Since 1985, Toyota has been building the 4Runner
sport utility vehicle. It has seen mostly minor updates throughout
the years with major changes coming only twice prior to the 2003
model. This fourth generation 4Runner is a far cry from the original
and resembles it in basic shape and spirit only.
released in 1984, the 4Runner was more on the utility side than
it is today, with its solid axles and removable bed cap. The old
trucks have become favorites among the Toyota four-wheeling crowd
because of their durability and trail capabilities. Today's 4Runner
and most years prior have worn independent front suspension (IFS),
which has not been a favorite of the dedicated off-roaders, but
as the target audience for the truck has moved away from the small
hardcore segment and into the family vehicle realm, Toyota has
recognized that what the majority of the owners want is a more
car-like ride. And like almost all of Toyota's competition, selling
cars means making the majority happy.
has a two-vehicle strategy for their mid-size SUV category. For
those who want an SUV but prefer a totally car-like ride, they
offer the Highlander.
Based on the Camry, the Highlander is virtually unbeatable as
far as on-road comfort goes and has many features borrowed from
mini vans. Just don't try taking it off-road anywhere.
2003 Toyota 4Runner Sport Edition
who want a more aggressive look and who want "the real-deal"
Toyota offers the 4Runner. We had a 2002 4Runner Limited for review
during the summer. Though the truck was nice and well-loaded with
features, the cabin was cramped and the ride was nothing short
of jarring. Hitting bumps on the highway would send shock waves
through your kidneys and sometimes send you toward an adjoining
lane, as well. While we like our SUVs to have truck-like driving
characteristics, the 2002 4Runner was a bit on the uncivilized
side for us - especially considering the price tag.
all this, though. They acknowledged that US buyers wanted more
room, too. We're bigger folks and we like our space! Through last
year, Toyota had limited the truck's physical dimensions in order
to meet foreign market regulations - coming in right at the maximum
sizes for some locals. Knowing that Americans wanted more space,
the decision was made to make the new 4Runner bigger. The smaller,
foreign markets would bear the brunt of tax penalties imposed
by the larger size, but we in the states get our bigger truck.
The third generation
of the 4Runner began was a preview, so to speak, of the future Tacoma
pickup. For 2003, the 4Runner is no longer related to the Tacoma
and has its own platform. This new platform's body-on-ladder-frame
gives the truck an additional 5.7 inches in length, with a four
inch longer wheelbase (109.8") and gives the front passengers
two more inches of legroom and rear passengers 1.5" more. In
addition, the width has been increased, allowing two more inches
between front passengers. After driving the '02 model, we can definitely
say the room is more than just a little noticeable.
Dimensional increases for 2003 4Runner
also answered the US market's call for a more docile ride on the
road. The new 4Runner's suspension is equipped with rack-and-pinion
steering and coil springs over gas shocks at all corners. Double
wishbone suspension is up front, while the rear is a four-link
or can be ordered with air suspension in the Limited models with
V8 engine. The air allows the rear of the 4Runner to go up 40mm
or down 15mm. Did we say V8? We sure did. Read on.
Front Suspension |
X-REAS Shock System
the Sport Edition and optional on the Limited is a new diagonal-linked
shock system developed by Yamaha, dubbed X-REAS. The system was
developed and implemented earlier on Supras and has been updated
and redesigned specifically for the 4Runner. X-REAS essentially
cross-links front and rear shock reservoirs on opposite sides
of the vehicle. A central control absorber contains a free piston
that pushes against a low-pressure nitrogen charge. An orifice
senses motion across the vehicle and varies dampening to the appropriate
shocks. Think of it this way. As the truck rounds a curve to the
left, the rear, driver side shock is relieved while the front,
passenger side is increased. This helps to keep the truck more
level and in control, instead of diving to the front, passenger
side. We got the chance to wail on the 4Runner through some nice
country road twisties and we can tell you that they got it right.
The new 4Runner handles great.