Toyota redesigned its midsize 4Runner sport utility vehicle for 2003, making a V-8 engine available for the first time. Toyota wanted to make the truck-based 4Runner larger, roomier and more fuel-efficient, while maintaining its offroad capability.
For 2005, the V-8 gains 35 horsepower; it's now rated at 270 hp. In V-6 models, a five-speed-automatic transmission replaces the prior four-speed unit. A backup video camera is included on 4Runner Limiteds equipped with a navigation system.
Toyota's Vehicle Stability Control electronic stability system is standard. Four-wheel-drive-equipped 4Runners feature Downhill Assist Control that restricts speed when going down a steep grade. Hill-start Assist Control works to keep any 4Runner from rolling backward on an upgrade.
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 power window.
Standard SR5 equipment includes 16-inch tires, multireflector headlights and taillights, and an integrated towing hitch. The Sport Edition features a hood scoop and 17-inch tires. The Limited includes illuminated running boards.
Without the available third-row seat, the 4Runner seats five people on front buckets and a three-place, fold-down 60/40-split rear bench. Seven occupants fit inside models equipped with a third-row seat. Leather upholstery, a power-adjustable driver's seat and heated front seats are standard in the Limited.
Cargo-area backup mirrors mounted in the rear pillars allow the driver to see oncoming vehicles when backing out of a parking stall.
Under the Hood
Toyota's 4.7-liter V-8 is rated at 270 hp and 330 pounds-feet of torque. The 4.0-liter V-6 produces 245 hp. Both engines team with a five-speed-automatic transmission. Rear- and four-wheel-drive models are available.
All-disc antilock brakes are standard. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side curtain-type airbags with new rollover sensors are optional in all models.
Performance is a big plus when the 4Runner is equipped with the available, quiet V-8. From a standstill, a tap of the gas pedal sends this SUV practically lunging ahead. 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. Handling skills also rank above-average. For this type of vehicle, the ride is pleasantly soft � not quite cushy, but the suspension absorbs many bumps. The Sport Edition feels a bit tauter, and its ride quality is a tad stiffer.