Toyota's 4Runner is a tough SUV that is more at home off-road than on-road.


Toyota's 4Runner is currently the most popular imported SUV, though it is not nearly as popular as the Ford Explorer and other domestic models. It is also slightly smaller than the Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee, it's closest rivals. Despite this it does not perform as well on the highway as it is heavier and more trucklike.

The vast majority of 4Runners on the market have a V-6 engine and four-wheel-drive. About one third are fitted with a manual transmission and most of them have air conditioning and other creature comforts that raise the price rapidly above the base model.

Above all else, though, the 4Runner is a good off-roader. The second-generation model, produced between 1990 and 1995, was based directly off the Toyota pickup truck. This ruggedness makes it a good vehicle for traversing terrain far from the suburban environment where the majority of sport utilities reside nowadays.


What You Need To Know:

1. Review of a 1993 Toyota 4Runner

2. Summary of Good and Bad Points by Owners

3. History of 4Runner

4. Review of Current Model

5. Basic Facts

6. Changes Year-to-Year

7. Safety Information

8. Value Guide

9. Option Installment Rate

10. Sales History

11. Awards and Commendations Earned

12. Other Reviews

13. Recall Information

14. Price of Spare Parts


1. Pre-Owned Vehicle Evaluation - 1993 Toyota 4Runner

Likes: quality feel, ruggedness

Dislikes: so-so performance, high step in, bouncy ride

Competitors: Chevrolet Blazer, Ford Explorer, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder

Miles: 85,800

Condition: B+

Price when new: $25,400 (est.)

Estimated Current Value: $17,005 (March 1999)

Many of today's SUVs are a compromise if you are a serious off-road enthusiast that wants some comfort (sounds like an oxymoron) and the ability to go places. Nothing beats a Jeep Wrangler or a Land Rover Defender when it comes to tackling the worst trails. But they tend to beat the driver when one needs to go any distance on the highway. At the other extreme a Honda CRV or even a two-wheel-drive Ford Explorer might be pleasant enough on the highway but they're limited somewhat when they go off-road. Vehicles such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota 4Runner attempt to offer the best of both worlds and generally they manage it quite well.

I was reminded of this when I climbed up into this smart looking black Toyota 4Runner. With its large off-road tires the 4Runner sat quite high off the ground. This example was an SR5 model with big off-road tires, a V-6 engine and five-speed manual transmission. It could have done with the optional running board to help getting in and out. Despite being nearly six years old it was in good condition with no visible signs of wear. The owner said it had been properly maintained and despite being in two minor accidents in its life I could see absolutely no signs of the repair work.

The biggest disappointment with the vehicle was its lack of snappy performance. Even a manual transmission and a V-6 engine was not enough to haul the relatively heavy vehicle around town. The gearshift was nice and precise and clutch action light. I had no problems with the steering it seemed to provide decent road feel despite the large off-road tires. On city streets at slow speeds the ride was okay but as soon as I got above 40 mph the ride became decidedly bouncy. I didn't get the chance to try the vehicle off-road but from past experience I know that this model is a capable performer when the going gets tough.

What I did notice from the driver's seat was the quality of the fit and finish. For a truck the dashboard is nicely proportioned and shaped like an older luxury car. The speedo and tachometer are squarely in front of the driver while the smaller gauges make use of a horizontal scale rather than round gauges. The cloth seats showed no signs of wear and were still comfortable.

The 4Runner is slightly smaller than its closest rivals, the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee and it has a somewhat more cramped interior. Rear seat accommodation is a little tight and the seats are high up due to the truck chassis. The window in the rear tailgate can be opened electrically by turning the key in the tailgate lock, this is a convenient feature that has only been adopted by other SUVs recently.

If you can find a four-cylinder model the price will be lower but it's not really worth it as the performance is definitely below par. Fortunately, the majority of 4Runners on the road are powered by the V-6 and come with a 4WD system. Since 1993 the 4Runner uses a shift-on-the-fly 4WD system that is a vast improvement over older systems that made you stop before they could be engaged.

Overall a pre-owned 4Runner (prior to 1996) is probably not as good a deal as a Jeep Grand Cherokee or Ford Explorer. The 4Runner costs more, does not have as large a carrying capacity, has less performance and worse fuel economy. On the other hand if you want a tough vehicle to do some serious off-roading the 4Runner might be worth the shortcomings.


2. Summing It Up - Owners' Views

Good:

"Quality, stylish, functional fun-to-drive vehicle"

"Have owned three 4Runners and have not had a single vehicle in for any type of repair problem"

"Easy to get into, particularly like the additional room of the current model ('97)"

"Will definitely buy one again when our current lease expires"

"I like its compactness compared to Grand Cherokee"

"Nicely made, feels sturdy"

Bad:

"Doesn't ride as well as our Grand Cherokee"

"Even the V-6 engine is under powered"


3. History of 4Runner

Toyota introduced the first 4Runner in 1984 when the SUV craze had only just started. Consequently it was not surprising to find that it was nothing much more than a two-door Toyota pickup truck with a glass fiber shell bolted on the back. Compared to other SUVs, such as the Jeep Cherokee and Chevrolet S-10 Blazer, the 4Runner was quite crude but rugged. The roof could be removed for open air motoring in the outback, which was a bonus.

When Toyota introduced the second generation 4Runner in 1990 it improved the vehicle by making the body an all-steel shell, which allowed a four-door version for the first time. By 1993 sales of the two-door version were so low that it was dropped from the lineup. Toyota has continued to offer a base model with a four-cylinder engine. It, along with the V-6 powered 4Runner, has always been available with a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic in either rear-drive or four-wheel-drive.

In 1996 Toyota introduced the third generation 4Runner. In many ways this was the most significant upgrade yet. The new model is built on a different chassis from the pickup truck, although it still utilizes many of the same components. The newest model has a more powerful engine (183 hp vs. 150 hp), it is slightly larger (179 inches vs. 176 inches) yet is lighter in weight (3440 lbs. vs. 3760 lbs.) and consumes less gasoline (16 mpg vs. 14 mpg in the city). Not a bad combination of improvements.


4. Review of Current 4Runner

At first sight the current version of the 4Runner, first introduced in 1996, does not look all that different from its forerunner. However it does not take long to discover that it is a much better vehicle. I tried an SR5 with a V-6 engine, automatic transmission and 4WD. The performance is better, the ride has improved and rear seat passengers will find there is more room than before. The ride height is still tall and the off-road capabilities are still on par. During a 1000-mile drive I returned an average of 19 mpg which is not too bad.

All told Toyota has done an admirable job of retaining the good attributes of the 4Runner while improving the numerous shortcomings of the previous model. Of course, while Toyota has improved the 4Runner its competitors have not stood still. If you're mainly interested in using a SUV around town and you want some luxury appointments a vehicle from a domestic manufacturer may still fit the bill better. However if you want to go off roading the 4Runner has more to commend it now than previously.


5. Basic Facts: 1990 - 1995 4Runner

Vehicle Type: Compact SUV

No. Passengers: up to five

Origin of assembly: Tahara, Japan

Engine: (standard): 2.4-liter 116 hp I-4

(optional): 3.0-liter 150 hp V-6

Transmission: 5-spd manual, 4-spd automatic; rear-drive or 4WD

Length: 176 inches

Wheelbase: 103 inches

Width: 67 inches

Height: 66 inches

Curb weight: 3700 lbs. (approx.)

Cargo volume: 78 cu. ft.

Fuel tank capacity: 17 gals.

Fuel Economy (EPA City/Highway): 19/21 (2.4-liter, manual); 15/18 (3.0-liter, manual); 14/16 (3.0-liter, auto)


6. Changes in the Toyota 4Runner Line 1990 - 1999

1990 Model Year (first year of new model)

All-new second generation 4Runner introduced

1991 Model Year

Minor changes

1992 Model Year

Minor styling changes

1993 Model Year

Improved 4WD system

1994 Model Year

Optional ABS offered on V-6 model

1995 Model Year

No changes

1996 Model Year (first year of new model)

Third generation model introduced

Standard 2.7-liter, 150 hp, 4-cylinder engine

Optional 3.4-liter, 183 hp, V-6 engine

Wheelbase lengthened two inches

ABS standard on V-6 models

1997 Model Year

Minor changes

1998 Model Year

Minor interior changes

1999 Model Year

New multi-mode 4WD system on Limited model

Redesigned front fascia

Numerous minor upgrades


7. Safety Notes

NHTSA Crash rating (95 model year): Driver 1; Passenger 4 (5 is best)

ABS optional on V-6 models until 1995, standard on all V-6 models from 1996

Dual air bags standard from 1996


8. Value Guide

Prices listed are for base models. Options can add considerably to the lowest price listed as these are usually "stripped" models. In many cases, very few vehicles are ever sold at the lowest price listed! Source: Kelley Blue Book

1992 Model Year

New: $19,493 to $27,743

1993 Model Year

New: $20,243 to $28,392

1994 Model Year

New: $21,733 to $28,782

1995 Model Year

New: $22,145 to $29,963

1996 Model Year (first year of new model)

New: $21,413 to $32,323

1997 Model Year

New: $20,308 to $34,158

1998 Model Year

New: $20,978 to $35,038


9. Option Installment Rate

Generally, when you order a new car you have a choice of factory-installed options. When you buy a pre-owned vehicle the choice is limited to what was actually installed on vehicles sold in that model year. Use this option installment rate as a guide to the chances of finding particular options on a pre-owned vehicle. Source: Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

1992 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

2.4-liter 4-cyl. 4%

3.0-liter V-6 96%

Transmission:

Auto 62%

Manual 38%

4WD: 88%

Air Conditioning: 95%

Cruise Control: 96%

ABS Brakes: 96%

Power Windows: 96%

1993 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

2.4-liter 4-cyl. 3%

3.0-liter V-6 97%

Transmission:

Auto 62%

Manual 38%

4WD: 83%

Air Conditioning: 97%

Cruise Control: 98%

ABS Brakes: 96%

Power Windows: 97%

1994 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

2.4-liter 4-cyl. 3%

3.0-liter V-6 97%

Transmission:

Auto 72%

Manual 28%

4WD: 77%

Air Conditioning: 99%

Cruise Control: 99%

ABS Brakes: 97%

Power Windows: 99%

1995 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

2.4-liter 4-cyl. 3%

3.0-liter V-6 97%

Transmission:

Auto 73%

Manual 27%

4WD: 77%

Air Conditioning: 98%

Cruise Control: 99%

ABS Brakes: 97%

Power Windows: 99%

1996 Model Year (first year of new model)

Installment Rate

Engine:

2.4-liter 4-cyl. 4%

3.0-liter V-6 96%

Transmission:

Auto 80%

Manual 20%

4WD: 85%

Air Conditioning: 98%

Cruise Control: 97%

ABS Brakes: 95%

Power Windows: 97%

Leather seats: 20%

1997 Model Year

Installment Rate

Engine:

2.4-liter 4-cyl. 4%

3.0-liter V-6 96%

Transmission:

Auto 82%

Manual 18%

4WD: 85%

Air Conditioning: 97%

Cruise Control: 95%

ABS Brakes: 95%

Power Windows: 95%

Leather seats: 29%


10. Production/Sales Volume History

Normally a model year runs from October to September. Often though, when a new version is introduced it hits the market before October. Legally, a model year can start as early as January of the preceding year. Accurate model year sales counts are almost impossible to collect as different model year vehicles are regularly sold side-by-side for several months. Production figures, when listed, often include vehicles made for export to Canada, Mexico and overseas. Source: manufacturers/Ward's Automotive Yearbooks

1992 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1991 through Sept. 1992

Total number produced: NA

Total no. sold in U.S.: 39,977

1993 Model Year

Production run: Oct.1992 through Sept. 1993

Total number produced: NA

Total no. sold in U.S.: 43,881

1994 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1993 through Sept. 1994

Total number produced: NA

Total no. sold in U.S.: 68,208

1995 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1994 through Sept. 1995

Total number produced: NA

Total no. sold in U.S.: 76,344

1996 Model Year (first year of new model)

Production run: Oct. 1995 through Sept. 1996

Total number produced: NA

Total no. sold in U.S.: 93,056

1997 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1996 through Sept. 1997

Total number produced: NA

Total no. sold in U.S.: 124,176

1998 Model Year

Production run: Oct. 1997 through Sept. 1998

Total number produced: NA

Total no. sold in U.S.: 116,577


11. Awards and Commendations

1992

"Best Compact SUV in Initial Quality" - J. D. Power and Associates

1993

"Best Compact SUV in Initial Quality" - J. D. Power and Associates

1994

"Best Compact SUV in Initial Quality" - J. D. Power and Associates

1996

"Most Appealing Compact SUV" - J. D. Power and Associates

1997

"Total Quality Award - Medium SUV Segment" - Strategic Vision

1999

"Best Value SUV Over $25,000" - IntelliChoice


12. Quotes

"While the new 4Runner's forerunners found favor among a contingent of serious off-roaders, the model has been only a bit player in the SUV craze of recent years. Its pickup-truck roots and mountain-goat personality didn't appeal to the suburban car-poolers who made the Ford Explorer as commonplace as free software for America Online." - Autoweek, 1998 Buyers Guide

"The old 4Runner was strictly a nimble kid's machine, since it required quite a climb to get inside. Also, tall drivers were forced to recline a bit to avoid bumping the roof." - Car and Driver, 1998 Buyers Guide


13. Recalls (Only major recalls listed)

None to date

14. Cost of Parts (relative to other vehicles)

Headlight unit: $178 (above average)

Side marker lamp: $51 (average)

Door (left front): $500 (average)

Fender (left front): $128 (below average)

Note: these are estimated retail prices for commonly replaced body parts on a 1995 model. Prices are current as of early 1999 but will vary from region to region and are subject to change at any time. Source: ADP Collision Repair Services


The Rettie Report and Pre-owned Profiles contain objective information from a variety of sources. The subjective comments are those of John Rettie.

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