5th Gen Mods, Performance

5th Gen 4Runner Performance Mods

Updated 12/19/20 / Read Time: 9 mins

Magnuson Supercharger - 5th Gen 4Runner

How to Increase Performance on your 4Runner. Everything you can do to hike up those HP Gains!

If you are looking to hike up those HP gains, there are only a few options. This should serve as the go-to list of performance mods. A few things come to mind when you think of a powerful 4Runner and the biggest one is the Magnuson Supercharger (SC).

If your budget isn’t quite at Magnuson level yet, don’t worry because there are a few affordable options out there. These other mods will give you better horsepower, improve gas mileage, and give your truck a meaner, deeper, more throaty growl.

With a supercharged 4R, you are looking at a 30% increase in HP.

While some of the other mods may only yield 1-10% and 10% is pushing it.

Recent Question:

I came from Range Rovers with V8s. I feel like the 4R is super under-powered and slow, but maybe that is because of the big tires and whatnot. I live in Denver so going up to the mountains a lot, the truck seems to work really hard up the hills. I am hitting 3500rpm to a few minutes at a time getting up hills. Also, the truck is recording just about 15mpg.

Do you think this sounds right from a power standpoint? Other than supercharging, which is out of my budget, is there anything to do to get more power? I’m guessing TRD Intake and Exhaust would be your first choice? Thanks!

Our Quick Response: In short, yeah the intake and exhaust for sure. Also, depending on Colorado laws, adding headers or Y-pipe would make a difference. The headers are not street legal in California but we are installing a set eventually. If you install them, you may have to remove for smog which would be quite the hassle. Make sure your laws allow headers or you will have to remove them every two years in order to pass smog.

Maybe start running 91 fuel in your 4R on a regular basis. You might notice a difference after a few tanks. I run 91 often for cleaner fuel and I think I convinced myself it helps with power. To each their own on this one.

Also, the throttle controller is pretty cool. We just installed this on our 4R. I was pretty impressed with what the Pedal Commander was able to do. You do not see any actual HP gains, but the features allow you to adjust your throttle response which provides a new experience, its faux performance. You feel like you are driving a different well-tuned vehicle.

Also, you can get a MAF spacer or a throttle body spacer, but these are hit and miss. You may not feel anything here but they claim to help out.

What to Cover with 4Runner Performance Mods?

Volant Intake on 5th Gen 4Runner

Problems with Power

  1. Do bigger Tires mean Less Horsepower?
  2. Overloaded weight?

Increasing Power

  1. Magnuson Supercharger
  2. CSF All-Aluminum Heavy-Duty Radiator
  3. Cold Air Intake (CAI)
  4. Catback Exhaust
  5. Doug Thorley Headers
  6. Pedal Commander Throttle Controller
  7. Mid Pipes/ Y-Pipes
  8. Throttle Body Spacer
  9. MAF (Mass Airflow Sensor) Spacer
  10. Running 91 Octane Fuel

Do bigger Tires mean Less Horsepower?

Most might think that you have less horsepower when you throw on bigger tires. Try not to confuse larger tires with less horsepower.

When you add larger tires on your 4Runner, you are not losing horsepower, you are adding extra rotating weight and a larger diameter tire. This causes your 4Runner to work harder for the same tire rotation as a stock 31″ tire.

The problem you are seeing is gearing (Increase in added weight and a larger rotation), not an actual loss of power. To get back to “normal” with bigger tires, you need to change your gear ratio (regear). Regearing can be costly and time-consuming, this will likely be something you would take to a shop. Once you regear your 4Runner, things should feel like they are back to normal with power.

Overloaded with weight?

Being overloaded with weight will have an effect on your performance. If a 98 civic body was mounted on top of our frame, we would be kicking ass. The point is, don’t overload your 4Runner with a bunch of useless stuff unless you need to.

If you are going on a camping trip and overloaded to the gills with equipment, things are going to move a bit slower. But again, this has no effect on actual horsepower, your 4Runner is just working harder to move all this extra weight.

For guys with serious weight; bumpers, winch, rack, storage, accessories, camping gear, and more, it is often a good idea to regear or supercharge. Sometimes both, regearing and installing a supercharger is needed to get you where you want to be.

Magnuson Supercharger

4Runner Supercharger - Magnuson 4Runner Supercharger

The Magnuson Supercharger is hands-down, the best performance mod. Boasting 30% of horsepower gains and a 27% torque increase, this is literally 10 times better than any gains you will see from a Catback Exhaust, a Cold Air Intake, Headers or a Chip. Headers might come close at about 20hp but you will never experience the true potential without the Magnuson Supercharger.

CSF All-Aluminum Heavy-Duty Radiator

CSF All-Aluminum Heavy-Duty Radiator

Improving your cooling system will also play a key factor when looking to increase performance. As you increase your horsepower to compensate for issues such as bigger tires and overloaded weight, you will need to increase the performance of your cooling system. Heat soak is another common issue that is usually overlooked.

Some of the trails we hit are done at very low speeds and combined with high power output – can eventually cause your engine and transmission to overheat. This is not a problem you’d want to encounter in the desert or in the middle of nowhere with no help nearby.

Increased Cooling Performance

CSF’s All-Aluminum Heavy-Duty Radiator is the proper solution for overheating and heat soak issues with the increased capacity and efficiency of the radiator core and all-aluminum end tanks. The CSF ultra-efficient radiator core features CSF’s exclusive B-Tube Technology and the thickness is nearly twice the size of the OEM unit (OEM: 1 row 22mm vs. CSF: 2 row 42mm). To top it off, CSF increased the capacity of the transmission oil cooler at the bottom of the tank to assist in maintaining transmission oil temperatures in an optimal range. This can be very crucial for those who tow or travel with heavy loads.

Cold Air Intake (CAI)

TRD Cold Air Intake (CAI) 5th Gen 4Runner

The cold air intake is a key element for increasing airflow in your engine. We have covered this topic a few times throughout the blog. TRD Cold Air Intake systems or any cold air intake for that matter, give your engine free-flowing, cold, oxygen-rich air for optimal performance.

Although we already have a cold air intake, the TRD, aFe, or K&N may give you a leg up in performance. This is also a heavily debated mod in many automotive circles.

Independent testing (from TRD) has shown that TRD air intake systems combined with an exhaust and performance filters give your vehicle more horsepower, torque, acceleration, and pulling power.

Regardless of actual HP gains, you will feel and hear a difference. It might be a slight difference but worth it in my opinion.

Do your self a favor and start with a cold intake for your first mod.

Catback Exhaust

5th Gen 4Runner Magnaflow Exhaust

This was actually the first mod that we threw on our 4R. This actually might have been the first step by step install on the website, the MagnaFlow exhaust.

You can also grab a Borla Exhaust, which is also a great option for a Catback exhaust. We did an article recently that compared the MagnaFlow, Borla and Gibson Exhaust.

That would be a good place to start if you are looking for differences on these exhaust systems.

Catback exhaust systems work by increasing the airflow capacity in order to produce more power. High-flow Catback exhaust systems increase power across the RPM range. Catback exhaust systems are more known for increasing the power in your lower RPM range. Catback exhaust systems deliver a boost to our 4Runner in both torque and horsepower.

Doug Thorley Headers

Doug Thorley Headers for 5th Gen 4Runner

We still have not installed our headers, but we do have them sitting in the office. These are well-known for the best Headers out there. If you are unsure about what headers are, go check out that post. in short, headers make it easier to push out exhaust gases from the cylinders in our engine. Headers work by eliminating the manifolds back-pressure. Instead of sharing a common manifold, each cylinder gets its own exhaust pipe.

Running 91 Octane Fuel

This one is a toss-up and all personal preference. If you go from running 87 to running 91 octane, you probably won’t see a difference. I started running 91 octane in the 4Runner for about a month and dint notice any improvement.

Try it out for yourself and see what you think. No concrete evidence here yet and you can probably skip over this one. It may help improve MPGs, though. `

Directly from Toyota:

The “Research Octane Number 91” quote refers to the research done by the government. When testing the vehicle, 91 grade octane was used in order to determine the miles per gallon (MPG) ratings for the vehicle. The higher grade the octane level, the better mpg the vehicle will get.

Fuel is always a heavily debated topic. Do your research.

MAF (Mass Airflow Sensor) – Cleaning & Spacer

Install OEM MAF (Mass Airflow) Sensor on Air Inlet Tube

Depending on how old your 4Runner is, you can always clean your MAF (Mass Airflow Sensor). By cleaning your MAF sensor, you are likely to see HP gains. Some people even say cleaning off the factory sensor will increase HP (I don’t know about that one, but who knows).

The next option with the MAF is a MAF Spacer. A MAF Spacer sets a different MAF sensor placement so that it tricks your engine into running different fuel ratios. In certain areas of your throttle curve, the engine will create a different fuel to air ratio, thus creating more horsepower.

There are people out there that swear by this and people out there who would laugh at you if you install one. The choice is up to you. We will eventually throw a MAF spacer on just to see what everyone is talking about and if it is really worth it or not.

With the MAF spacer, you are expected to see better gas mileage and increased horsepower. For what it’s worth, why not just install one. It’s cheap, easy and can’t hurt anything. If anything, the Toyota ECU is incredibly smart and would just reset itself back to original settings. It would basically adapt.

Pedal Commander Throttle Controller

Throttle Response Controller 5th Gen Toyota 4Runner

This is a new one for the blog. We wrote a post on this recently. This thing blew my mind. We saw this gadget about 6 months ago and breezed past it. I was thinking “how cool can this throttle response controller really be”?

Then, we had a guy email us on the website in all CAPS up in joy, bragging about how epic this product was. After reading the first two sentences of his email, I bought one. I was so excited, I bought the PC38 and not the PC27, which is the correct model for our 5th Gen. The PC38 is for the 4th Gen 4Runner.

The throttle response controller gives you the ability to adjust your throttle response on the fly. If you want to increase your MPGs, drop it down to Eco mode by holding the yellow star. If you want to drive at somewhat of a stock level (with a little kick in umph’), kick it up to City-Mode.

If you are feeling froggish, then leap to Sport-Mode (this is seriously fun). It really is like driving a Range Rover Sport (not supercharged).

If you are in the mood to serious romp down the road, up a hill or smash on the freeway, bump it up to Sport+ Mode. At this point, you will FEEL like you are driving a Supercharged Range Rover Sport, V8. Driving on the freeway with the PC in Sport+ is awesome. You can mob through traffic and switch lanes like a true boss. Sometimes, I really feel like it’s Supercharged. And yes, we did test-drive the Magnuson Supercharger when we were in Ventura. It’s obviously nothing like a Supercharger but god damn, is this thing cool!

I am still in shock at what this $300 gadget can do.

What did we miss?

Questions or Comments? Leave them below!

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shane hawryluk
shane hawryluk
August 26, 2020 7:41 pm

Has anyone looked into ECU tuning? Viivid Racing does a tune and I’m wondering if anyone has any experience with it?

SD Smith
SD Smith
April 25, 2020 8:12 am

I speak to the idea of 91octane fuel. In a 1990 SR5 4runner 4×4, 5spd manual trans, I made it up Rte 154 NB out of Santa Barbara – providing no slow vehicles in front of me – in 4th gear almost all the way. With 87 octane I had no chance; I was shifting down to third on a regular basis about a third of the way up. It just wouldn’t pull the load. This is with all factors being equal as much as possible with about 4 years of commuting comparison used. Auto trans aren’t fair to compare… Read more »

March 28, 2020 2:56 pm

I have the upgraded my Trail Premium ‘16 to the TRD CAI and MagnaFlow Exhaust. Thrilled with the results, but if I find a pot of gold I’ll go grab that supercharger. 🙂

February 24, 2020 1:11 pm

Hello, first of all, I want to thank you for such in depth guide to mods for the 4Runner. It is very helpful! I don’t have the Pedal commander, I have the Sprint Booster. I was deciding which one to get in my 2019 and I settle for the Sprint booster as I was able to remove the pig tail and leave it at Sport 8. This gadget truly made me fall in love with my 4Runner. I was so disappointed when I first got it, it felt without power without realizing that is the fault of the pedal lag… Read more »

October 21, 2019 5:18 am

Who is the retard that suggested to use premium gas, especially in mountains where 85 can be used.

January 1, 2020 9:08 am

Yes I read an article awhile back a guy was dyno testing a 5th gen 4 runner. He said it had massive amount of retard in the timing with 87 octane, he then did 91 and the engine still had some retard in it.

This should be obvious on a fuel injected motor with 10.4:1 compression, unless you are a retard.

March 11, 2020 12:16 pm

Many people don’t understand octane. Higher octane doesn’t mean higher performance. Higher octane gives you a slower, more even burn which is what you need in a high compression engine. In an engine with lower compression, higher octane gas can actually rob you of power. Try it out for a while and see what works best in your engine.

May 15, 2020 7:17 pm
Reply to  Dennis

It’s all the same engines dude. Less oxygen = lower octaine. It’s not forced induction or high compression either.

Don Mogorit
Don Mogorit
May 15, 2020 6:03 pm
Reply to  Kirill

Words used indicate level of ignorance as much as level of knowledge

May 15, 2020 9:08 pm
Reply to  Don Mogorit

And your comment is clearly a sign of your intelligence on the topic. Thank you for those pearls of wisdom Don, please continue showing your support to the community.

October 10, 2019 1:13 pm

2010 Limited 4runner – I added the TRD Cold Air Intake, and a Borla Muffler. MPG went from 16.8 to 17.7. Nice low growl. a lot of money for a 1MPG difference.

September 14, 2019 2:45 pm

Hi this is Felix, thank you for your Blog, very informative. I just got a TRD off road 4runner 2019 , just put a TRD cold air intake and was wondering of the CAT back TRD exhaust
Vs the other ones you discuss on your blog.
Thank you for your input

December 2, 2019 9:43 am
Reply to  Felix

Hi Felix,
Did the CAI help with acceleration and gas mileage? I have a 2017 4R Limited and the performance is sluggish.

December 2, 2019 10:29 am
Reply to  Phil

Hi Phil, im not sure about the gas mileage, maybe improvement of 1mpg.
Power wise ,feels more responsive and the motor does have much nicer sound.

December 2, 2019 10:46 am
Reply to  Felix

Thanks. That’s what I was hoping to hear. Mine is sluggish on take off. From what I’m reading that’s the norm.

July 14, 2019 7:59 pm

I have the TRD CAI, Pedal Commander, and Borla catback exhaust. Just ordered Doug Thorley shorty headers. Do you think this is worth the purchase ($400).

Also – Will a DT U Pipe help in addition to this? Not sure if too much exhaust will just bog my car down.

April 26, 2019 9:38 am

anybody used a performance chip (ODBI) on their 4Runner?
I added one and it seems to increase HP.

September 1, 2020 3:20 pm
Reply to  Scott

What chip are you using and are you still seeing the performance improvements? Also any improvement in gas mileage?

April 22, 2019 10:20 pm

I have a 2019 Sr5 Premium Sport. I recently put on a Flowmaster Super 10 catback and it is AWESOME! I’ve never experienced so much from a simple catback system before, not to mention I absolutely love that beefy throaty sound it gives. I installed the pedal commander too, which I have to say I was very skeptical about, but have been AMAZED at the significant increase it has offered! Went from a sluggish tugboat to actually giving some real zip in the lower gears and works well on the freeway as well. I’m in CA so as far as… Read more »

February 21, 2019 10:20 pm


285/70/17 with full toytec 3″ lift, is it necessary to regear… I have been researching. 4.56:1 is looking promising. Or is it possible to stick with stock and if so is the wear on the stock gear greater?

Lee Williams
Lee Williams
February 20, 2019 5:11 pm

I have installed the AFE Momentum GT (Pro Dry S) intake, MBRP Pro Series T304 stainless exhaust, and kept the Pedal Commander on. I performed all the installations myself and all went perfectly. The AFE and MBRP combination is very good. The MBRP exhaust has a very deep and mellow sound, not much louder than stock at cruising speeds, but has a very nice rumble when you open it up. My gas mileage has decreased a bit because I’m in the throttle much more than before…😁 Overall, both the exhaust and intake are quality pieces of engineering. I have some… Read more »

Lee Williams
Lee Williams
February 14, 2019 11:49 am

Will do… The MBRP exhaust and AFE Momentum GT CAI will both arrive on Feb 19th.

Lee Williams
Lee Williams
February 13, 2019 3:20 pm

Just ordered a MBRP stainless exhaust for my ’19 TRD OR. Intake will be ordered in the next few days. I had the Pedal Commander in hand before my purchase, so that was the first mod.
I’ll let you know what I think of the MBRP after I get a few miles on it…

August 8, 2018 6:27 pm

I’m installing a set of the Doug Thorley headers tomorrow. Have you guys installed them yet? If so, have they thrown codes? If yes, did you have to tune it? I’ve been looking for tunes but can’t find any.

June 30, 2018 12:57 pm

Concerning cat-back exhaust, I installed a Magnaflow system on my Nissan Exterra with poor results. The exhaust drone at 1500 to 2500 rpm was irritating and sounded awful. It’s like it needed a resonator downstream. Sound at 3000 rpm and higher was great. but not practical for typical daily driving.
Just wondering if a Magnaflow or Borla system works better on the 4Runner.

Mitchell Wiese
Mitchell Wiese
June 22, 2018 10:17 am

Which is the correct Pedal Commander? PC38 or PC27?

June 18, 2018 3:24 am

Where did you find the MAF Spacer?

June 4, 2018 1:31 pm

I recently emailed Magnuson about their supercharger prior to purchasing one and asked them if I should do any additional mods such as an aftermarket CAI and Cat-back exhaust. I even asked them about installing a Pedal Commander. In short, they recommended that I leave everything stock, minus the supercharger of course, due to any other mods potentially effecting the “tune” of the SC. Do you have any thoughts or experiences on this? I was prepared to add both a CAI and Cat-back but now I am not so sure.

August 24, 2019 1:41 pm
Reply to  Adam

I ran the TRD supercharger on my Tacoma. Also, headers, rear cat deleted y-pipe, and a catback exhaust. All of these together made some serious gains.

March 31, 2018 3:03 pm

Hi, I’ve always been intrigued by the addition of a super charger to a stock vehicle. I have a 2016 Trail Premium. What I’ve always wondered about is whether or not this addition can cause damage to a stock transmission.

Your thoughts ??

March 14, 2018 8:59 pm

I have a 2018 4Runner limited, 3” lift, 275/55/20 tires. I’ve always felt sluggish and underpowered so I’m always looking to improve. So far, I’ve installed a K&N cold air intake. I don’t notice a lot of difference in slower speeds but at highway speeds, I fell like it has a better get-up-and-go when I hit the gas. Also, it has a very loud muscle car rumble inside the cab when I do hit this gas. Anyway, I was reading your list of upgrades and the supercharger and pedal tuner intrigued me. Are there any reasons not to install either… Read more »

January 17, 2019 12:34 am
Reply to  Bart

The only reason to run higher octane fuel is if you increase your compression ratio, high compression needs high octane, since these engines come low compression stock you should just run 87.if however you up your compression then by all means run a higher octane. Octane does not equal power, think of it more like a viscosity rating in oil, which depends on operating temperatures and tolerances between parts. If you run an incompatible viscosity or octane you can damage your engine.

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