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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2003 Toyota 4Runner Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2003 Toyota 4Runner Overview

Toyota Modernizes a Classic

The 4Runner has been a best seller for Toyota since its birth in 1985. When it was introduced, most SUVs were still crude extensions of their pickup truck counterparts. But the 4Runner was something more. It was a well built, comfortable SUV that got good gas mileage, was compact (for its time) and was seen by most college-aged drivers as the coolest thing on wheels. Of course, back then the 4Runner was a two door SUV with a removable hardtop shell covering the back seats and cargo area. The 4Runner has come a long way since those early days, and for 2003 the next generation continues the 4Runner's long tradition of innovation and improvement.

The new 4Runner retains its place in the Toyota SUV lineup, nestled firmly between the full-size Sequoia and the Highlander. Compared to the previous model, the 2003 4Runner has a longer wheelbase, longer overall length and most importantly, a substantial increase in width. This last point is so important because the previous model was rather narrow and lagged far behind its competition in the area of shoulder and hip room. The 4Runner also gets all-new sheet metal that embodies both Toyota and Lexus styling cues comfortably meshed together. Though the sheet metal is all-new, the 4Runner still retains one of its best features; the electrically-retracting rear window. This design is so basic, dating back to the earliest station wagons, and yet no other SUV offers this feature.

For the first time in its history, the 4Runner will offer the option of a V8 engine. Toyota will place the 4.7-liter V8 from the Sequoia into the 4Runner's engine bay. Rated at 235-horsepower and 320 lbs.-ft. of torque, the V8 should not only improve the 4Runners acceleration time, it should significantly improve its tow rating. A new 4.0-liter V6 will join the lineup in later January. The V6 actually produces 10 more horses than the V8 (245 vs. 235) and though it does not have near the torque of its V8 brother, it does produce enough low-end grunt to best just about every other V6 on the market. Both engines will also get a new crank control system that prevents the driver from engaging the ignition if the engine is already running (you know the awful sound this can make, we've all done it at least once in our lives).

4Runners will again be offered as 2WD and 4WD models. The traditional solid-rear axle remains in place because—according to Toyota engineers—it is the only way to maintain the 4Runners tenacious off-road capabilities. The front suspension basically remains as it was last year; a double wishbone set up that gives the 4Runner excellent road manners and a controlled stable ride.

To help the driver remain in control under all driving conditions, Toyota has equipped all 4Runners with a new hill-descent feature knows as HAC (Hill-start Assist Control.) The HAC system prevents the 4Runner from slipping backwards or off to the side when moving from a stopped position to climbing a hill. Standard on all 4WD 4Runners is the DAC (Downhill Assist Control) that uses a combination of the vehicle's brakes and engine braking to avoid unwanted acceleration when descending steep grades. V6 4WD 4Runners will come standard with an all-new Torsen limited-slip center differential that transfers the bulk of the engines torque to the rear wheels which helps the vehicle remain stable in off-road and slippery situations. These new features join the 4Runner's standard VSC (Vehicle Skid Control) and traction control.

Of course, Toyota has not forgotten the 4Runners car-like qualities, all of which can be found inside the passenger cabin. The new dash is typically Toyota; handsome, functional and assembled of the finest materials and with the tightest tolerances. The now-familiar three ring instrument cluster seen on the Matrix and Highlander makes its way to the 4Runner, further strengthening the Toyota SUV signature look. The seats are wider and taller to better accommodate full-sized adults and there is more headroom, shoulder room and most importantly, rear legroom than the previous model.

A new trim level, the Sport Edition, will join the SR5 and Limited. The Sport features 17-inch alloy wheels, a hood scoop, sport-enhanced suspension, special silver paint and a unique cloth and silver trim interior. Standard equipment on all 4Runners include 16-inch alloy wheels, a full-sized spare tire, power lumbar support, tilt wheel, auto-off headlamps, cruise control, illuminated entry, power door locks, power windows with driver's side one touch up/down feature, overhead console, two 12-volt power outlets, a rear tonneau cover and a collapsible rear shelf that can double as a picnic table. The sport and Limited add even more standard features; there is also a long list of options from which to choose. You can opt for a JBL premium audio system, an on-board GPS navigation system with voice guidance and a side-curtain airbag system.

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