1997 TOYOTA 4RUNNER
Used Truck - 1997 Toyota 4Runner in Palmdale, Ca
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1997 Toyota 4Runner ReviewThis car review is specific to this model, not the actual vehicle for sale.
They could also call it a front-runner.
From an automotive point of view, the last 10 years of the American 20th century are likely to be remembered as the decade of the sport-utility vehicle. Even though the entries are coming from almost every automaker on the planet, this is a uniquely U.S. phenomenon, thanks to our low fuel prices, and as we count down to the millennium each year brings more and more choices, few of them--if any--outright losers.
Nevertheless, some still stand out from the growing crowd, and Toyota's newly up-dated 4Runner falls into that select group.
And for very good reasons. Maybe first among those, most sport-ute buyers are looking for reliability and rugged durability that will keep them going no matter what the weather or conditions. Few--if any--makes have a better dependability reputation than Toyota. The 4Runner shares strong family ties and many components with the nearly unbreakable Toyota pickup trucks, and the ruggedness ruboff is bankable. Beyond that, Toyota does a very good job of building in thoughtful features that mainstream buyers find attractive. Look at any Toyota and you'll find that everything about it is well-done and logical, and the vehicle doesn't ask you to make any awkward compromises.
The 4Runner was completely redone last year and has only minor changes for 1997. A four-door body style, it's available with two-wheel or four-wheel drive, in three trim levels (base, SR5 and Limited), and with two engine choices. New for 1997 is the availability of the Limited model in 2WD; previously the Limited was available with 4WD only.
Base models of the 4Runner are equipped with a 2.7-liter twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder engine that makes 150 horsepower, arguably the best four-cylinder engine to be found in a sport-utility. It has twin balance shafts to cancel out vibrations and, for a four-cylinder, offers an outstanding blend of smoothness and power. For those wanting more power the 3.4-liter dohc V6--standard in the SR5 and Limited--is a genuine sweetheart, delivering 183 horsepower and 217 pound-feet of torque, which allows towing trailers up to 5000 pounds. The tradeoff for the extra power is reduced fuel economy, 16/19 city/highway EPA mpg ratings, versus 20/25 for the four.
There are two transmission choices, a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. Of interest to off-roaders is the optional availability of a locking rear differential. The 4Runner offers a part-time, shift-on-the-fly 4WD system, as distinct from full-time all-wheel drive. With the optional locking rear differential the driver has the choice of positively locking both rear wheels and one of the fronts together, meaning at least three tires will be clawing their way through muck and/or slush.
Our subject vehicle was an SR5. Standard equipment, for the base price of $24,678, includes driver and passenger airbags, four-wheel antilock brakes (ABS), AM/FM/cassette stereo, power door locks, power tailgate window, rear window defroster, 15 x 7-inch steel wheels with P225/75R-15 tires, tachometer, carpeting, and a variety of other comfort, convenience and appearance features.
As you can see from the SR5's base price, Toyota isn't exactly giving these things away, but at least there's a lot of stuff there for your money. In addition, our tester had the premium sound system, air conditioning, power windows and antenna, power moonroof, floor mats, a towing receiver hitch and the very comprehensive sport package, which includes 16 x 7-inch aluminum alloy wheels with P265/70R-16 tires, bigger front brakes, sport seats, sport trim, fender flares, leather steering wheel and shift knob, and a lower axle ratio. (With the optional locking rear differential, for $325, the ratio drops even more.) Thus equipped our SR5 4Runner came to $31,594, including Toyota's $420 destination charge.
Obiously, prices vary widely from that, based upon trim and options. For a base four-cylinder 2WD model with no options the beginning price is $20,308. Go for the top-of-the-line Limited and you'll be over $34,000.
Aside from the expected Toyota attention to detail, which is faultless and comprehensive, one of the nicest features is the 3.4-liter V6 engine. Though it lacks the stump-pulling grunt of the V8s available in some of the competition, it's exceptionally high in smoothness and driving pleasure, with excellent throttle response and a silky feel throughout its wide rev range. And there's more than enough power to deal with a full load of passengers, luggage and a medium-sized trailer.
As with all Toyotas, the new 4Runner thoughtfully accommodates its passengers, rather than requiring the passengers to make allowances for the vehicle, something that wasn't quite true of the previous generation. Getting in and out is generally easier, thanks to the recent redesign, and there's more room behind the front seats. Although not the absolute roomiest in its class, the 4Runner offers enough space for five adults. The rear seat is split 50/50, for the expected versatility of varying passenger and cargo loads. As a result of ground clearance necessary to deal with off-road use, the vehicle sits somewhat higher than some of the competition. This means that shorter people may find it less convenient, to get in and out.
All controls are where you expect and need them and operate logically and easily, from your first grab of the door handle to turning on the wipers or using a cupholder. There's nothing goofy here, no awkward result of some stylist's whim. Just simple, appreciated correctness, which adds up to a high degree of operating ease.
The instrument panel is arranged for sensible visibility and operation of all control functions. And there are sufficient map pockets, glove boxes, cubby holes and cupholders for any reasonable amount of on-the-road stuff.
All owners will appreciate a couple of features in the rear. First, the spare tire is mounted underneath, so it doesn't interfere with cargo access, and doesn't intrude on cargo space. Second, access to the rear is through a hatch with a separate opening window. A hatch is superior to a door-style tailgate because it opens up and allows you to stand closer to the cargo area when you're loading stuff. And, if you want to toss small items in the back, just lower the window--it's power-operated in all models. For all-around convenience, the 4Runner is really at the top of the mid-size sport utility list.
The 4Runner has one of the best chassis and suspension arrangements in its class. While some mid-size sport utilities have front suspensions of struts or even live axles, the 4Runner has an independent suspension with upper and lower control arms and coil springs. The rear axle is mounted with a multi-link arrangement and coil springs instead of the more common, and less sophisticated, leaf springs.
The result is a combination of ride comfort and handling ease that's exceptionally good for a vehicle of such outstanding off-road and rough-road capabilities. It also has the precise feel of rack-and-pinion steering and a tidy turning circle of 37.4 feet.
All this means that living with, and driving, the 4Runner, day-in and day-out, is easy and free of hassles. It doesn't drive exactly like a car, of course, but it's no truck, either. It rides nice, it handles nice, the engine runs great, it's nimble in tight quarters (like the dreaded shopping mall parking lot), and it basically does all the things you'd like it to do in the ways you'd like it to do them.
If you don't require the brute towing power of a V8, you'll have trouble finding a better mid-size sport-utility than the 4Runner. It's a textbook example of insightful, thoughtful, comprehensive care in design and engineering. Everything about it is correctly done and on the critical issues of reliability and durability, the 4Runner and Toyota's reputation make a tough combination to beat.
Options As Tested
Air conditioning, premium AM/FM/CD/ audio, power windows, power antenna, power moonroof, floor mats, towing receiver hitch, Sport Package (fender flares, P265/70R-16 tires, aluminum alloy wheels, sport seats, black trim, leather steering wheel and shift knob, cruise control, 12.5-in. front brakes, 4.100:1 axle ratio).
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