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SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyer's Guide

Toyota 4Runner Limited

by - John Heilig


ENGINE: 3.4-liter V-6 
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 183@4800 rpm/217 lb.-ft. @3600 rpm 
TRANSMISSION: Four-speed automatic 
FUEL ECONOMY: 17 mpg city, 19 mpg highway, 16.3 mpg test 
WHEELBASE: 105.3 in. 
OVERALL LENGTH: 178.7 in. 
OVERALL Height: 68.7in. 
OVERALL WIDTH: 66.5 in.     
CURB WEIGHT: 3880 lbs.     
FUEL CAPACITY: 18.5 gal. 
CARRYING CAPACITY: 44.6/79.7 cu. ft. (rear seat up/down) 
TIRES: P265/70R16
INSTRUMENTS: Speedometer, tachometer, fuel level, water temperature,
             digital clock. 
EQUIPMENT: Power windows, power door locks, power mirrors, power seats, heated seats,
           cruise control, air conditioner, AM-FM stereo radio with cassette and CD,
           sunroof, anti-lock braking, dual air bags. 
STICKER PRICE: $35,000 (est.)

For 1996, Toyota has redesigned its popular 4Runner, which is (now) its middle of-the-line sport utility.

4Runner began its career a long time ago as basically a plastic-top option for a pickup truck. Eventually the plastic top was replaced by a permanent hardtop. It added four seats, and in the previous iteration became a full-fledged sport utility, taking its stand alongside the Toyota Land Cruise, which had been around since forever, it seemed.

The present version of the 4Runner still displays its pickup roots, as you can see from the profile. It isn't stubby like many sport utilities; it still has the longer "bed" of a pickup. So you can see from whence Toyota derived the vehicle. But it is a good conversion, obviously, as can be seen by its popularity.

For this year, the 4Runner was redesigned with a smoother front end and a rear that fits more uniformly with the front so it looks less like a pickup. There are also great amenities inside to make it seem more sedan-like.

The new 4Runner was introduced at the same time in the Northeast as the RAV4, and comparisons between the two were inevitable. I had a chance to drive the RAV4 for about three hours to the 4Runner intro over yucky roads, but roads that weren't impassable. We then drove the 4Runner over absolutely horrible roads as a snowstorm invaded the area. The snow covering was so bad, in fact, that Toyota abandoned the 4WD demo because of the quantity of wet, icy snow. We then drove back over (surprisingly) dry roads in the RAV4. So it would be difficult for the 4Runner to come off well in circumstances like that.

However, in the extended test, the 4Runner showed its true colors. Granted, we didn't have miserable roads to test it on, but it did comport itself very well.

4Runner Limited is powered by a 3.4-liter V-6 that is rated at xxx horsepower and drives the rear wheels (when not in 4WD mode) through a four-speed automatic gearbox. This is fine and definitely enough power. We drove the vehicle on back-country roads and in snow. I also had an opportunity to drive it on my favorite mountain road and in New York City. So it got a good test.

The 4Runner didn't fare poorly as an Urban Guerrilla car, although it wouldn't have been my first choice for the ride. We were able to go back and forth fairly well between the traffic. Fortunately, the morning of Press Day was a light traffic day, so it wasn't too bad. We also carried two other passengers to the city, and our rear seat passenger didn't complain about a lack of leg room.

Additional amenities were dual cupholders in front and back, so we could all have our morning nectar for the ride.

The transfer case shifter is a "gear lever" in the center console. It is easy to engage and was not a problem to use. We did get to use it on snowy roads and control was reasonably good. .

Advantages that the 4Runner has are an assist handle on the offered side (many cars have them for the passengers), which is helpful because that first step is a tall one. For the passenger, there's a grab handle over the door and one on the A-Frame.

Riding comfort is good. We had leather-faced seats that offered good side support up front and the rear seat was also comfortable. In addition, the rear seat was split and folded to increase carrying capacity. The 4Runner was more like an extended station wagon with 4WD.

4Runner is a nice, solid vehicle. One gets the impression that almost anything designed by Toyota can't be too bad. It offers a lot of amenities and will compete in the high end against the Eddie Bauer Explorer and Mountaineer as well as the Bravada and high end Jimmy. It isn't your base sport utility, but since most people don't use sport utilities for their design purpose, the more luxurious Limited edition is excellent.

And if you do choose to use it off road, it won't leave you stranded.