This weeks Toyota 4Runner is not the truck it used to be, but few things are. I realize that every time I look in the mirror or step on the scale. In any case, I have had difficulty in the past seeing it as a true Sport Utility Vehicle, at least SUV’s designed in that new and growing class. The reason is that this 4Runner used to be, as you may recall, little more than a pick up truck with a camper shell. Since 1995 it has continued to mature into a full on sport utility like the one I had the pleasure of testing. It has lots more power than in the past and likewise sucks up a lot more gas to move the added mass of metal. I must admit I was skeptical and even avoided testing it because of the bias I suffered from. I’m glad I was compelled to try it out. Overall, I was impressed. Certainly as impressed as with any of the competition. But I must also state again that I really object to the gas guzzling nature of these utilities. Can’t they improve the mileage on these sleds?
On the scene, however, we are beginning to see a revival of the mini-van. I believe this re-immerging vehicle will cut into the SUV market in a big way. I think manufacturers are aware of the movement in that direction and that’s why we’re seeing some dramatic and nice changes in the mini-van design. They are sleek, futuristic and powerful. And even though men are inclined toward the “macho” SUV, mom is more likely to opt for the mini-van that is easier to get in and out of, more comfortable and generally more practical. The dual sliding doors are great for kids and shopping trips and she instinctively knows she’ll never want to go off-roading. Unless she’s one of those “babe-watch” lifeguards. More important to the manufacturer is the fact that mom’s have a great deal to do with the car their family “NEEDS”. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we see dad lobbying for a “macho man” SUV with on-demand 4-wheel drive that will climb over boulders he will never, ever need to experience. In fact, it is estimated that only about 25% of SUV’s are ever used off road. I saw lots of them in the eastern part of the U.S. and they are also big in remote areas where higher road clearance is needed.
The 1999 Toyota 4Runner is available in six trims: 4Runner (base), SR5, and Limited each in 2WD or 4WD. The base comes with a 2.7-liter 150-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, while SR5 and Limited trims get a 3.4-liter 183-horsepower V6. The SR5 upgrades with an intermittent rear wiper, tilt steering wheel, cruise control, privacy glass, chrome bumpers and power mirrors and door locks. The Limited adds to this a leather interior, power windows, air conditioning, cruise control, an anti-theft device, a premium stereo system with CD player, and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Toyota says the majority will buy the V6 with 4-speed automatic transmission but the manual is offered for most 4Runner models.
I’ve tested all of the competition and have to admit this 4Runner has arrived and fits well into the crowded array of Sport Utilities so popular with car buyers in the 1990’s. It is obvious they will continue to occupy a large part of the car market even into the new millennium, if from nothing more than the momentum built up over the past couple of decades.
Chevrolet Blazer $18,470 – $32,670, Dodge Durango $25,955 – $27,955, Ford Explorer $20,065 – $34,540, GMC Jimmy $18,534 – $30,970, Honda Passport $22,700 – $28,950, Isuzu Rodeo $17,995 – $27,910, Jeep Grand Cherokee $25,800 – $33,995, Land Rover Discovery $34,150, Mitsubishi Montero Sport $18,310 – $32,630, Oldsmobile Bravada $31,043.
Toyota quality, comfortable ride, roomy.
Stepladder entry, poor fuel economy, off-road capability cost that seldom is used.
3.4 liter V6 engine, 4-speed auto trans, 2-speed transfer case, coil spring dbl wishbone indep. front suspension, power rack & pinion steering, power front disc/rear drum antilock brakes, dual air bags, cloths bucket seats, split folding rear seat, stereo w/ cassette, power door locks & rear window, tilt wheel, cruise control, power mirrors.
17 City and 20 Highway MPG.
Your comments are welcomed. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org View unedited reviews at www.las.net/atthewheel.