Midsize SUV; Built in Japan
  • 4-door wagon
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $7,700 – $26,500*


2003 Toyota 4Runner


2004 Toyota 4Runner


2005 Toyota 4Runner


Toyota 4Runner interior

Pros:
  • Cargo room
  • Control layout
  • Visibility
Cons:
  • Entry/exit
  • Fuel economy

Some competitors offer a smoother ride and sharper on-road handling, but no comparably priced truck-type SUV beats the 4Runner for powertrain polish, off-road ability, and overall refinement. Few match its array of standard safety features and traction-enhancers. Toyota’s reputation for reliability is another plus, but high resale values keep secondhand prices on the hefty side.

Overview

For 2003, Toyota redesigned its truck-based midsize sport-utility vehicle for the first time in seven years, giving it larger dimensions, new features, and its first available V8 engine. The 4Runner gained 4.5 inches in wheelbase and overall length, more than 3 inches in width, and 2 inches in height. Weight also escalated, by some 200 pounds.

Despite the size increase, head and leg room remained about the same, though shoulder space and cargo volume grew slightly. Three models were offered: SR5, Sport, and Limited. Each seated five on front buckets (with height-adjustable driver’s seat) and a split folding rear bench. No third-row seat was offered.

A power tailgate window was again standard. A V6 engine also remained standard, but it was now a 245-horsepower 4.0-liter, instead of the previous 183-hp 3.4-liter. The optional V8 was the 4.7-liter, also used in Toyota’s Sequoia full-size SUV, here tuned to produce 235 horsepower. While the V6 produced more horsepower, the V8 made more torque: 320 pound-feet, versus 283 for the V6. Both engines used automatic transmissions: a four-speed for the V6 and a new five-speed for the V8.

The 4Runner came with rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The V6’s 4WD system could be left engaged on dry pavement, and V8 models got all-wheel drive. Both 4WD systems included low-range gearing.

Traction control and an antiskid system continued as standard. Antilock brakes also remained standard, but with four-wheel discs instead of the prior disc/drum setup. Standard 16-inch wheels replaced 15s, made of steel rather than alloy. Sport and Limited models rode on 17-inch alloys.

For the first time, the 4Runner was available with side airbags: a combination of front torso and head-protecting front/rear curtain side airbags. Other new options included a navigation system, rear-seat audio with wireless headphones, and a rear air suspension. Maximum towing capacity was 5000 pounds.

With the 4Runner, Toyota competed against the Acura MDX, Ford Explorer, and Toyota’s own Highlander. The 4Runner shared its platform with the new GX 470 from Toyota’s Lexus division.

Yearly Updates

2004 4Runner
Toyota’s truck-based SUV gained an optional third-row seat for 2004, along with an available rearview monitor. The already-available navigation system could now be equipped with a TV camera that displayed a rear view on the dashboard screen when Reverse gear was selected. The new two-passenger third-row seat option joined an available rear-seat audio system with wireless headphones. Hill Descent Control, standard on 4WD/AWD models, was designed to maintain a slow, steady speed down steep slopes. A similar Hill Ascent Control was also standard. The available curtain side airbags were now designed to deploy when sensors detected an impending rollover. A firmer suspension was standard on Sport models and optional for the Limited. A load-leveling rear air-spring suspension was available for V8 Limiteds.
2005 4Runner
Toyota’s V8 engine gained 35 horsepower in 2005, now rated at 270. A five-speed automatic transmission replaced the four-speed unit in V6 models. A sunroof was now optional on all models, no longer standard on the Limited.
2006 4Runner
There were no changes for the 2006 4Runner.
2007 4Runner
4Runner carried over unchanged.
2008 4Runner
The 2008 Toyota 4Runner was largely unchanged.
2009 4Runner
Once again, the 4Runner saw few changes.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/rear- or all-wheel drive

Toyota’s 4Runner could have either V6 or V8 power. The 4.0-liter dual-overhead-cam V6 generated 245 horsepower and 283 pound-feet of torque, driving a four-speed automatic transmission. A five-speed automatic was used for the 4.7-liter V8, which developed 235 horsepower and 320 pound-feet. The V8 rose to 270 horsepower in 2005, and V6 models got the five-speed automatic. A 4Runner may be equipped with rear-wheel drive or four-wheel/all-wheel drive.

dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.7/285
Engine HP 235
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 320
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

15/19

15.5

dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.0/241
Engine HP 245
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 282-283
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic
5-speed automatic
17/21
17/21
dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.7/285
Engine HP 270
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 330
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

15/19

With 2WD, the EPA rating is 18/21 or 18/22 mpg for the V6 and 16/20 mpg for the V8 engine.

Road Test

Toyota’s V6 engine is more than adequate for most needs. The V8 feels no faster in most situations, though its extra muscle is handy for towing or with a full passenger or cargo load. Both engines are refined; the Lexus-developed V8 runs with uncanny smoothness. That description also applies to Toyota’s responsive five-speed automatic transmission. Hill Descent Control can be useful off-road.

A test AWD V8 Sport averaged 15.5 mpg. Toyota recommends 91-octane premium fuel for both engines.

Though the 4Runner’s ride is not as smooth as car-based SUVs, like Toyota’s own Highlander, it copes well with small bumps. Rough surfaces cause bounce and “aftershock” jiggle–typical of truck-based SUVs. The sport suspension is only slightly stiffer. The load-leveling setup doesn’t affect ride quality.

Considerable heft and a tall stance contribute to substantial body lean in turns. The 4Runner never feels nimble, but the Sport’s suspension helps reduce lean and bobbing motions. Steering is nicely weighted. Brakes feel strong and afford great pedal modulation. Toyota’s standard antiskid system enhances control.

Among the quieter SUVs, the 4Runner does exhibit wind rush and tire roar at highway speeds, but neither is severe. The sunroof’s unique angle-adjusting deflector cuts buffeting. Both engines are quiet in normal operation, and the V8 emits only a muted whine under full throttle.

Deeply recessed gauges can be difficult to read. Controls are conveniently arrayed and work with typical Toyota smoothness, but markings may be too small for some eyes. Standard automatic climate control is simple and versatile. All trim levels feature nicely appointed two-tone interiors.

Front seats are comfortable, though set relatively low to the floor. The driving position is easily tailored, with its standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel, height-adjustable seat, and power lumbar adjustment. Plenty of cupholders are available, along with small-items storage. Visibility is fine to all quarters. Models with an upgraded audio system have novel wide-angle mirrors inside rear roof pillars, which expose some blind spots when backing up. The 4Runner’s off-road stance creates lofty step-in height. Though illuminated, running boards can be a hindrance when exiting.

The backseat is nicely contoured, but low mounting means adults sit knees-up. Head room is generous, but toe space is poor unless front seat cushions are elevated. Three-across is a squeeze. A clever bag holder folds from the rear of the front console. Entry/exit is hampered by the tall step-in.

The split rear seat folds without removing headrests. The cargo area has handy tie-downs, nets, and cubbies. The liftgate has power open/close and a power window instead of flip-up glass.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2004 4Runner SR5 w/V6 and 4WD

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 5
50%
Fuel Economy - 4
40%
Ride Quality - 5
50%
Steering/Handling - 4
40%
Quietness - 5
50%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 7
70%
Room/Comfort Front - 7
70%
Room/Comfort Rear - 6
60%
Cargo Room - 8
80%

Other

Value - 8
80%

Total: 59

Specifications

4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
109.8 187.8 73.8 68.5
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
75.1 23.0 7
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
39.7 39.1 43.7 34.7
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2003 4Runner 4-door wagon

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
80%
Front Passenger Injury - 4
80%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - 5
100%
Rear Passenger Injury - 5
100%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Blower motor
Description: Blower air volume may gradually decrease as ice builds up in the blower motor housing. (2003-06)
Brake noise
Description: Vehicles with hill-hold feature make a ratcheting sound if the brake is released on a steep hill, because system not designed for severe inclines. (2003-05)
Exhaust system
Description: If there is an excessive sulfur odor from the exhaust, the PCM (engine computer) will be reprogrammed and the catalytic converter replaced under the emissions warranty. (2003-05)
Hard starting
Description: Occasional no-start of V8 engine after hot soak due to faulty cam position sensor. (2005-06)
Oil leak
Description: Oil may leak from the timing cover on the 4.0L V6 engine. (2003-07)
Audio system
Description: The audio system may be noisy when using an external MP3 player requiring installation of an in-line filter. (2006-08)
Rear wipers
Description: The rear wiper may not clean adequately because it has gotten bent and there is a stouter countermeasure wiper arm available. (2003)
Seat
Description: The driver’s seat (manual) may make popping or squeaking noises and/or may feel loose. (2003-06)
Sunroof/moonroof
Description: The moon roof may rattle requiring installation of several pieces of felt tape and lubrication of the guides, arms and lifter pins. (2003-04)
Sunroof/moonroof
Description: The moonroof may not fully close or may get stuck because the original grease hardens over time. (2003-07)
Suspension noise
Description: A squeak from the front suspension when crossing speed bumps, etc. is repaired by installing suspension bumpers made of a revised material. (2003)
None
Description: The voice activated navigation system may add extra words when responding to the driver’s request requiring reprogramming with an updated DVD. (2007)
Pedals
Description: Low brake pedal may require installation of revised anti-squeal shims. (2003-05)

Recall History

2003-2009 4Runner
Description: The accelerator pedal can get stuck in the wide open position due to its being trapped by an unsecured or incompatible driver’s floor mat. A stuck open accelerator pedal may result in very high vehicle speeds and make it difficult to stop the vehicle, which could cause a crash, serious injury or death. The remedy plan is under development, but will involve modification or replacement of the accelerator pedal and replacement of any Toyota all-weather floor mat. Toyota has not provided a schedule for owner notification at this time.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.