Category Archives: Toyota

1999 Toyota 4Runner SR5 4X4 (220)


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.

The competition:
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.

Good News:
Toyota quality, comfortable ride, roomy.

Bad News:
Stepladder entry, poor fuel economy, off-road capability cost that seldom is used.

Standard Equipment:
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.

Gas Stats:
17 City and 20 Highway MPG.

MSRP $27,368.

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1998 Toyota Supra (178)

This week’s Toyota Supra was a quick trip back to the Mitsubishi 3000 GT we did a few weeks ago. These two cars are very similar, not only in looks, but in features and performance. Both are exciting cars to drive which reminds me that life is too short for boring. Cars like this will put starch in your shorts. Know what I mean. I do have one bitch even though I liked this Supra. First impressions are very important and I think Supra goofed by not improving the sound quality when you close the doors. A little thing like that can cause you to get turned off and fall out of love. Simply put, the doors sounded tinny and hollow, and that quality is probably the second thing you notice right after eye appeal. The designer’s must have been twins because both cars look great, like two blondes in the same jumpsuit from Frederick’s of Hollywood. You can picture “Slick Willie” in either. Wait, I didn’t mean it that way. On the other hand, if the shoe fits….!

Price wise the two cars are pretty close too. Base models are $31K for Supra and $28K for the GT. The turbo models are $40K and $46K respectively. You may recall the GT has a unique 4-wheel steering design for (some say) better handling. That could explain some of the cost difference.

Even though the Supra and Mitsubishi 3000GT are very close matches, three American cars need to be included in your comparison. The Chevrolet Camaro $16-27 K, Ford Mustang $15-28 K and Pontiac Firebird $18-29 K are very worthy competitors. For the price differences you have to admit these American challengers get real attractive. And don’t be mesmerized by the foreign car mystique. American cars are perhaps the best buys pound for pound and dollar for dollar, in today’s market. American car manufacturers were beat up pretty bad in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, but the humbling experience made them better companies and thus they now put out better products.

Aunt Pate swore by the Supra she owned about 10 years ago but now she drives a Mercedes Benz. I think she’s long forgotten the days of her sports car Supra and also how often our men in blue stopped her. Do you think cops pick on racy looking cars or do drivers of racy looking cars draw more attention to themselves?

Anyway, once I got settled and forgot the tinny doors, I enjoyed Supra’s performance and probably drove faster than I should have. Just ask Ilona about my heavy foot. She keeps reminding me to slow down, and when I have a turbo model I really get carried away. I think I love the feeling of acceleration as much as sex. However this Supra is powered by a normally aspirated in-line 6-cylinder 225 horsepower engine, so acceleration was a little disappointing. I tested the turbo model on the racetrack and wet my pants. It puts out nearly 100 horsepower more, at 320 and although you can live without it, I recommend you consider the turbo strongly. I found the extra boost (arguably) a necessity for freeway driving and in passing situations.

On the 3000 GT review, I nit-picked the fact that the rear spoiler obstructed rear view visibility since it falls “smack dab” in the middle of the rear window. That is not the case with the Supra. The arch of the spoiler on the Supra outlines the contour of the rear window and thus it is barely noticeable. There is good news and bad news regarding seating, which is rated a 4-seater on both. The bad news is the rear seats are too small for adults. The good news is you don’t have to worry about back seat drivers. Oh no, I’ll probably hear about that comment from Ilona.

The cockpit is ‘driver friendly’ in that everything cants toward you. It seems to make a definite statement that the driver should be separated from the passenger. When you think about it, most cars today either have center consoles or split seats that separate folks in the front seat. Some cars have fold down armrests to do the same thing in the rear seat. Do you ever wonder why this separation has become so popular over the years? Remember when cars had bench seats and seat belts weren’t yet the law, and when you went around a corner the passenger would slide over right next to the driver. Pretty romantic, eh… in an automotive sort of way. If you’re not old enough, can you imagine life before seat belts on cars or helmets for motorcycles, bicycles and roller skates? I suspect it won’t be long before you won’t dare strap on your skis or snowboard without a helmet. Perhaps one day the law will require that you don’t leave the house without a full body suit of armor. That would cover it all. No more danger from drive-by shootings, slip and fall lawsuits, etc. ad nauseum.

Hell, I think I’ll buy a Ford Model T, another Harley and move to Colorado and go skiing through the trees. Oh for the simple life. I wish Jim Laris would do a Cigar Smoke column on protecting us from ourselves. He’s old enough to appreciate the good old days, if he can still remember them. Just kidding Jim.

Standard Equipment: 
3.0 liter in-line 6-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual trans, speed sensing power rack and pinion steering, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes, dual air bags, aluminum alloy wheels, fog lights, power mirrors, tinted glass, power windows and door locks, tilt wheel, cruise control, climate control, stereo with cassette player, theft deterrent system, leather wrapped steering wheel and carpeted floor mats.

Gas Stats:
18 City / 23 Highway MPG.

Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price is $29,500.

For the dealer nearest you call 1 800 331 4331.