Although Toyota has added a luxury edition and a new trim stripe or two, the 4Runner rolls into the new model year virtually unchanged. That’s because there’s an all-new 4Runner just around the corner, due in early 1995.
That’s far enough away so that we haven’t had a chance to see or drive one yet, and details are shrouded in secrecy. What we know for sure is that the next generation will have more power, thanks to a new 3.4-liter V6, the same engine offered as an option on this fall’s Toyota T100 pickup.
Does that mean wait for the new model? Not necessarily. The current 4Runner continues to be an attractive player in the compact sport/utility game, and its quality ratings are the best. You might have a chance for an excellent close-out buy when Toyota dealers clear their current inventories to make room for the new model.
There’s not much to report regarding the ’95 4Runner exterior - this is a thoroughly familiar face. The 4Runner shares its smooth lines with Toyota’s Compact Truck, which is also due for a complete redesign that will hit showrooms in the fall of 1995.
Like some of the other sport/utility manufacturers, Toyota calls its new luxury edition the 4Runner Limited. And like other special editions, it’s basically a comfort/convenience package, with leather upholstery, air conditioning, a premium sound system, lots of power equipment, lots of chrome and carpeted floor mats with the word Limited monogrammed on them.
The 4Runner lineup is otherwise the same: 2- or 4-wheel drive, 4- or 6-cylinder engine, and 5-speed manual transmission or 4-speed automatic. Interestingly, the 4-cylinder -116 hp, 140 pound-feet of torque - is only available on 4WD models. If you want rear-drive only, you wind up with the 3.0-liter V6 that, in our opinion, is preferable in any case.
We made our test drive in a V6-powered 4Runner SR5 with a 5-speed manual transmission, 4WD, and big 31 in. x 10.5 in. tires that help ground clearance and traction for off-road driving. Our tester had a full array of power equipment plus air conditioning, an AM/FM stereo with a cassette player and cruise control.
In fact, all it needed to become a 4Runner Limited was a little exterior brightwork, leather seats and, of course, those embossed floor mats.
Like all Toyotas, our 4Runner was attractively finished inside with high-quality cloth upholstery. Leather may be more luxurious, but many drivers prefer the breathability of cloth upholstery for extended driving.
The instrument panel design looks contemporary with major gauges well-located for easy reading and secondary controls within easy reach. There’s also adequate storage for small objects: door-panel map pockets, a small storage well in the high center console, a cubbyhole below the ashtray and a trio of coin slots just behind the shifter.
Of course cupholders are a must in any vehicle for the U.S. market today, and the 4Runner has a pair mounted in a pop-out slide just below the vents at the top of the dashboard. Unfortunately, if you're using the cupholders you can't’ get to the climate controls.
The front bucket seats in our tester were very snug and supportive, with deep side bolsters to help keep you in place when you’re rattling around in the outback.. However, some drivers may find them a little too snug, and their padding may be a tad firm for some tastes.
Compared with best-sellers such as the Ford Explorer and the new Chevrolet Blazer/GMC Jimmy twins, the 4Runner’s rear-seat legroom doesn’t measure up very well. Adults riding in the back will feel distinctly cramped.
Climbing in or out of either set of seats is more of a chore, for several reasons, than it is in some competing sport/utilities. First, the distance between the tops of the doors and the sills isn’t very high. Second, the rear door opening is relatively narrow. Third, the 4Runner’s ground clearance, exaggerated by the 31-in. tires, makes for a high step-in. Passenger-assist handles at all doors make this maneuver easier, but it’s still a climb.
With no airbags, the 4Runner also lags its competition a bit in the area of passive safety, although we expect this to be corrected in the next generation. It does have side-impact door beams and an automatic locking seat belt feature for outboard seating positions.
Rear-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS) are standard on V6-powered 4 Runners and optional on the 4-cylinder models, with 4-wheel ABS available as an option only on V6 models.
Riding on its big tires that increase ground clearance to 10.1 in., our 4Runner provided a tall-in-the-saddle view of surrounding traffic, something most sport/utility owners enjoy. And all that ground clearance is great when you’re picking your way down a rock-strewn path in the boonies.
However, that high stance doesn’t improve the 4Runner’s handling at all. The higher a vehicle sits, the higher its center of gravity. Combine that with modest body roll and you’ve got a rig that isn’t very agile for street driving.
Ride quality is another story. Even without the tall tires, the 4Runner does a good job of isolating the driver and passengers from sharp bumps, and it sops up washboard sections of gravel roads with gusto.
Suspension systems with lots of travel are at their best when the going gets really rough, and the 4Runner’s on-demand 4WD system - Toyota calls it 4Wheel Demand - is a real asset for this kind of work because it can be engaged or disengaged while you’re rolling.
We like our 4Runner’s 5-speed manual transmission. The shift-throws are a little long, but gear selection is precise and the clutch action is smooth and forgiving - no lurches or stalls.
But we weren’t quite as impressed with the performance of the 3.0-liter V6. This engine is a proven quantity with an excellent service record behind it, and it’s generally smooth and quiet - until the driver starts making demands. After all, with 4WD the 4Runner gets to be a pretty heavy chunk, weighing in at more than 2 tons.
When we pushed the tachometer needle past 3500 rpm, the 4Runner V6 began sounding pretty busy, and above 4000 rpm it felt as if it were running out of oomph. It won’t pull itself up long grades in fifth gear and passing power is limited.
Toyota rates this vehicle’s towing capacity at 3500 lb. We don’t question this, but we do think that towing a 3500-lb. trailer would require some patience. If you have a log of medium-heavy towing planned for your new sport/ute - say, 2500 lb. or more - this may not be the right vehicle for you.
Although the current 4Runner has some power limitations (even with the V6 engine), it does offer a number of positive qualities. The styling is familiar but attractive, ride quality is smooth and ground clearance is as good as anything in its class.
Incidentally, even though the 31-in. tires give the 4Runner an alluringly macho look and they perform well off road, we recommend the standard tires. They make entry and exit easier and they’re much quieter on the street.
It’s true that the 4Runners are far from cheap. But quality and durability are important factors in any value story, and Toyota gets top marks for these factors with virtually every vehicle it makes, this one included.
Besides, with this version of the 4Runner nearing the end of its production run, you just might find one at bargain prices.
And nothing drives as sweet as a bargain.
|Model Line Overview |
|Base Price (MSRP) |
|Model lineup: |
|Safety equipment (Standard): |
|Safety equipment (Optional): |
|Basic warranty: |
|3 years/36,000 miles |
|Assembled in: |
|Specifications As Tested |
|Model tested (MSRP): |
|Standard equipment: |
|Options as tested: |
|Destination charge: |
|Gas Guzzler Tax: |
|Price as tested (MSRP) |
|2.4-liter 4-cylinder |
|Horsepower (hp @ rpm): |
|160 @ 4800 |
|Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm): |
|140 @2800 |
|EPA fuel economy, city/hwy: |
|19/22 mpg. |
|103.3 in. |
|176/66.5/66.1 in. |
|Track, f/r: |
|56.3/56.1 in. |
|Turning circle: |
|Seating capacity: |
|Head/hip/leg room, f: |
|38.7/49.6/41.5 in. |
|Head/hip/leg room, m: |
|Head/hip/leg room, r: |
|Cargo volume: |
|Towing capacity: |
|Suspension F: |
|Torsion bar upper/lower A-arm, gas-filled shocks, stabilizer bar |
|Suspension R: |
|Coil spring, gas filled shocks, stabilizer bar |
|Ground clearance: |
|9.1 in. |
|Curb weight: |
|3760 lbs. |
|Brakes, f/r: |
|11.4-in. disc/11.6-in. drum in. |
|Fuel capacity: |