2004 Car Review : Toyota 4Runner Limited


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

By Manrico Delcore & Mary Beth Debicki

The Toyota 4Runner An Old Favorite goes Uptown

The all new 2003 4Runner represents the 4th reincarnation of this very popular SUV. Since its introduction in 1985, the 4Runner has been Toyota’s high volume 4x4 SUV enjoying a strong and loyal following. Its appeal has been rooted in the vehicle’s reliability, functionality and utility.

Early 4Runners were pick-ups with enclosed bodies, the truest interpretation of an SUV where Utility took center stage. While many manufacturers seem to be confused about what makes an SUV an SUV, Toyota, at least as far as the 4Runner is concerned, has stayed faithful to the original concept. Although the 03 4Runner has severed all ties with pickups, it remains a true SUV with real 4x4 capabilities. The 4Runner, like the Lexus GX470 is based on the Toyota Prado SUV platform and not on Toyota’s pickup platforms (The Prado SUV has never made it to the US).

We picked up “our” 4Runner Limited in Kansas City. The first thing we noticed was the absence of any truck-like features. The exterior lines are pleasing. The broad grill and large over-fenders gives the vehicle a muscular appearance. Our only concerns were the running boards and the low hanging spoiler. We’ve never met a running board that survived serious off pavement driving.

The second thing we noticed was that the 4Runner has grown. It is nearly 6 inches longer (4 1/2 inch longer wheelbase) and 3 inches wider than previous models. The outside dimensions translate into a very roomy interior. There is more people room with substantial increases in hip and shoulder room and there’s more cargo room. A 4x8 sheet of building materials fits between the wheel wells. The interior feels very “Lexus”, roomy, comfortable and luxurious. The two tone dashboard trim is eye catching as is the “performance-inspired” 3-pod instrument cluster. The dual climate control knobs are, well, different. We still can’t decide if we like them or not. The finish throughout the cockpit is top notch and very ergonomic. We question, however, the advisability of installing a touch-screen GPS monitor on a 4x4 vehicle. Wonder what the screen will make of mud-covered, gloved hands?

Our Limited was powered by the new (to 4Runner) 32 valve DOHC 4.7-liter i-force V8 (same powerplant as in the Land Cruiser and Lexus 470) that cranks out 235 hp at 4800 RPM (10 less than the V6) and 320 ft-lb of stump pulling torque at 3400 RPM. The engine features a “linkless electronic throttle control system with intelligence” that helps improve performance and increase fuel economy. Intelligent or not, the V8 is smooth and gutsy.

A 4.0-liter V6 aluminum engine with variable valve timing and “intelligence” is also available. It is Toyota’s first use of this lightweight engine in a light truck. Like the V8 it also features linkless electronic throttle control with intelligence. It produces 245 hp at 5200 RPM and 282 lb-ft of torque at 3400 RPM.

For serious towing (up to 5,000 pounds) or off pavement driving, the V8 is the clear choice and with only a 1 mpg decrease in fuel efficiency compared to the V6, the V8 may be the way to go, period.

Besides, if you get the V8, you also get the new (in a truck) five-speed automatic with overdrive transmission with artificial intelligence shift control. The transmission adjusts gear-shifting patterns according to driving conditions and driver intent.

The four wheel drive models (yes Toyota does offer a 2 wd 4Runner, although we can’t imagine why anyone would buy a 2 wd SUV) all feature a Torsen sensing limited-slip center differential that makes the vehicle permanent four wheel drive, ie power flows to both the front and rear axles all the time. During straight line driving 40 percent of the torque goes to the front axle, 60 to the rear. This distribution provides better stability control while accelerating or decelerating. If needed, the Torsen diff will send up to 71 percent of the torque to the rear if the front axle slips, or up to 53 percent to the front if the rear slips. In off pavement situations, the center diff can be manually locked sending 50 percent of the torque to the front and 50 percent to the rear for maximum traction.

A host of electronic aids help to put the power where it is needed most. Vehicle stability control and traction control use the ABS brake system to help reduce tire slippage and help the driver maintain control in adverse driving conditions. Downhill assist control uses the brakes and the throttle to maintain a target speed of between 2-4 mph when descending a steep or slippery slope. Hill start assist keeps the vehicle from rolling backwards or sideways while climbing steep upgrades.

All this technology hangs on full length boxed section frame rails with nine cross members for increased torsional rigidity over the entire vehicle. Oversized body mounts helps isolate the cabin from NVH. The suspension is independent double wishbone up front and four-link and solid axle in the rear, with coil springs all around. A rear air suspension is also available. Variable gear, rack-and-pinion power-assisted steering gives the 4Runner a turning circle of 36.6 feet.

So how does it drive?

In a word: car-like. Driving around town and on the expressways, the V8 had plenty of power and oomph throughout the power band, even when accelerating from 70 to 80 mph. The handling is accurate and the ride very smooth. On long interstate drives (200 miles) the ergonomics of the cabin and the 8-way power seats delivered a very comfortable ride.

We left the interstate and headed into the Flint Hills of Kansas. The “hills” are the last remnant of the grass prairies that once covered most of the Midwest. Little used gravel and dirt ranch and oil field roads crisscross the hills giving us an opportunity to test the 4Runner’s SUV DNA. Traction, handling and control on gravel roads, even when taken a bit faster than advisable, remained excellent. The vehicle tracked true with little fuss or tire slippage. On washboard gravel roads the ride become a bit vaguer with the suspension a bit too soft for us. We admit we’re “seat of the pants” drivers who like a vehicle to tell us what the road is doing, and the 4Runner does a pretty good job of insulating you from the bumps.

As the “roads” deteriorated we shifted to 4low. Uphill or downhill the vehicle moved easily over the loose rocks and try as we might, we never ran out of traction. Even when descending steep loose rock hills, the electronic wizardry kept the vehicle under control and pointing in the right direction. Solid sounding clanks told us that the skid plates (standard) were doing their job deflecting the errant rock.

The overly soft “car-like” ride translated into a bit too much rocking as we crossed over various sets of deep ruts. Although at first glance we had worried about the low hanging spoiler “spoiling” the vehicle’s approach angle, in practice we found that we could climb significant rock steps and creek banks without running afoul. The running boards, however are vulnerable and we would recommend anyone taking the 4Runner on serious 4x4 trails to remove them and invest in a pair of rock sliders to protect the door sills.

The 4Runner remains a true SUV. It will still take you to all those places the old 4Runner did and to some it couldn’t, and you’ll be significantly more comfortable getting there. The 4Runner is equally at home in town, in the countryside or in the woods and will carry 5 adults and all their gear or building supplies (or in our case, dogs) regardless of weather, or road or lack thereof. And after all, isn’t that the definition of Utility? 2004 Toyota 4Runner Specifications

V6 V8 ENGINE
Type 4.0-liter, 6-cylinder, 24-valve, aluminum alloy block with aluminum alloy head 4.7-liter, 8-cylinder, 32-valve, steel alloy block with aluminum alloy head
Bore and Stroke 3.70 x 3.74 inches 3.70 x 3.31 inches
Displacement 3955 cc 4664 cc
Compression Ratio 10.0:1 9.6:1
Valve Train DOHC, 4-valve/cylinder DOHC, 4-valve/cylinder
Horsepower (SAE Net) 245 hp @ 5,200 rpm 235 hp @ 4,800 rpm
Torque 282 lb-ft @ 3,400 rpm 320 lb-ft @ 3,400 rpm
Ignition System TDI TDI
Fuel System Sequential multi-point EFI Sequential multi-point EFI
Recommended Fuel 91-octane unleaded (Octane Rating) 91-octane unleaded (Octane Rating)
Emission Control LEV LEV

POWERTRAIN Drive System Type Rear-wheel 2WD or multi-mode 4WD Rear-wheel 2WD or full-time 4WD
Ratios 4-speed ECT-i automatic 1st 2.804 2nd 1.531 3rd 1.000 4th 0.705 Reverse 2.393 Differential 3.909 5-speed ECT automatic
1st 3.520
2nd 2.042
3rd 1.400
4th 1.000
5th 0.716
Reverse 3.224
Differential Ratio 3.727
Transfer Case High: 1.000
Low: 2.566
Center Differential Type: Torsen type with differential lock Torque Split (Front/Rear) Straight Line 40/60 Turning (fr wheel spin) 29/71 Turning (rr wheel spin) 53/47 Type: Torsen type with differential lock
Torque Split (Front/Rear)
Straight Line 40/60
Turning (fr wheel spin) 29/71
Turning (rr wheel spin) 53/47
V6 V8 SUSPENSION Front: Independent suspension Front: Independent suspension
Rear: 4-link rigid type with coil springs Rear: 4-link rigid type with coil springs
Stabilizer Bar Diameter Front: 1.14 inches (2WD) 1.18 inches (4WD) Rear: 0.83 inches Front: 1.14 inches (2WD)
1.18 inches (4WD)
Rear: 0.83 inches
BRAKES
Front Ventilated disc Ventilated disc
Front Diameter 16/17-inch alloys: 12.6 inches 17-inch Sport Edition alloys: 13.3 inches 16/17-inch alloys: 12.6 inches
17-inch Sport Edition alloys: 13.3 inches
Rear Ventilated disc Ventilated disc
Rear Diameter 16/17-inch alloys: 12.3 inches 16/17-inch alloys: 12.3 inches
Parking Foot applied, foot released Foot applied, foot released
Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) Standard with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA) Standard with Electronic Brake Force
Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA)
Swept Area Front: 420 sq cm Rear (all): 320 sq cm Sport Edition (front): 450 square cm Front: 420 sq cm
Rear (all): 320 sq cm
Sport Edition (front): 450 square cm
STEERING
Type Power-assisted and variable gear rack-and-pinion Power-assisted and variable gear
rack-and-pinion
Overall Ratio 15.6:1 15.6:1
Turns (lock to lock) 3.04 3.04
Turning diameter 36.7 feet 36.7 feet
TIRES AND WHEELS
Wheel size 7.0 x 16 inches 7.5 x 17 inches (std on Sport Edition) 7.0 x 16 inches
7.5 x 17 inches (std on Sport Edition)
Type and Material Six-spoke alloy (standard on SR5) Five-spoke 17" alloy (optional on SR5, std on Limited) Unique six-spoke 17" alloy (std on Sport Edition) Six-spoke alloy (standard on SR5)
Five-spoke 17" alloy (optional on SR5, std on Limited)
Unique six-spoke 17" alloy (std on Sport Edition)
Tire Size P265/70 R16 P265/65 R17 P265/70 R16
P265/65 R17
Tire Type Mud and snow radial Mud and snow radial
Spare Full-size Full-size
CAPACITIES
Engine Oil 6.4 quarts 6.0 quarts
Fuel Tank 23.0 gallons 23.0 gallons
EXTERIOR DIMENSIONS (inches)
Wheelbase 109.8 109.8
Overall Length 189.0 189.0
Overall Width 73.8 73.8
Overall Height (without Air Suspension) w/o roof rack: 69.1 (2WD) w/o roof rack: 68.9 (4WD) w/roof rack: 71.6 (2WD/4WD) w/o roof rack: 69.1 (2WD)
w/o roof rack: 68.9 (4WD)
w/roof rack: 71.6 (2WD/4WD)
Overall Height (with Air Suspension, 4WD V8) N/A w/o roof rack: 68.5
w/roof rack: 71.2
Tread Front: 62.0 Rear: 62.0 Front: 62.0
Rear: 62.0
Minimum Ground Clearance 2WD: 8.9 4WD: 9.1 2WD: 8.9
4WD: 9.1
Approach Angle 2WD: 31 4WD: 32 2WD: 31
4WD: 32
Departure Angle 2WD: 24 4WD: 24 2WD: 24
4WD: 24
Ramp Breakover Angle 22 22
PRELIMINARY EPA ESTIMATED FUEL ECONOMY (mpg) Actual mileage may vary
City/Highway 18/21 (2WD) 17/21 (4WD) City/Highway
16/20 (2WD)
15/19 (4WD)
V6 V8 INTERIOR DIMENSIONS (inches)
Headroom First row: 39.7 Second row: 39.1 Opt. Third row: 32.9 First row: 39.7
Second row: 39.1
Opt. Third row: 32.9
Legroom First row: 41.7 Second row: 34.7 Opt. Third row: 24.1 First row: 41.7
Second row: 34.7
Opt. Third row: 24.1
Shoulder Room First row: 58.0 Second row: 57.2 Opt. Third row: 56.7 First row: 58.0
Second row: 57.2
Opt. Third row: 56.7
Hip Room First row: 55.3 Second row: 55.3 Opt. Third row: 48.4 First row: 55.3
Second row: 55.3
Opt. Third row: 48.4
EPA Passenger Volume (cubic feet) 103.1 103.1
EPA Cargo Volume (cubic feet) Rear seats up: - w/o double decker: 42.2 - w/double decker: 40.6 Rear seats folded: 75.1 w/o double decker: 72.4 Opt. Third row seat: 12.1 Opt. Third row seat folded: 36.6 Rear seats up:
- w/o double decker: 42.2
- w/double decker: 40.6
Rear seats folded: 75.1
w/o double decker: 72.4
Opt. Third row seat: 12.1
Opt. Third row seat folded 36.6
EPA Interior Volume (cubic feet) w/o double decker: 145.3 w/double decker: 143.8 w/o double decker: 145.3
w/double decker: 143.8
EPA Class Mid-size Mid-size
VEHICLE MASS (lbs.)
Curb Weight SR5 LIMITED SPORT 2WD: 4,035 4,055 4,065 4WD: 4,290 4,310 4,330 SR5 LIMITED SPORT
2WD: 4,220 4,245 4,260
4WD: 4,475 4,495 4,515
GVWR 2WD: 5,330 (all) 4WD: 5,570 (all) 2WD: 5,460 (all)
4WD: 5,710 (all)
Payload SR5 LIMITED SPORT 2WD: 1,280 1,240 1,240 4WD: 1,295 1,275 1,255 SR5 LIMITED SPORT
2WD: 1,240 1,215 1,200
4WD: 1,235 1,215 1,195
Towing Capacity 2WD: 5,000 4WD: 5,000 2WD: 7,300
4WD: 7,000
Maximum Trailer Tongue Weight 2WD: 500 4WD: 500 2WD: 730
4WD: 700

V6 V8
SAFETY FEATURES Multi-stage dual front SRS airbags* Multi-stage dual front SRS airbags*
Available front and rear SRS curtain airbags, with front side-impact SRS airbags* Available front and rear SRS curtain airbags, with front side-impact SRS airbags*
Three-point front seat belts with adjustable shoulder anchors Three-point front seat belts with adjustable shoulder anchors
Three-point seat belts for all five seating positions and all seven seating positions with optional third row seat (SR5 and Ltd. only) Three-point seat belts for all five seating positions and all seven seating positions with optional third row seat (SR5 and Ltd. only)
Emergency Locking Retractors (ELR) on driver’s belt, Automatic/Emergency Locking Retractors (ALR/ELR) on all passenger seat belts Emergency Locking Retractors (ELR) on driver’s belt, Automatic/Emergency Locking Retractors (ALR/ELR) on all passenger seat belts
Four-wheel Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Brake Assist (BA) and Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) Four-wheel Anti-lock Brake System (ABS) with Brake Assist (BA) and Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD)
Child protector rear door locks Child protector rear door locks
Child Restrain System (CRS) tether anchors and ISO-FIX seat anchors in outboard rear seats Child Restrain System (CRS) tether anchors and ISO-FIX seat anchors in outboard rear seats
Available daytime running lights Available daytime running lights
Available anti-theft device (std on Limited) Available anti-theft device (std on Limited)
3-year/36,000-mile Comprehensive
5-year/60,000-mile Powertrain 5-year/60,000-mile Powertrain
5-year/unlimited-mileage Corrosion Perforation 5-year/unlimited-mileage Corrosion Perforation

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