Toyota Tacoma vs. Toyota 4Runner: Compare Utility Vehicles

Toyota Tacoma vs. Toyota 4Runner: Compare Utility Vehicles

Can’t decide between a truck or an SUV? Toyota has an answer in its oldest and newest off-road capable models.  

The redesigned 2024 Toyota Tacoma arrives with a complete overhaul—its first since 2016—that overshadows the aged 2024 Toyota 4Runner. The 4Runner gets redesigned for 2025, the last of Toyota’s truck-based vehicles to get updated following recent redesigns of the Tundra full-size pickup truck, the Sequoia full-size SUV, and the return of the Land Cruiser. For now, the venerated SUV—one of the few true body-on-frame SUVs on the market—hasn’t been redesigned since 2010, but that’s also part of its charm.  

The disparity in their TCC Ratings reflects the dichotomy in old and new. For shoppers who don’t want all the latest technology but want Toyota’s record for reliability, the 4Runner seems the obvious choice. A look at the new Tacoma, however, shows everything you’d be missing, and that’s not limited to a truck bed. So, which one is best for you?

2024 Toyota Tacoma

Toyota 4Runner vs. Tacoma trims and prices

  • Base 4Runner SR5 costs $42,100
  • Tacoma SR with a regular cab and 6-foot bed costs $32,995
  • Best picks: Tacoma TRD Sport, 4Runner TRD Off Road

The Tacoma and 4Runner are sold in SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Limited, and TRD Pro editions, though the Tacoma expands on that array with a base SR grade and a base TRD PreRunner. A Tacoma XtraCab sold on SR, SR5, and TRD PreRunner models is a misnomer, since it only has two seats and no rear seats, and pairs only with the 6-foot bed. 

Both the Tacoma and 4Runner offer 8.0-inch touchscreens with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (Taco goes wireless), power features, and cruise control. The Tacoma has a much fresher range of options, including a 12.3-inch touchscreen, cooled seats, and other modern comforts. Both trucks come with a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty with two years or 25,000 miles of scheduled maintenance.

How much does a Toyota Tacoma cost? Which Tacoma should I get?

Swapping the XtraCab with a proper double cab with five seats and a 5-foot bed adds $2,200, bringing the Tacoma SR price above $35,000. That’s getting expensive for a basic work truck, even with a new 2.4-liter turbo-4. Adding four-wheel drive adds another $3,200. If you want at least the extended cab, look to the $41,000 TRD Sport for the best balance of features and value.  

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary

2023 Toyota 4Runner 40th Anniversary

2025 Toyota 4Runner

2025 Toyota 4Runner

How much does a Toyota 4Runner cost? Which Toyota 4Runner should I buy?

Assuming you want a 4Runner for its added off-road capability over other SUVs, then here we too we’d recommend a TRD model, in this case the 4Runner TRD Off Road. It comes with a rear differential and low-range gearbox, similar to the Tacoma TRD Pro, and it can be upgraded with a leather interior or a suspension with electronic anti-roll bars. . It costs  $46,000, but includes four-wheel drive with a 2-speed transfer case. 

Winner: Toyota 4Runner; the new Tacoma has gotten expensive. 

2024 Toyota Tacoma

2024 Toyota Tacoma

2023 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2023 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

Toyota 4Runner vs. Tacoma performance

  • Tacoma has two 2.4-liter turbo-4 options
  • 4Runner dodders on with a 270-hp 4.0-liter V-6 with a 5-speed automatic 
  • Look to at least TRD Off-Road models for trail capability

Are the Tacoma and 4Runner 4WD?

Rear-wheel drive is standard on both, but it’s $3,200 more on the Tacoma and $1,885 on the 4Runner. It’s standard on 4Runner TRD Off-Road and TRD Pro models, and those models can be upgraded with an electronic disconnecting anti-roll bar.
The Tacoma has more gradients, such as the full-time all-wheel-drive system on the Tacoma Limited hybrid. The Tacoma hybrid models are designated i-Force Max, and have a standard part-time 4WD system with a center differential lock on TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road, Trailhunter, and TRD Pro grades.  

How capable is the Toyota Tacoma?

Don’t lament the outgoing truck’s V-6, the Tacoma has two 2.4-liter turbo-4 options for greater efficiency or greater power. The base engine in SR grades is a detuned 2.4-liter turbo-4 that makes 228 hp and 243 lb-ft of torque with a quick-shifting 8-speed automatic. Most shoppers will opt for the uprated turbo-4 adopted from the Toyota Highlander three-row SUV that makes 278 hp and 317 lb-ft with the 8-speed automatic. You can choose a 6-speed manual with the extended cab (Toyota calls it Double Cab), but it’s limited to 270 hp and 310 lb-ft to prevent axle windup. Trucks with the better turbo-4 have a progressive throttle and brake feel that makes for smoother driving around town, and extended cab models upgrade over the leaf-spring rear suspension with a multilink setup that quells the empty bed from bouncing and is more passenger friendly. 

How is the Toyota Tacoma hybrid?

Dubbed i-Force Max, the hybrid adds a 48-hp permanent magnet synchronous motor to the turbo-4 and makes 326 hp and 465 lb-ft. The powertrain is more about off-roading capability than fuel economy, and the TRD Pro adds suspension bits and all-terrain tires to advance that while the Trailhunter model has the gear to make it the defacto rock crawler. 

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.

How capable is the Toyota 4Runner?

It’s a slog on roads, and it wanders on the highway more than car-based crossovers, so it requires more corrections and attention. The 270-hp 4.0-liter V-6 remains under the hood of the 4Runner, and while its long-lasting reputation lives on, its lack of efficiency continues to drag the 4Runner down compared to rivals. Paired with a 5-speed automatic, it’s also outgunned in almost every respect and bounds around like a truck. 

Winner: Tacoma.

2024 Toyota Tacoma

2024 Toyota Tacoma

 

Toyota 4Runner vs. Tacoma towing and hauling

  • Tacoma turbo-4s tow 6,500 pounds; the hybrid tows 6,000 pounds
  • The 4Runner tows up to 5,000 pounds, same as many more modern SUVs

The Tacoma XtraCab with 6-foot cab is the tow champ here, rated at 6,500 pounds. The extended cab models drop to 6,300 pounds, while the hybrid is rated at 6,000 pounds. They can all tow most watercraft and small trailers, but for shoppers who need that extra grunt just in case, look to the XtraCab. The payload formula is inverted, however, with hybrids capable of hauling around 1,680 pounds or other 5-foot-bed models dipping to 1,610 pounds. The XtraCab takes a steep drop to 1,230 pounds.  The heavier 4Runner tows up to 5,000 pounds,  maximum, but so can most unibody crossover SUVs of this size. Its payload is up to seven people and their stuff. 

Winner: The Tacoma.

2024 Toyota Tacoma

2024 Toyota Tacoma

Toyota 4Runner vs. Tacoma fuel economy

  • 4Runner chugs at 16 mpg city, 19 highway, 17 combined with rear- or four-wheel drive
  • Tacoma hybrid models with 4WD rate at 20/26/23 mpg, which is the same as the XtraCab turbo-4 with RWD
  • Tacoma 4WD models get 21 mpg combined
  • Tacoma 4WD with a manual gets 20 mpg combined

Winner: Tacoma.

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

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.

 

2024 Toyota 4Runner

2024 Toyota 4Runner

Toyota 4Runner vs. Tacoma safety

  • Tacoma earns a Top Safety Pick
  • 4Runner has subpar results from both the NHTSA and the IIHS
  • Standard automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection

Both trucks come with a strong standard set of active safety features, including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, active lane control, automatic high beams, and blind-spot monitors. From there, the Tacoma benefits from nearly a decade of safety system progress.  

The NHTSA hasn’t tested it yet, but the Tacoma earned a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS from its “Good” crash ratings and for the efficacy of its standard safety systems. The 4Runner earned a “Marginal” rating by the IIHS for driver-side protection in a simulated crash with a tree or light pole, and the NHTSA gives it only four out of five stars. 

Winner: Tacoma.

2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, photo via Nathan Leach-Proffer

2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro, photo via Nathan Leach-Proffer

 

Which Toyota is better for you?

The 4Runner is 15 years old, and it shows. The redesigned 2025 4Runner promises to make up for its shortcomings, but for now it still earns a low TCC Rating of 4.8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.) The 2024 Toyota Tacoma benefits from hybrid powertrains, good safety ratings, and the latest tech, but all that newness is baked into a relatively high price for a workingman’s midsize pickup. It earns a 6.3 out of 10. 

We would recommend the new, but couldn’t fault you for finding the charms in one of the last true SUVs before it gets digitized. 

Winner: Toyota Tacoma.

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