And the Winner is....
2003 Toyota 4Runner
After much scrutiny, testing, weighing of data, and deliberation, which SUV maneuvered to the head of the pack? The decision this year was fairly easy - the Toyota 4Runner was the clear winner. In objective testing by staff members, the 4Runner scored the most points by a comfortable margin. In addition, in performance testing, the 4Runner established itself as the most aggressive competitor. When we looked at such objective features as horsepower, cargo area, creature amenities, off-road capability, fuel mileage, seating capacity, and more, the 4Runner was again a definite standout. And lastly, one of our most important categories - value for the money. At approximately $40,000, the 4Runner does not come cheap, but gives a great amount of value for its price tag.
Usually within these SUV of the Year pages, we also give mention to the best redesigned SUV for the new model year. As you might expect, this year the 4Runner was the definite standout for best redesign. The vehicle is a huge improvement over earlier models - bigger, better, faster, and more refined. It features enough technological advances to dazzle even the most jaded SUV enthusiast. Such new functions as a sport-enhancement suspension system (on the Sport Edition), a Downhill Assist Control system, a Hill-start Assist Control for greater uphill versatility, antilock disc brakes at all four corners, and an all-new body-on-ladder frame chassis design result in a vehicle that is definitely ready for the 21st Century.
The 4Runner's optional V-8 powerplant is also a first for this SUV, and its 235 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque can really be felt in the seat of the pants. The standard all-new V-6, surprisingly, delivers more horsepower(at 245 ponies), but less torque, at 282 lb-ft. The vehicle's larger interior and exterior size is welcomed, after the somewhat tight confines of earlier 4Runners. The additional legroom, headroom, and especially shoulder room allows for a much more comfortable driving experience.
This new 4Runner is a pleasing mix of on-road versatility, off-road toughness, a satisfying mix of creature comforts, eye-catching styling both inside and out, impressive performance, and Toyota's famed durability to back it up. Truly a vehicle worthy of the title SUV of the Year.