Skip to main content
2003 - 2009
2003 Toyota 4Runner
2003 Toyota 4Runner
2003 Toyota 4Runner news, pictures, specifications, and information
Toyota's fun-to-drive off-road vehicle, the 4Runner combined 4-wheel drive and off-road Runner to form an incredible vehicle. All 4Runners were constructed at the Tahara Plant in Tahara, Aichi, Japan or at Hino Motors' Hamura, Japan plant. Sold in countries such as the U.S., Canada, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Chili and Australia from 1984 until the present, the Toyota 4Runner is a SUV manufactured by Toyota. The Toyota 4 Runner is also sold in other markets such as Pakistan as the Toyota Hilux Surf.
The first of Toyota's comfort-driven SUVs, the Toyota 4Runner was designed around the rugged frame of the truck, though a slight bit more comfortable, unlike the Land Cruiser. While many other automakers were introducing mid-size SUVs in the mid 1980s like the Ford Bronco II and the Chevy S-10 Blazer, Toyota was feeling the pressure to develop a competing model. Introduced in 1984 for the 1985 model year, Toyota introduced the revolutionary new 4Runner, a vehicle that combined the versatility and ruggedness of the 4WD with the comfort and utility that was found in regular passenger vehicles. Open-air driving was easily accessibly by removing the fiberglass top that was covering the cargo area. Indistinguishable from the Toyota pickups from the dashboard forward, the first generation 4Runners had two doors. Mostly all of the changes were to the bottom half of the body, basically because the rear springs were not upgraded to cope with the additional weight of the rear seats and fiberglass top. Unfortunately these early models tend to suffer from sagging rear suspensions.
Originally available in two models, the 4Runner featured one model that was barely more than a pickup truck with a covered car area with an emphasis on utility. The first model featured seats on the front only while the rear area was meant purely for cargo. The second model was designed to encompass up to five passengers and included a rear seat that could be folded flat for additional storage space. This model was available in the SR5 grade and included a larger fuel tank along with more luxurious interior features. Both of these models were powered by the carbureted 2.4L 22R four-cylinder engine that was joined to a five speed manual transmission with two speed transfer case. All had manual locking front hubs.
For the 1986 model year, Toyota added the Hi-Trac independent front suspension which now gave the 4Runner more ground clearance along with more improved ride quality. Also, now available on SR5 models, Toyota gave the 4Runner an injection of power with a turbocharged engine.
The Toyota 4Runner was introduced in 1987 with the SR5 trim available on all models, both truck and passenger. The turbo engine was still only confined to passenger models. For this year slight changes were also made to the grille, headlights, and striping.
Toyota introduced the 3.0L V6 engine to the 4Runner for 1988 as power seemed to be the topic on consumer's minds. The turbo model was discontinued as the V6 model was more suited to the off-road environment that the 4Runner was originally designed for. Now the V6 and four-cylinder engines were all that remained at the end of the 1988 year.
A whole new breed of 4Runner was introduced by Toyota in 1989. This brand was based on the newly redesigned line up pickup trucks. Aggressive looking and muscular, the new 4Runner was still quite capable of delivering the same off-road performance that Toyota's four-wheel drive trucks were known for.
Muscular and aggressive, a brand new breed of 4Runner was introduced by Toyota in the spring of 1989. Resembling the line of pickup trucks, the new 4Runner was still capable of delivering the off-road performance that Toyota's four-wheel trucks were famous for. Now the 4Runner was available as either a two or four door vehicle and came with either two or four wheel drive. Due to the new styling, the fiberglass top had to go, but now the 4runner was quieter and more weather tight.
J.D. Power & Associates awarded the 1990 4Runner with the 'Best Compact SUV in Initial Quality' title along with being among the Consumers Digest 'Best Buys' report. The following year the Toyota 4Runner won two more awards, once again the 'Best Compact SUV in Initial Quality' by J.D. Power along with 'Best Compact SUV in Customer Satisfaction' also by J.D. Power for 1991.
For 1992 the Toyota 4Runner underwent a few minor revisions in styling that included flush headlamps and new grille along with new molding treatments. Optional now on the 4Runner were leather seats. For this year the Toyota 4Runner once again was awarded the same awards from J.D. Power and Associates. For the following year J.D. Power named the 4Runner 'Best Compact Sport Utility'.
For the 1994 model year, safety was emphasized and the Toyota 4Runner received side impact protections, a new center brake light and the option of four-wheel anti-lock brakes on all V6 models. The price of the 4Runner was now close to $30,000 and now featured a CD-player, either speaker stereo, leather seats, sunroof and anti-lock brakes. Fortunately though, the 4Runner hadn't forgotten its off-road heritage and remained as strong as a back-woods performer as ever. Once again, the 4Runner was awarded the ‘Best Compact SUV in Initial Quality' award by J.D. Power.
2 years later the 4Runner underwent a complete redesign that included the installation of all new engines, chassis, interior and exterior styling. The 1996 Toyota 4Runner also received newly enhanced safety equipment and added utility. This third generation of 4Runners was the first 4Runner that didn't share wither body panels for a frame with Toyota's compact pickup trucks. Now the 4Runner was available in either 2 or 4 wheel drive, in base, SR5 and Limited trim. There was now a 4Runner for every consumer with two engine choices, a 2.7L 4 cylinder or a 3.4L V6, both with twin cam, multi-valve designs.
The new chassis for the 1996 4Runner was stiffer for more improved steering feel and more precise suspension travel, and was now two inches longer to increase wheelbase and provide for a more stable ride. Replacing the previous Hi-Trac system was a front suspension with a coil spring with double wishbone design which now resulted in greater wheel travel and ride comfort.
The '96 4Runner also featured a one piece lift up tailgate with power windows, much larger exterior mirrors, a lot more interior volume with greater head and legroom along with a lowered step-in and cargo loading height. Dual airbags were now included along with four-wheel ABS for safety, along with side door impact beams and ALR/ELR seatbelts both in the front and rear. Four Wheeler magazine awarded the 1996 model with a runner-up for the Compact 4-door along with the ‘Most Appealing Compact SUV' by J.D. Power.
For the 1997 model year, the Toyota 4Runner only underwent minor changes that included the addition of a 2WD Limited model, newly revised seat fabric in SR5 models, 2 new Preferred Equipment Packages and the ability to order 16-inch alloy wheels on 2WD models. The 4Runner won even more awards this year that included '1997 Top Three Vehicles in Intial Quality – Compact SUV' by J.D. Power, 'Best SUV' by Consumer Reports Magazine', 'Top 10 Trucks overall Resale Value After Three Years of Ownership' – ADP Autosource Suvey, and '1997 Total Quality Award – Medium SUV Segment' by Strategic Vision, Inc.
Once again the Toyota 4Runner underwent only minor changes for the 1998 model year. The only improvements were new 4 spoke steering wheel, rotary style HVAC controls and revised audio head units.
The 4th year for the 3rd generation of Toyota 4Runners, 1999 introduced many more standard features and options that made this model even more equipped than previous ones. A newly redesigned front bumper, valence cover and grille with multi-reflector headlamps with an auto-off function along with a new center console with dual cupholders, and much more were offered for the 1999 model year. Other options included an overhead console with both garage door and sunglass holder, two power outlets in the center cluster and an LCD odometer with digital duel trip meters.
A new multi-mode 4WD system was placed in the 1999 4Runner Limited model as standard. A full-time all-wheel-drive system with 2WD capability, the new multi-mode features can be used in normal driving conditions on all types of roads. The '99 4Runner once again received the ‘Best Compact SUV in Initial Quality' by J.D. Power along with the 'Best Compact SUV Segment', also by J.D. Power.
Standard equipment for the 2001 4Runner model was now the 3.4 liter V7 engine an automatic transmission, along with Vehicle Skid Control with traction control, multi-mode 4WD and a 2WD/4WD selector switch along with a pre-wired trailer hitch harness. The rear differential lock has now been discontinued for '01 while the brake booster was changed to hydraulic assisted. New interior additions and three new exterior colors were also features for 2001.
Serious changes were incorporated to the chassis and body of the fourth-generation Toyota 4Runner, though targeted at approximately the same demographics as the third generation. Looking very different than the previous 4Runners, the updated 4Runner was based on the Land Cruiser Prado 120 series, though it was still targeted as a mid-size quasi-luxury SUV. Currently the SR5, Sport Edition, and the Limited were the available trims. Standard on the current 4Runner was an all-new 4.0 L 1GR-FE while a V8 became available for the first time for the fourth generation models. An available option for the fourth generation, the same 4.7 L 2UZ-FE V8 that was found in the Land Cruiser, Sequoia and Tundra that produced 260 hp and 306 lb-ft of torque was in the 4Runner.
The SR5 and Sport Edition models were first introduced in 2003 and used gray cladding and bumpers. Early on in the year, Toyota added an optional Appearance Package for the SR5 that included color-keyed cladding, liftgate trim and bumpers. The Appearance Package, along with the early optional fog lamps, running boards, and 16-inch aluminum wheels were made standard on the SR5 in April of 2003. Replacing the grey cladding and silver-painted grille, door handles and liftgate trim, the Sport Edition also added black running boards and color-keyed trim.
Standard equipment including a tire pressure warning system in the 2004 Toyota 4Runner. Both the SR5 and Limited models received a 3rd row seat as optional equipment.
For 2005, new enhancements and updates were brought to the optional V8 engine, and made a 5-speed automatic standard on the V6 model. Minor changes were made to the exterior of the '05 4Runner that included color-keyed bumper trim on the SR5 and Limited. A chrome grille was placed on the SR5 while a black roof-rack and running boards replaced the silver ones on the Limited along with a redesigned rear spoiler. Available on all trim levels, a Salsa Red Pearl Scheme was introduced, though a similar color scheme had been available for third generation models.
The fourth generation's mid-cycle refresh marked the 2006 model year with changes that included revised front and rear bumpers, a new projector-beam headlamps, LED tail lamps, a reworked grille, additional chrome trim on the SR5 model, step bars on the Sport Edition and a smoked-chrome grille with tubular roof-rack. The turn-signals were relocated to the headlamp assembly while the front bumper was revised and now features circular fog lights. The rear bumper reflectors were eliminated by the addition of the redesigned bumper. All audio systems added an MP3 playback capability along with an auxiliary input jack. The Limited model was now further set apart from the other trim levels with the new addition of unique 18' wheels and a seat memory system.
The Toyota 4Runner was basically unchanged in 2007 except the new gray-colored option, Shadow Mica. The following year the 4Runner received standard side air bags, slightly modified front grille design, a switch to disable Vehicle Stability Control, refinements in the Tire Pressure Monitoring System along with a few changes in the seatbelt warning system warning system and brake system control.
By Jessica Donaldson
Recent Vehicle Additions
1990 Renault Alpine
1985 Aston Martin Lagonda
2016 Suzuki S-Cross
1961 Pontiac Catalina
2017 Nissan GT-R Track Edition
2016 DENZA 400 EV
Toyota 4Runner Global Extreme
Toyota MR2 Spyder
Toyota Tundra TRD
2003 Toyota Concepts
Toyota CS&S Concept
Toyota Fine-N Concept
Toyota Fine-S Concept
Toyota FJ Concept
Toyota NSLV Concept
Vehicles by Company
Show All Manufacturers
Similarly Sized Vehicles from 2003
Alfa Romeo Kamal
Aston Martin AMV8 Vantage Concept
BMW 5 Series
Buick Centieme Concept
Buick Park Avenue
Other models by Toyota
Vehicle Recall Information
Monthly Sales Figures
4Runner Global Extreme
Land Cruiser 40 Series
Land Cruiser 70
© 1998-2016. All rights reserved. The material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.