2003 Toyota 4Runner Reviews

2003 4Runner New Car Test Drive


Completely new from the ground up, the 2003 Toyota 4Runner shares almost nothing with last year's model. In spite of that, its basic mission has not changed. The new 4Runner offers serious off-road capability. While other SUVs are becoming more and more like cars, the 4Runner is, as Toyota says, the 'real deal.'

It's loaded with the latest off-road electronic technology. Electronic traction control and Downhill Assist Control improve capability off road, while other features improve comfort and handling on the highway. Yet the new 4Runner is built on a rugged ladder frame and uses a live rear axle, a design considered dated as many SUVs move toward unit-body construction and independent rear suspensions. Toyota felt this design offered better off-road capability. 

The new 4Runner is much larger and roomier than last year's model and ride quality has been greatly improved. Order the base 4Runner and you have a comfortable, well-equipped, highly capable SUV that can get things done. Order a 4Runner Limited model loaded with leather and it feels like a poor man's Range Rover. Actually, it's more like a poor person's Land Cruiser. 

A new Toyota V6 delivers more power than last year's engine for exceptionally good acceleration performance. And a V8 is also available for the 4Runner for the first time. The V8, an option for all models, delivers better acceleration than the V6 when fully loaded, but you won't need it unless you plan to do a lot of towing. 

While the new 4Runner may seem old school to people who want an 'on-road' sport-utility, it's the hot ticket for drivers who want genuine off-road capability, but don't want to be punished for it on the way to work every day. 


The 2003 Toyota 4Runner comes in three trim levels: SR5, Sport, and Limited. Each trim level offers two engines and a choice of two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. 

Standard on all models is a totally new 4.0-liter V6 that delivers 245 horsepower at 5200 rpm and 283 pounds-feet of torque. Optional for all models is a 4.7-liter V8 that generates 235 horsepower at 4800 rpm and, more important, 320 pounds-feet of torque. 

SR5 is the most popular trim level, primarily because it's the least expensive. SR5 comes with 16-inch steel wheels, the roof rack (120-pound capacity), and gray metallic bumpers, fender flares and lower cladding. It comes with a nice cloth interior. As mentioned, the 4Runner is available as an SR5 V8 4x2 ($28,005) and an SR5 V8 4x4 ($30,280). (Prices for the V6-powered models were not available at press time.)

The Sport Edition comes with Toyota's new X-REAS shock-damping system, a clever yet simple hydraulic setup that improves stability and handling in sweeping turns. The Sport comes with a special cloth interior and is distinguished by its hood scoop, a silver painted grille and roof rack, fog lamps, color-keyed outside mirrors, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The 4Runner Sport Edition V8 retails for $29,800 for the 4x2 and $32,075 for the 4x4. 

Limited gets leather trim, power seats with seat heaters and is distinguished by silver painted running boards, and color-keyed bumpers, cladding, fender flares and door handles. It comes standard with the V6. MSRP for the 4Runner V8 Limited is $34,205 for the 4x2 and $36,480 for the 4x4 model. 

A Class III receiver hitch is standard on all models and is mounted to the rear frame crossmember. The 4Runner is rated for a 5000-pound towing capacity. 

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