique features is a power-retractable rear window, a very uncommon feature that has been included in every 4Runner since the vehicle was introduced. The Tacoma offers a power-sliding rear window.
The major differences between the Tacoma and 4Runner are obvious: The Tacoma is a pickup with pickup truck practicality and pickup truck behavior. The 4Runner is an SUV with a comfortable, enclosed cargo area and moderately more refinement to its passenger areas. Certain SR5 and Limited trim levels of the 4Runner are also available with a third-row seat that, while tight, will allow you to carry two additional passengers in a pinch, giving the vehicle a total seating capacity of seven.
Both the 4Runner and the Tacoma offer tough off-road oriented TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro trim levels, either of which is a blast to drive down a dirt road. Outside of the obvious, where the Tacoma and the 4Runner differ most is in terms of modernity. The 4Runner is ancient, last fully redesigned eight years ago in 2010, while the Tacoma was redesigned in 2016, and features many modern touches, along with a broad range of helpful driver-assistance safety features, none of which are available on the 4Runner. For this reason, if you’re on the fence and aren’t swayed in either direction by the two vehicle’s dramatically different shapes, we’d recommend the Tacoma, as it’s a safer vehicle that will also feel relatively new and fresh for years to come.