Toyota Tacoma vs. Toyota 4Runner: Compare Utility Vehicles

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Get lost. And we mean that in the nicest way possible. 

The 2022 Toyota Tacoma and 2023 Toyota 4Runner are some of the best vehicles on the planet for escaping the day and heading for the hills. Both utility vehicles share the same automaker’s name on the front, and also many of the same buyers. 

It would make sense that both vehicles earn nearly the same TCC Rating, after all. The Tacoma mid-size pickup and 4Runner SUV arrive at similar conclusions via different methods, however. So, which one is right for you?

 

2022 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

Toyota 4Runner vs. Tacoma trims and prices

  • Base 4Runner costs about $40,000

  • Tacoma starts at less than $30,000

  • Best picks: TRD Off-Road

The Tacoma and 4Runner are sold in SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited, and TRD Pro editions, although the 4Runner’s lineup is sprinkled with special editions and premium packages that add more. The Tacoma adds a base work-truck SR trim, and a TRD Sport trims to its lineup. 

How much does a Toyota Tacoma cost?

The Tacoma also comes in a basic SR version. For 2022, that Tacoma SR costs about $29,000, but it’s bare-boned and has a small 159-hp inline-4 engine. We recommend a TRD Off-Road that costs about $37,000 and adds off-road hardware that’s more in line with the truck’s mission. 

How much does a Toyota 4Runner cost?

The same goes for the 4Runner TRD Off-Road. It comes with the same rear differential and low-range gearbox as the stout Tacoma TRD Pro, but can add a leather interior or better suspension for more money. It can cost $40,000 or more. 

Winner: Toyota Tacoma, with more versions and lower prices.

 

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary

Toyota 4Runner vs. Tacoma performance

  • Skip the 4-cylinders

  • Strong V-6

  • An off-road specialist

Are the Tacoma and 4Runner 4WD?

Rear-wheel drive is standard on both, but most versions offer it as an option. The 2022 Tacoma TRD Pro carries 4WD standard. As for the 2023 4Runner, you can get a rear-drive version, but why would you?

How fast is the 4Runner vs. Tacoma?

The 4-cylinder isn’t. Under the hoods of most Tacomas and all 4Runners is a V-6 that’s relatively bulletproof, although not very efficient in either truck. The Tacoma’s 3.5-liter V-6 makes 278 horsepower and pairs to a 6-speed automatic or 6-speed manual. The 270-hp 4.0-liter V-6 in the 4Runner is ancient, but also bulletproof. It deserves a spot on Toyota’s ring of fame when it’s finally retired, but it’s inefficient and paired with a 5-speed that’s outdated and outgunned in almost every respect. 

Both the 4Runner and Tacoma are available in trims that lean luxury and trims that lead toward hardcore off-roading: low-range gearboxes, locking differentials, and chunky tires on TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro models. Toyota offers both trucks in luxury-adjacent Limited trim levels, although neither feels luxurious inside. They’re absolutely at their best in TRD Off-Road and Pro versions, scrambling on a remote rocky path.

Winner: The 4Runner, for its superior standard power.

 

2022 Toyota Tacoma Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma Trail Edition

Toyota 4Runner vs. Tacoma towing and hauling

The Tacoma’s rated at a high 6,400 lb—good for its footprint, and useful to those who drag watercraft and small trailers. With the heavier 4Runner, towing drops to a 5,000-lb maximum, still substantial enough to sub in for a larger, more brutish SUV.

Winner: The Tacoma, by 1,400 lb

 

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary

Toyota 4Runner vs. Tacoma cargo space and interior

  • 4Runner’s best for seats

  • Tacoma has all the vertical space you need

  • Rough 4Runner third-row seat

Toyota doesn’t gift its most comfortable interiors to the Tacoma and 4Runner. The 4Runner’s seats are comfier and there’s good interior space, but no open bed in the back. With the second row in place, the 4Runner holds 48 cubic feet of cargo. An optional third row can be added for just $305, but it’ll be back-of-the-bus rough back there, and cramped. 

The Tacoma’s seats are a little on the firm side, rear-seat leg room isn’t great even on models with four full doors, and head room is lacking. Bed space in the pickup is limited to clearance at your nearest parking garage or bridge. It sports either a 5-foot or 6-foot bed, with a useful set of accessories that include tie-downs, extra lighting, and bed liners.

Winner: A draw, with the 4Runner’s people-carrying versus the Tacoma’s useful bed.

 

2022 Toyota Tacoma Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma Trail Edition

Toyota 4Runner vs. Tacoma fuel economy

Gas mileage hurts both the 4Runner and Tacoma in our rankings. The Tacoma can manage more than 20 mpg combined, according to the EPA, but only with the flinty 4-cylinder. V-6 versions get up to 21 mpg combined, or just 18 mpg combined with the manual transmission.

No matter which model you choose, the 4Runner earns an EPA-rated 17 mpg combined. In both cases, 5- and 6-speed automatics don’t help fuel economy versus newer 8-, 9-, and even 10-speed gearboxes.

Winner: Neither

 

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary

Toyota 4Runner vs. Tacoma technology and features

Both the Tacoma and 4Runner offer 8.0-inch touchscreens with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, power features, and cruise control. From there it’s a more mixed bag for drivers who want the latest in technology: there isn’t much here. Both trucks come with a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty and include one free oil change.

Which Toyota 4Runner should I buy?

We like the TRD Off-Road for its finely tuned utility. It has a few extra traction control modes, a locking rear differential, and an available Kinetic Dynamic Suspension system, better for expanding its range of drivability from off-road trails to pavement. 

How much is a fully loaded Toyota 4Runner?

It’s easy to spend more than $50,000 on a 4Runner TRD Pro with Fox shocks, more ride height, and skid plates. Limited versions wear leather inside, which seems out of touch for what the 4Runner promises in adventure.

Which Toyota Tacoma should I buy?

We’d spend up to the Tacoma SR5, which gets a power driver seat and can be fitted with nicer interior and exterior trim. With the V-6 engine, a crew-cab body, and four-wheel drive, it rings the bell for nearly $40,000. At that price, the TRD Off-Road—for not much more money—comes with four-wheel drive, an automatic transmission, and sturdy off-road hardware, if you’re so inclined.

How much is a fully loaded Toyota Tacoma?

The TRD Pro can cost more than $50,000 including its Fox shocks and leather upholstery. 

Winner: A draw, but 4Runners are somewhat richer in feel.

 

2022 Toyota Tacoma Trail Edition

2022 Toyota Tacoma Trail Edition

4Runner vs. Tacoma styling

Is the Toyota Tacoma a good-looking truck?

The Tacoma and 4Runner share many similar styling cues, albeit with one big exception. Updated in recent years with more bulging noses and more upright grilles, the effect wears better on the Tacoma, we think. The headlights reach back into the fenders, which look like broad shoulders that set the new truck apart from its predecessors. The inside is still a mishmash of durable materials that lack any luxury touches.  

Is the Toyota 4Runner a good-looking SUV?

By contrast, the 4Runner’s front incorporates vertical elements that make the boxy off-roader look taller. The front fenders are just as wide, but there’s more to look at in the 4Runner’s bodysides than the Tacoma. Inside, the 4Runner is very dated—it’s one of Toyota’s oldest designs in the fleet, and it uses chunky knobs and dials like the full-size Tundra and Sequoia. 

Winner: Either looks the part of a tough-as-nails utility vehicle, but the interiors are a letdown.

 

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary

Toyota 4Runner vs. Tacoma safety

Both trucks fare OK in official crash tests, though there are demerits. The Tacoma earned an “Acceptable” score in the IIHS’ front-right impact test, while the 4Runner earned a “Marginal” rating by the IIHS for driver-side protection in a simulated crash with a tree or light pole. 

The good news: Both trucks offer automatic emergency braking on all models that many competitors still lack, and also have adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams.

Winner: Neither

 

2022 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

2022 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro

Which Toyota is better for you?

In the end, both trucks get the same rating and buyers would do well to consider what is most important in their new vehicle. If consistent hauling isn’t in the forecast, a 4Runner is a better choice although it’s more expensive to buy and run. The Tacoma’s interior space is comparatively compromised, but it offers a lower price and more open space in the bed. 

By the numbers, gas mileage and on-road handling pull the 2023 Toyota 4Runner down to a below-average TCC Rating of 4.8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.) As for the 2022 Tacoma, it’s righteously rugged—but that can’t overcome its ancient design. It earns a TCC Rating of 5.0 out of 10, a score which could fall as it enters the 2023 model year with few changes.

Winner: Toyota 4Runner for people; Tacoma for cargo.

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