Bringing a new long-termer into the Truck Trend garage is a bit like meeting college roommates for the first time: You already know something about them before they show up, but when they get there, you're not entirely sure what you're in for.
Aside from prior driving impressions, here's what we knew about the 4Runner: The model requested was the Limited 4x4 V-8, with a base price of $36,970 (for that trim level). That entry fee includes the 4.7-liter V-8 (a noticeable step up from the standard V-6), five-speed automatic, full-time four-wheel drive, downhill and hill-start assist, skidplates, four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, 17-inch steel wheels, color-keyed cladding, lighted runningboards, roof rack, tow hitch, foglamps, and comfort and convenience goodies such as full leather interior, power everything, six-speaker audio system, center console with A/C vents, and keyless entry and antitheft system, just for starters. The addition of third-row seats ($1195), dual curtain and side airbags ($650), six-disc CD changer ($570), a few other optional items, and destination ($540) brought the total to $40,514, a pricetag that isn't to be taken lightly.
2004 Toyota 4Runner Limited 4x4 V-8 Price $40,514 Engine 4.7L DOHC 32-val
It didn't take long for this Toyota to win over the staff, quickly becoming the vehicle of choice for off-road adventures, cargo hauls, and extended road trips. While some didn't like the low seating position and high floor feel (imagine sitting on a futon), everyone loved the 4.7's torque and the SUV's plush cabin. The 4Runner earned a strong reputation for its versatility, comfortable interior, cushy ride (a pleasant surprise, considering its confidence on the trail), and its poise in every condition, ranging from high-speed on-road jaunts to slow, technical rock crawling. It was also the vehicle of choice as support on road tests and comparison stories, often carrying the photo crew and all of their gear to the middle of nowhere without breaking a sweat. The severe driving done in this Toyota convinced many that this SUV may be unbreakable.
However, we lost two windshields within a few months due to rocks kicked up from the road. While in for the Toyota's 5000-mile service, which included belt, hose, brake, exhaust, steering, and shock inspection, windshield number one was swapped out. Total cost, including $59.95 for the routine service, was $674.18. The 10,000-mile service cost $59.40. Windshield number two was replaced at the 15,000-mile service, which included another oil/filter change, tire rotation, brake inspection, hose and belt inspection, and new air filter; the dealer also lubricated and retorqued the propeller shaft and inspected the suspension. Total: $868.65.
This 4Runner has seen its share of miles, few of them easy. When not dealing with grueling Los Angeles traffic or hauling five or more people and heavy gear on 16-hour photo shoots, it was taken on serious trails on the weekend. And there's no doubt the Toyota--and the editors--are ready for more. Stay tuned.