A redesigned version of the midsize Toyota 4Runner with a newly available V-8 engine went on sale in 2003. A V-6 was the only engine choice in the prior generation.
Toyota sought to make the truck-based 4Runner larger and roomier so it would yield a more comfortable highway ride, obtain greater fuel efficiency and maintain offroad ability. A third-row seat for the Limited and SR5 editions becomes optional in the 2004 model year. A backup video camera is newly available on 4Runners equipped with a navigation system. Roll-sensing side curtain-type airbags include a cutoff switch.
Toyotas Vehicle Skid Control electronic stability system is standard. When equipped with four-wheel drive, the 4Runner features Downhill Assist Control that restricts speed when going down a steep grade. Hill-Start Assist Control keeps the 4Runner from rolling excessively on an upgrade. Customers will find three versions at dealerships: SR5, Sport and Limited.
Built on a 109.8-inch wheelbase, the 4Runner measures 189 inches long overall. Body-on-frame construction uses full-length boxed-section frame rails. The rear liftgate contains a standard power window and a power opening/closing feature. A speed-sensitive sunroof wind deflector is installed.
Standard SR5 equipment includes 16-inch tires, multireflector headlights and taillights, and an integrated towing hitch. The Sport features a hood scoop, a diagonal-linked sport-enhanced suspension and 17-inch tires. The Limited has 17-inch tires and silver-painted running boards, bumper accents and roof rails.
Without the newly available third-row seat, the 4Runner seats five people on front buckets and a three-place, fold-down, 60/40-split rear bench. Cargo capacity is 75.1 cubic feet. Leather upholstery, a power-adjustable drivers seat and heated front seats are standard in the Limited.
Cargo-area backup mirrors mounted in the rear pillars of models with the base-grade audio system allow the driver to see oncoming vehicles when backing out of a parking stall.
Under the Hood
Toyotas 4.7-liter i-Force V-8 engine sends 235 horsepower and 320 pounds-feet of torque to a five-speed-automatic transmission. A 4.0-liter V-6 that produces 245 hp works with a four-speed automatic. Rear-wheel drive and four-wheel drive are available. Models with the V-6 engine and four-wheel drive include a differential lock switch. The 4Runner features a cranking hold system; after the driver holds the key in the Start position for two-tenths of a second, the engine keeps cranking even after the key is released.
Antilock brakes are standard. Side curtain-type airbags and seat-mounted side-impact airbags are optional in all models.
Performance is a big plus with the 4Runners quiet V-8 engine. A tap on the gas pedal from a standstill sends this sport utility vehicle practically lunging ahead with eager passion. Acceleration while passing and merging is wholly confident.
The 4Runner steers easily and with a reasonably good feel, which is a cut above the truck-based SUV norm. Its handling is also above average, and the 4Runner produces comfortable sensations on the road. For this type of vehicle, the ride is pleasantly soft not quite cushiony, but the suspension absorbs many bumps. The Sport model feels a bit tauter and its ride quality is a tad sniffer.