Why Toyota's Fourth Gen. 4Runner Is the Best of Them

Genevieve Fraser
· 5 min read
Toyota
has a well-earned reputation for making some great cars, and that's especially true when it comes to the Toyota 4Runner. That being said, the 4Runner has had a long history, and there are a lot of model years to choose from.
As it turns out, the latest 4Runner may not be the best. The older fourth-generation 4Runner stands out above the rest, offering a great balance between power, features, and style, all without breaking the bank.
The Toyota 4Runner is a reliable, powerful SUV that has incredible longevity.

Reliability, power, and overall value for the fourth-generation Toyota 4Runner

As
Canadian Gearhead
explained, this generation of the 4Runner—with model years spanning from 2003 to 2009—is the best of the bunch for many reasons. Off the bat, these models offer the same reliability that Toyota is known for.
With proper maintenance, 4th gen. 4Runners can run for at least 500,000 miles, which is pretty incredible.
The big difference between this generation and other generations lies under the hood. This is the only generation of the 4Runner to come with an optional 4.7-liter V8 engine—the same one to be featured in other Toyotas like the Tundra pickup and the Sequoia.
It was fit for Toyota’s luxury Lexus brand, also powering the GX470.
Specs for the V8 varied with the model year. The older 2003-2004 versions get 235 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque, while the models from 2005 and beyond get 270 horsepower and 330 lb-ft of torque.
The 4.0-liter V6 that comes standard with fourth-generation 4Runners is pretty good, too. According to Canadian Gearhead, it offers 245 hp and 283 lb-ft of torque, and features in the Toyota Land Cruiser, Tundra, FJ Cruiser, and Tacoma, as well.
While this engine is less powerful and less refined than the V8, the V6 is ultimately more reliable and offers better fuel efficiency.
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The fourth-generation 4Runner’s fuel efficiency, towing capacity, and platform

MORE: Good Luck Finding a New Toyota 4Runner at Car Dealerships
The V8 gets 15 mpg in the city and 19 mpg on the highway, while the V6 gets 17 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. These aren’t great numbers, but the other benefits of the fourth generation 4Runner help to offset this drawback.
The 4Runner has impressive towing capacity for its midsize SUV class. The V6 can tow up to 5,000 lbs, but the V8 pushes that number up to 7,000 lbs for four-wheel-drive vehicles and 7,300 lbs for two-wheel drive.
In fact, when equipped with the V8, this 4Runner generation had the highest towing capacity of all 4Runner generations.
According to Canadian Gearhead, the fourth generation 4Runner shares its global 120 Series platform with other Toyotas like the FJ Cruiser, Land Cruiser Prado, Lexus GX470, Tacoma (the Hilux in other markets), the Hilux Surf, and the fifth-generation 4Runner.
Because of this, replacement parts are readily available and pretty affordable, which is a huge bonus in terms of keeping vehicle maintenance costs down. This is especially because you’re likely to shell out a little more for gas with the 4Runner.

The 4Runner has timeless features

MORE: Toyota Made a Bold Change to the 4Runner to Give it Broader Appeal
Since the fourth-generation 4Runners are now rather aged, the vehicles don’t come with all the modern features you would expect today. Regardless, the 4Runners are still comfortable and attractively styled, overall.
The base SR5 trim was the most popular in its day, but the least impressive. Move up to the Sport Edition and you’ll get a smoked chrome grille, 17-inch six-spoke wheels, and X-REAS suspension, among other features.
The top-of-the-line Limited trim includes upgrades like heated leather-upholstered seating, dual-zone climate control, and a JBL Synthesis sound system. V8-equipped 4Runners are fitted with rear air suspension, and Limited trims produced in 2006 and beyond feature larger 18-inch six-spoke wheels.
Towards the end of the fourth generation, the Urban Runner and Trail Edition 4Runners were released, and they are highly prized today.
The Urban Runner was a deluxe appearance package, adding unique Alcantara upholstery to the Sport Edition and including select Limited features.
The Trail Edition was an off-road upgrade to the base SR5. It was only offered as a 4x4 with the V6 engine, and combined the 4Runner’s “mature styling” with the FJ Cruiser’s capability, according to Canadian Gearhead.
The clean, simple styling of the fourth generation 4Runner is perhaps one of its best features. It looks timeless decades later. All in all, if you’re looking for a powerful, reliable, and sophisticated used SUV, the fourth generation 4Runner is a solid choice.
Purchasing a reliable used 4Runner can save you money in the long run, but so can shopping around for your car insurance.
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