Perhaps driven by my father's Camry-induced Toyota fervor, or my dismay at becoming hopelessly bogged in mud with my Chevy truck; I bought a 4runner. I traded the offending truck and my 2001 Honda S2000 - both emotional purchases - and drove away uncertain - it all seemed so logical -- but was I in love? Well, after 5,000 miles I can report that I am smitten indeed.
I had driven all the usual suspects; Expedition, Sequoia, Pilot. The Ford has a great interior, but too lumbering, too large. The Sequoia has a great engine and exterior looks, but I found the interior very dated - too oval. And as much as I wanted to love the Pilot - I found it to have all the charm of an extremely well built grocery cart - a front-wheel drive grocery cart at that. I had earlier dismissed the 4runner - with it's Avalanche cladding - until I saw a Limited V8.
My vehicle does not have NAV or rear adjustable suspension -- but has everything else. I have a few minor complaints to get out of the way. The wheel mounted stalks are both a bit fussy - the light controls require some familiarity - and I especially hate the ring that turns on the driving lights. The wiper controls require you to pull them down to turn on -- this being opposite to both my last cars. And finally, the only power plug in the front seat area, requires not one but two small doors to remain open to plug a phone - and then there is nowhere phone-sized to place it. I have become more accustomed to the stalk-issues and had a $50 lighter socket placed in the driver-side of the center console - I would recommend this to anyone who has this vehicle. As long as I an nitpicking, let me mention that the cruise control will not resume after the car has slowed to 25mph, which is 4 corners between here and my lake cabin - small but irritating. I find the lumbar too soft, the headliner too close, and wouldn't mind a 4 pin socket in the back.
I can state, however, that not one of those minor flaws matter a smidge once you fire up the engine. Much has been made of this Lexus developed engine, and for good reason -- it purrs when loping along, and really growls when asked. To steal a line from my father - it just "works with indifferent precision" -- 'nuf said. The transmission, which is properly floor-mounted, shifts as smoothly as any I have ever used - and I love the shift pattern that allows for a sideways tip out of overdrive for the occasional hill climb while trailering. Certainly the most confidence-inspiring feature of this automobile is the brakes - strong, predictable and with absolutely flawless pedal modulation and feel.
As an avid car magazine reader - I have always been skeptical of traction/skid controls. But, I have seen the light. This vehicle has never lost its grip or composure (although I have yet to invoke the banging, clunking VSC in this 4runner - I have in a Sequoia, and it can be a bit disconcerting). I think the real credit in this vehicle goes to the Torsen center differential (a first in this class)- All I can say is that for my money I feel very secure - can't wait for winter. A comparo test I read - stated that the 4runner was second only to the H2 in off-road prowess.
Make up your own mind about the exterior, but under the bonnet is roomy and all fluids and dipsticks are readily at hand. The full-sized spare with aluminum wheel, and the easy to reach tools make for quick roadside work if needs be. I love the power back window, and self-snugging action of the tailgate, as I put the dog in the back frequently. There are cargo nets, and covered storage. cladding and running boards -- all functional and prudent.
The interior is anything but utilitarian. This vehicle has no third row seating --- which i didn't need or want. The interior fit and finish are exemplary and truly luxurious. The leather power seats - albeit a bit soft - are comfortable and intuitive to adjust, as are the headrests. There are ample cubbies - though not as many as the competition -- which for me just discourages accumulating trash. The matte textured dash has a quality feel as do the door panels. I am not a huge fan of the granite-look inserts, but again a different strokes issue. The dash and controls really come alive at night with an amber glow -- I really like it, far better than the vw-blue or red, or white... The lit needles are a bit over-the-top but who cares.
The 6 cd changer is awesome, easy to use and easy on the ears -- far superior to the aftermarket mega-dollar stereo in my last pickup -- clarity more important than volume. The rear seat headphones get used my front seat passenger, who listens to NPR non-stop. The sunroof is quiet and water-tight. There has been some criticism about the temp controls - but I find them simple and logical. I got the curtain and side airbags - and find the shoulder belts easy to use front and back. Day-time running lights saved me a bit on insurance.
Contrary to my experience with most cars - I feel over time that thoughtful touches come to the surface, rather than flaws. There has obviously been a great deal of time spent on the logics of the electrics -- shutting off the car does not stop windows and sunroof from working, the auto headlights can be shut off with the remote to make sure, the very discrete folded planes seen in the wheel bulges - are found throughout the interior, as is the notched circle pattern. The X-REAS suspension also works completely in the background, just adding to the sense of control. The headlights are great, the paint job like glass, and the wipers cover nearly every square inch of the windshield.
I would recommend this vehicle to anyone who doesn't need third row seating, is sick of making three-point turns in some huge UTE, and values reputations for quality, resale, and go anywhere abilities. Basically, if you have taken the time to read these reviews and are considering a 4runner ---- I would say BUY, BUY, BUY.
Amount Paid (US$):
2003Model and Options: