2004 4Runner New Car Test Drive
The 2004 Toyota 4Runner shares almost nothing with the mid-size SUVs Toyota sold just two years ago. The 4Runner was redesigned from the ground up for 2003, but its priorities haven't changed a bit. Everything from the basic design to the standard instrumentation and skid plates says this SUV is capable of hard-core off-road work.
While other SUVs are becoming more and more like cars, the 4Runner is the real deal. It's loaded with the latest off-road electronic technology, including Hill Start Assist and Downhill Assist Control. True to its truck roots, however, the 4Runner is built on a rugged ladder frame with a solid rear axle. While some consider this design dated when compared to the latest SUVs with unit-body construction and independent rear suspensions, Toyota believes the traditional package offers better off-road capability and long-term durability in working-truck conditions.
This latest-generation 4Runner is larger and roomier than its predecessor, and ride quality has been greatly improved. Optional features like a linked shock-absorber system have improved handling on the highway, and the standard V6 delivers more power for excellent acceleration. The 4Runner also offers an optional V8, but the V6 is so strong you won't need the upgrade unless you plan to do a lot of towing.
Order the base 4Runner and you have a comfortable, well-equipped, highly capable SUV that can get things done. Order a 4Runner Limited with leather, heated seats and a killer stereo, and it feels like a poor man's Range Rover. Okay, to be politically correct, it's more like a poor person's Land Cruiser.
Toyota almost never naps. Even though the 4Runner was brand new for 2003, the company has broadened its appeal for 2004 with an optional third seat that expands passenger capacity to seven. All models now come standard with running boards and more upscale body-colored bumpers and lower body cladding. For 2004, the optional GPS navigation system includes a rear-mounted video camera for backing up.
While the 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 2004 Toyota 4Runner comes in three trim levels: SR5, Sport Edition, and Limited. Toyota offers buyers maximum flexibility by offering all three with either the V6 or V8 and two- or four-wheel drive.
The recently developed 4.0-liter V6 comes standard on all models, delivering 245 horsepower and 283 pounds-feet of torque. A 4.7-liter V8 is optional on all models ($1,250). It generates 235 horsepower and, more important, 320 pounds-feet of torque.
The SR5 is the most popular trim level, primarily because it's the least expensive and still very well equipped. It comes with 16-inch alloy wheels and, for 2004, body-colored bumpers, fender flares and lower cladding, rather than the gray metallic type. The SR5 V6 4x2 ($27,170) and SR5 V6 4x4 ($29,445) include automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, skid plates to protect the underbody and a tire pressure monitor. As noted, the V8 adds $1,250 to all models and replaces selectable 2WD/4WD with full-time all-wheel-drive on 4Runner 4x4s.
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 4Runner Sport Edition V6 4x2 ($28,410) and 4X4 ($30,685) come with a special cloth interior and are distinguished by a hood scoop, a silver painted grille and standard roof rails, fog lamps, color-keyed outside mirrors, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The also have slightly larger brake rotors.
The 4Runner Limited V6 4X2 ($33,445) and 4x4 ($35,720) gets leather trim and heated power front seats. The Limited has silver painted running boards (rather than black), color-keyed mudguards and a full roof rack rated at 120 pounds capacity. It also adds refinement with a premium JBL stereo with 10 speakers, rear seat audio controls, remote control and headphones.
A Class III receiver hitch with seven-pin electric connection is standard on all models and mounted to the rear frame crossmember. The 4Runner is rated to tow 5000 pounds with the V6 and 7000 with the V8.
Toyota also provides maximum flexibility by pricing all options separately, rather than grouping them in packages. Popular choices include a power moonroof ($900) and the premium JBL stereo with a six-disc changer for the SR5 and Sport ($875). The two-place third seat ($735) is new for 2004. A slick GPS navigation system, packaged with the new rear-view video camera ($2,695), is available only on the 4Runner Limited.
Active safety features lead the class. ABS and Vehicle Skid Control (VSC) come standard on all models. VSC uses the brake system to help the driver maintain control in adverse conditions. 2WD models come with traction control, which reduces tire slippage for enhanced stability under acceleration. 4WD models are equipped with active traction control (A-TRAC), which uses sensors and software to deliver smoother power application in all conditions.
Passive safety features include dual-stage front airbags and three-point seat belts at all positions, with pretensioners and force limiters to reduce the chance of belt-related injuries. Front side-impact airbags and curtain-style head protection airbags for front and rear passengers are optional ($680 on SR5 and Sport, $650 on Limited).