1984-2003 Toyota 4Runner

Read about our 4Runner test drive!

1987 toyota 4runnerThe Toyota 4Runner was first introduced in 1984, based on the compact Toyota Hi-Lux pickup, with a short bed and a plastic cap over the back. Options included the SR-5 sport package, extra gauges (including incline and altitude), a rear heater, and a folding rear seat. Then, as now, 4Runners were built in Tahara, Japan. Power came from a four-cylinder engine, which was carbureted in 1984 and fuel-injected in 1985, with a five-speed manaul transmission and two-speed transfer case. The engine was named simply the 22R - or, with fuel injection, the 22RE.

Like the Hi-Lux it was based on, the 4Runner had a solid axle in both front and rear for durability and cost reduction, at the expense of a smooth ride and the ability to corner well over rough surfaces. There were two models, one very pickup-like with two front seats and the rear meant for cargo only, and another with a flat-folding rear seat that theoretically had room for three people (it had seat belts for all three) so the vehicle could seat five. The five-seater also came with a larger gas tank and an upgraded interior.

In 1986, all Toyota four-wheel-drive trucks gained an independent "Hi-Trac" front suspension (protected by steel plates, which also guarded the gas tank and transfer case), and the 4Runner was supplemented by a turbocharged, 135 horsepower SR-5 Turbo which lasted for just one year. The independent front suspension was probably chosen for its greater ground clearance and so there would be enough room for a V6, and, two short years later, in 1988, an optional 3-liter V6, replacing the turbo. A cosmetic resytyling came in 1987, just after the suspension work but before the new engine. The 4Runner had a removable hard top, letting owners turn it into an open-air vehicle. Full instrumentation, including an altimeter and roll and pitch meters, was standard; the four-speed electronically controlled automatic was available in 1987.

1990 brought the first 4Runner that most people would recognize: rather than a pickup with a cap, it had a real roof and a totally enclosed interior. The suspension still used a solid axle in the rear, instead of leaf springs, it now had the more modern coil springs to allow for more interior space and four doors. Because of the coil springs and greater rigidity allowed by the new structure, the ride and cornering were both improved. The two-door version only lasted through 1992.

In 1994, at long last, the 4Runner was given side-impact protection and optional antilock brakes. By now, leather seats were also optional, as were a sunroof and eight-speaker CD stereo.

Another new 4Runner appeared in 1996, using larger engines, a larger body, and new off-road options including the almost mandatory locking differential. The first 4Runner to be independent of the compact trucks in both sheet metal and frame, became considerably more popular. The two engines were a 2.7 liter four and a 3.4 liter V6; both had twin cams and four valves per cylinder. Another two inches of wheelbase were added to smooth the ride and bring more interior space, while a double wishbone front suspension provided greater wheel travel (for comfort and handling) and better cornering. A new one-piece tailgate, complete with power window, was added, and larger outside mirrors brought better safety - along with dual airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes, and enhanced seat belts. The interior was greatly expanded, far beyond the two inches of extra wheelbase, with greater height as well as a lower floor.

2003 Toyota 4Runner V6In 1998, the interior was refreshed, with rotary vent controls, a new steering wheel, and new audio systems. In 1999, the exterior was freshened with a new front clip including new headlight assemblies and bumpers, and the interior received a new center console, overhead console, and twin power outlets with a dual trip odometer. The SR5 got heated outside mirrors and cruise control, and an optional SR5 sports package provided sporty-looking exterior cues. Generally, both model years held cosmetic and feature changes rather than major engineering changes. The 1996-2002 models were considered the third generation.

A new full-time four wheel drive system with two-wheel drive capability was made available in 1999 on the Limited model.

In 2001, the V6 / four-speed automatic was made standard, replacing the four-cylinder completely. Toyota also made skid control and traction control standard, along with the new full time four wheel drive system and hitch harness. Toyota also eliminated the rear differential lock and made the brake booster hydraulically assisted. Real-life gas mileage was about 15 city, 18 highway; the ride was a little trucky, (more so on the 4x4 models), but not as trucky as many competitors. Cornering was good despite body lean, and the brakes were quite good; partly due to the standard antilock brakes. While the 4Runner was fairly quiet at lower speeds, wind noise became an issue at higher speeds. The 3.4 liter V6 pushed out 183 hp and 217 lb-ft of torque, running on regular gas, good performance for its size. Pricing ran from $26,355 for the SR5 two-wheel drive model to $37,605 for the Limited 4WD version. Four wheel drive added about $2,000 to the SR5, $3,000 to the Limited; and moving up from SR5 to Limited cost about $8,000. Several option packages were available for the SR5, none for the Limited (a small number of single options were available for the loaded Limited.)

The 2003 Toyota 4Runner was again redesigned, this time more controversially; it grew again, yet had better gas mileage from a new four-liter aluminum V6 pushing out 245 horsepower and 283 lb-ft of torque. A new 4.7 liter V8 appeared, the first V8 on any 4Runner, with 235 horsepower but a full 320 lb-ft of torque; the main advantage of the V8 is greater power at low engine speeds, as well as the five-speed, electronically-controlled transmission coupled only to the V8. In accordance with Toyota policy, both engines are LEV (low-emissions vehicle) certified. The V8 gained a substantial boost, to 280 horsepower, in 2005.

Toyota 4Runner 4.7 V8 engine

Toyota 4Runner V6 engine

Perhaps more exciting to off-roaders than the increased size and power would be the world's first use of a Torsen sensing limited-slip center differential in a mid-sized SUV, used on both the V6 and V8 models. The 4Runners also come with Hill-start Assist Control; four wheel drive models come with Downhill Assist Control.

In 2004, Toyota added an optional third row seat on the Limited and SR5, as well as an optional (and very helpful) backup camera integrated with the optional navigation system.

2003 Toyota 4Runner - major changes

Both the V6 and V8 engines have a new “drive by wire” electronic throttle control with intelligence (ETCS-i) to raise performance and economy; and both are LEV (low-emissions) certified. The starter on both engines is no longer controlled by the starter switch; a control system keeps the starter engaged until combustion is detected, then immediately shuts it off to boost the reliability of the starting system and free the driver from holding the key in the start position.

The 4-liter V6 has 245 horsepower at 5,200 RPM and 282 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,800 RPM. Fuel economy is 18/21 mpg for all 2WD models and 17/20 for all 4WD grades (EPA).

The optional 4.7-liter i-Force V8 engine produces 235 horsepower at 4,800 RPM and 320 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,400 RPM (less power and more torque than the V6). EPA city/highway gas mileage for the V8 is 16/20 for all 2WD models and 15/19 for all 4WD grades.

The V8 engine has a five-speed automatic with overdrive, helping gas mileage. The transmission is equipped with an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Shift control, which changes gear-shifting patterns according to driving conditions and driver intent. Aluminum front planetary gears cuts weight in half.

Multi-Mode 4WD has an open center differential with locking capability that provides a full-time 4WD system (it can be used on dry roads) with the ability to select 2WD mode. Torque-sensing can send more torque to the rear wheels, providing better stability control whether the driver is accelerating at high or low speeds. The static rear-drive bias favors stable tracking on- or off-road, decelerating or accelerating.

The Torsen-type sensing provides three dynamic torque split ratios, depending on the available traction on the vehicle at the time. A static torque split favors the rear with a 40/60 percent front-to-rear split. When the front wheels slip, up to 71 percent of the split ratio goes to the rear wheels. When the rear wheels slip, up to 53 percent of the split is applied to the front wheels.

Front and rear ventilated disc antilock brakes are standard on all models, as is electronic traction control and Vehicle Skid Control (VSC). All 4WD 4Runners equipped with the V8 are full-time 4WD and come with the Torsen differential.

All 4Runners with 4WD comes standard-equipped with the Downhill Assist Control (DAC) system. When in 4WD low range with DAC activated, if any one wheel accelerates beyond or below a two-to-four MPH low-speed setting, the DAC system will control the throttle or brakes to ensure the vehicle continues in a straight position when going down a hill. The DAC system is automatically shut off if the driver hits the brake or gas pedal or shifts into neutral.

The new, standard Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) system increases control on steep upgrades and slippery surfaces. HAC prevents the Toyota 4Runner from rolling backward or slipping sideways during when climbing a hill from a stop, controlling the brakes to stop the individual wheel or wheels, preventing the vehicle from rolling backward or slipping sideways.

Frame and Chassis

An all-new body-on-frame chassis design features full-length boxed section frame rails that include large body mounts for increased torsional rigidity over the entire vehicle. The body mounts also improve cabin isolation from NVH. For towing, a standard tow hitch receiver bolts directly to the rear frame crossmember. A draw bar, a high-capacity seven-pin electrical connector for trailer wiring, and prewire for an electric trailer brake controller are also standard.

Steering is the rack-and-pinion type with variable assist; both front and rear use a coil spring over gas shock suspension, with a double wishbone design in front and four-link rigid design in the rear. A rear air suspension is available on Limited V8 models for improved ride and performance when towing or hauling heavy loads. The air suspension uses linear height sensors to automatically adjust the ride height based on the vehicle load.

Standard on the new Sport Edition and optional on the Limited is a new diagonal-linked relative absorber sport enhanced suspension system (X-REAS) developed by Yamaha. The compression chamber of each shock is cross-linked to its diagonal mate (front left shock is linked to the rear right and front right is linked to the rear left) via a central control absorber. The central control absorber contains a free piston that pushes against a low-pressure nitrogen charge. An orifice below the piston passes small motions across the vehicle from front to rear creating increased overall vertical shock damping. This dramatically improves on-road handling, and dampens body roll and pitch.


Four-channel Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) with Brake Assist (BA) and Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) is standard on all 4Runner models. While ABS helps to prevent the wheels from locking during severe braking conditions, EBD detects the differences in front- and rear-wheel speeds and dispenses the proper braking force to all four wheels. The BA function helps a driver who may not be depressing the pedal hard enough during emergency braking conditions by seeing how much and how hard the pedal has been depressed, and then generating more brake force.

All 4Runners are equipped with standard Vehicle Skid Control (VSC) with traction control (TRAC). VSC uses the braking system to help the driver maintain control in adverse driving conditions, while TRAC reduces tire slippage during acceleration. 4WD models use an additional yaw sensor, deceleration sensor, and control algorithms to deliver smoother torque on any surface, and low-range and locked center differential conditions.

New cargo area backup mirrors are located on the D-pillars and come standard on all models equipped with a base grade Deluxe audio system. The mirrors assist with peripheral vision when backing out of a parking space or getting a sense of what’s moving outside.

Additional standard safety features include seat belts in front and rear with ALR and ELR, soft upper interior trim, and optional front and rear side curtain airbags and front-row side impact airbags.


Side mirrors are further angled out to improve the driver’s field of view and lower wind noise. An available moonroof has a two-stage automatic pop-up wind deflector to lower wind noise. The full height of the moonroof deflector will lower to an intermediate height when the vehicle is traveling over 55 MPH, and raise to full height again when the vehicle speed drops below 45 MPH and the roof is fully open.

All exterior glass shields 94 percent or more of UV rays. The windshield, side windows and side mirrors are hydrophilic glass with an outer surface that is water repellent. The glass causes water to form large drops, which is more easily shed by gravity or wind.

The back hatch door has a standard power window, and an electric release switch and power opener for easy opening - and an electric power close function to ensure it is not partially ajar.

Eight-way driver- (plus power adjustable lumbar support) and four-way passenger adjustable interior front seats. The have solid bolsters, adjustable height, and bottom cushion angle. The premium Limited grade comes with leather trim power seats with front electric seat heaters. The rear seats are a 60/40-split configuration to allow for added cargo space. The seats fold flat easily with no need to remove the headrests. A fold down rear seat center armrest is extra wide and includes an integrated pull-out convenience tray with two cupholders.

The rear storage area includes structural steel tie-down hooks on the floor with additional storage hooks on the sidewalls. A new double decker rear storage shelf with a cargo net allows occupants to organize cargo in two levels. The one-hand collapsible shelf can be folded flat or lifted up easily with one hand to accommodate larger cargo items. The sturdy shelf has a weight capacity of 66 pounds. A large storage box is also located on the right-hand side of the luggage deck with other storage boxes over the rear wheel wells and left side of the luggage deck.

A two-tone dashboard holds a three-pod instrument cluster with orange illumination. The cluster incorporates a vehicle level sensor that detects when the vehicle is on an incline and digitally compensates the fuel gauge reading.

Automatic climate control is standard and features three new style non-rotary toggle controls. The Limited grade comes with a dual-zone temperature control. A multi-information display, located just above the climate control, displays the climate control status. The multi-display also reveals time, ambient temperature, fuel range meter, average speed, and average fuel consumption.

A new GPS navigation system is available on all 4Runner models. The GPS system includes a touch-screen monitor with voice guidance through the driver door speaker. The ECU with a DVD drive is located in the right rear side of the cargo area. Quick multiple route searches can locate over two million points of interest that are stored in the Toyota map database. Additional navigation features include English and French voice guidance, 14 map display zoom in-out steps, a linear touch scroll function, four different screen color combinations, and memo calendar.

The base stereo is an AM/FM/Cassette/CD with six speakers and an in-glass FM diversity antenna. A JBL Synthesis system is optional.

A gated shifter on an extra wide center console leads to a center armrest with a fold-out convenience tray, and is equipped with rear HVAC ducts and a trash bag holder for rear passengers.

The front driver and passenger doors have been designed with a storage bin equipped to hold large books, maps, and a one-half liter beverage bottle. The rear doors contain a storage bin designed to hold two one-half liter beverage bottles.

2005 Toyota 4Runner specifications:

Read about our 4Runner test drive!

Both V6 and V8 engines are four valves per cylinder, dual overhead cam with sequential multiple-port fuel injection, requiring 91 octane unleaded; both are low emissions certified, with a bore of 3.70 inches. The sole transmission is a five-speed electronically controlled automatic putting power to the rear wheels or all four wheels (multi-mode on the V6, full-time on the V8). A Torsen type locking center differential is used. The suspension is independent in front, four-link rigid type in rear with coil springs. The stabilizer bar is 1.14 inches in front (1.18 with four wheel drive), .83 inches in back. Stopping power is provided by 12.6 or 13.3 inch pads in front (for 16 and 17 inch wheels, respectively) and 12.3 inch pads in back; all four are discs with standard electronically controlled and distributed antilock brakes. A foot-operated emergency brake is used across the board.

inside the Toyota 4Runner Limited

Steering is variable gear, power-assisted rack and pinion, with a 15.6:1 overall ratio, 3.04 turns to lock, and a 37.4 foot turning diameter. The engine takes an unusually large amount of oil - 6.4 quarts on the V6 and 6.0 on the V8 (we don't understand this). The gas tank is the same for both engines, holding 23 gallons.

Engine Measure V6 V8 Dimension Inches
Displacement 3956cc 4664 cc Wheelbase 109.8
Compression ratio 10.0:1 9.6:1 Length x width 189 x 73.8
Horsepower 245@5,200 270@5,400 Tread 62
Torque 282@3,800 330@3,400 Ground Clearance 8.9 (2WD), 9.1 (4WD)
EPA gas mileage (RWD) 18/21 16/20 Approach/Dep'ture Angles 31 and 24 degrees
Gas mileage (4WD) 17/21 15/19 Ramp Breakover 24 w/hitch, 28 without

Criterion Hummer
2006 Wrangler
2004 Grand
2007 Wrangler Unlimited 2007 Wrangler Unlimited
Running ground clearance 10” 9 10 9.4” 8.5” 8.7 - 10.2” (from rear axle) 10.1 (from rear axle)
Approach angle (degrees) 42 31 44 37 34 41-44” 44.4
Departure angle (degrees) 37 24 40.4 31.5 27 38-40” 40.5
Breakover angle (degrees) 28 25.4 22 20.6 18-20” 20.8

Common repairs

Some 2003-2005 4Runners with the V6 may have an alternator problem after driving in areas where road salt was used, which will show up with the charge warning light. Toyota is aware of the problem and fixed it as a running change, but will also fix affected models under warranty if the problem occurs.

On some models, particularly the generation around 1990, the rear power window may fail because the weatherstripping comes loose and the switch corrodes in the water. Even if the window still works using the key, the switch will have to be replaced in time as the switch and key both use the same mechanism.

Other Toyota 4Runner specifications


First row: 39.7 (w/sunroof 38.3)
Second row: 39.1
Third row: 32.9


First row: 41.8
Second row: 34.6/29.5 (outer, center)
Third row: 24.1

Shoulder Room

First row: 58.0
Second row: 57.2
Third row: 56.7

Hip Room

First row: 55.3
Second row: 55.4
Third row: 48.4

Other dimensions

EPA Passenger Volume (cubic feet) 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
EPA Interior Volume
(cubic feet) w/o double decker: 145.3
w/double decker: 143.8

Weight: 4,045 (2WD SR5) to 4,555 (4WD Limited) pounds

Payload: 1,185 to 1,500 lb

Towing capacity: 5,000 (V6) to 7,300 (2WD V8)

Toyota is rolling out its 2010 4Runner later this month. Scheduled to hit showroom floors on November 22nd, Toyota is anticipating relatively modest sales this year. With peak annual sales of approximately 100,000 units, Toyota has scaled back expectations to about 35,000 units this year. In spite of modest sales, a Toyota spokesman stated, "We're not going to abandon this thing."

Originally based off of the SR5 four-wheel-drive compact pickup truck, production of the 4Runner began in mid-1984. This 5th generation 4Runner marks the 25th anniversary of production. Over 1.8 million 4Runners have been sold in that time, of which roughly 1.3 million- over 75%- are still in operation today.

The 2010 4Runner is available in three grades. The Trail version is the most rugged, intended for heavy off-road use. The SR5 is designed for adventurous families that want on-road comfort during the week. The Limited edition has added features for even greater comfort on-road. A V8 version will be available under the Lexus nameplate.

The 2010 4Runner has a reinforced body-on-frame design featuring a fully boxed frame, high-strength steel and a larger suspension. It's larger, more powerful, more fuel-efficient and more comfortable than previous generations. Toyota hopes to enhance the value of the 4Runner by keeping the price unchanged even with the model improvements.

Pricing for the four-wheel-drive V6 SR5 will carry an MSRP of $30,915. The two-wheel-drive version has an MSRP of $29,175. The two-wheel-drive 4-cylinder version will be available early in 2010 at $27,500.

The 4Runner is designed for the "Social Outdoorsman." The Highlander and Highlander Hybrid are designed for the young, suburban family. The FJ Cruiser is designed for style and off-road fun. The 4Runner's appeal lies somewhere in between. It combines true off-road functionality with a greater emphasis on comfortable on-road travel during the week.

Toyota spokesman Jeremy Neil described the 4Runner as, "the progression from the FJ Cruiser." When that adventurous FJ Cruiser driver has a family, the 4Runner will suit his new responsibilities while allowing him to continue an adventurous lifestyle on the weekends.

The 5th generation 4Runner is built and designed in conjunction with Toyota's subsidiary Hino Motors in Tahara, Japan. The V6 SR5 will account for 78% of production with 17% for the Limited, 4% for the Trail model and 2% of production for the 4-cylinder version.

Features include

Crawl Control, which is essentially off-road cruise control with five selectable speeds that automatically handle throttle and brakes.

Multi-Terrain Select has four driver-selectable modes that regulate wheel spin. The settings are "loose rock," "mud and sand," "mogul" or "rock."

A-TRAC uses the ABS system to automatically brake a slipping wheel and transfer torque to other wheels for better traction.


The 2010 4Runner comes with a 270 hp (at 5600 rpm) 4-liter V-6 that produces 36 more horsepower than the outgoing V-6 and 10 more horsepower than the older V-8. Fuel economy is increased by as much as 10%. The four-wheel-drive model has EPA ratings of 17 mpg city, 22 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined. The two-wheel-drive version gets a slightly better 23 mpg highway. A 4-cylinder version with EPA ratings of 23 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined will also be available.


The new 4Runner has increased aerodynamics both above and below the vehicle. Seating is improved by raised hip points and wider positioning. Second row seating has a 40/20/40 reclining split. It also has a sliding one-touch walk-in function for vehicles with the optional third row seating. Optional third row seating has a 50/50 split and folds flat into the floor.

The sound system includes a "Party Mode" sound equalizer that allows for improved audio quality outside the rear of the vehicle when tailgating or camping. The rear cargo area also comes equipped with both 120-volt and 12-volt outlets. Instead of the third row seating, you can opt for a sliding rear cargo deck with a 440 pound capacity. Wheels are 17-inch aluminum alloy for the SR5 and Trail version; 20-inches for the Limited. All models come standard with a roof rack.


All grades include Toyota's Star Safety System with Vehicle Stability Control, Anti-Lock Brakes and Traction Control. It has eight standard airbags including knee airbags, side curtain airbags for all rows and active headrests for driver and front seat passenger.

General Specifications

The V6 will have a standard towing capacity of 5,000 pounds with a tongue weight of 500 pounds. The 4-cylinder will have a 2,000 pound capacity and 200 pound tongue weight. The new 4Runner is on a global Toyota SUV platform shared with Land Cruiser Prado, Lexus GX and FJ Cruiser. The 4-liter V6 engine is shared with the Tundra full-sized pickup truck, the FJ Cruiser and the Tacoma Compact Truck.

It is engineered specifically for the harsh global markets in the Middle East and Australia. The wheel base is 109.8 inches with a 32 degree maximum climb angle and a 42 degree maximum side-slope angle. Maximum approach angle is 30 degrees (2WD) or 33 degrees (4WD) and maximum departure angle is 26 degrees (24 degrees with hitch receiver). The water fording depth (at walking speed) is 27.6 inches (roughly the top of the tires) and the minimum running ground clearance is 9 inches (2WD) or 9.6 inches (4WD). Skid plates protect the engine, transfer case and fuel tank. There are also two front tow hooks.

This Toyota-focused site copyright © 2000-2023 Zatz LLC.