After getting rid of our Honda Element and our family Civic meeting its end, I was ready to try something without a big H on the steering wheel. A family friend was selling a 2001 4Runner. The price was right, so after a quick test spin, I wrote a check and was the owner of one of the most iconic SUVs I can think of.
David’s excellent COAL entry on his 1989 offers a great overview of this truck.
My dad had one of those early 2-door models, and I remember it fondly. While my 01 lacked some of the charm of that first-generation truck, it was just as tough and reliable.
My 01 was at the tail-end of the third-generation. While small compared to the 4Runners of today, it was noticeably larger and heavier than the example my dad had driven. My 4Runner — and many others I see on the road — suffered from sagging rear suspension. There are a lot of possible remedies for this on the Internet, but as mine wasn’t too bad, so I just lived with it.
I always liked the chrome bumpers on this thing.
My SR5 model came with the 183-horsepower V6 that was standard for 2001, mated to an underwhelming 4-speed automatic. The interior was basic, but well-designed. One of my favorite features was the tailgate. The rear window would receded into the tailgate; it was great for airflow on nice days, and made loading stuff in and out a breeze as well.
At the time, my job often included moving IT equipment between multiple sites, and I often just drove with the backseats folded down, turning the back of the truck into one large flat storage area.
Despite having over 140,000 miles on the clock when I bought it, my 4Runner never even hiccuped in my three years of ownership. It didn’t drip oil, always was eager to crank and ran smoothly, albeit a little loudly due to a muffler that needed replacing.
As my 4Runner was just 2WD, I never got real adventurous with it off-road. Also, I still have that mountain bike.
I really loved this Toyota. While my wife didn’t like driving it, I enjoyed the ride height and its truck-like handling. It served me well for several years, but as our family was growing, I grew uncomfortable putting our small children in the backseat of something with such poor roll-over safety ratings and no side airbags. After changing jobs, my commute more than doubled, and the 4Runner just wasn’t the right car for the job anymore.
I put it on Craigslist, sold it for $1,000 less than I paid for it and ventured into a new body style: the hatchback.
A true beaut from the twilight of Toyota’s “fat years.” Even when similar BOF SUVs were ubiquitous, the 4Runner always had a gravitas the others lacked. You could almost say the 1984-2002 models were classics from the time they were new.
I remember my mom considering these several times when she was looking to replace first her 1994 Grand Cherokee in 1999, and then again her 1999 Grand Cherokee in 2002. As I’ve shared the full story before, the second Jeep gave her a number of headaches and she’d owned Camrys before without issues, so Toyota was a logical choice.
Both times, however, she wasn’t thrilled about the 4Runner. All I remember her saying was that compared to the Jeep, the interior was too narrow. She ended up waiting another year and a half and got a Highlander instead.
I see that your 2001 2wd 4Runner has 6 lugs per wheel, as does my 2013 Tacoma 4wd. That seems logical.
But on my walks around town, I have noticed that recent model Toyota 2wd trucks (Tacomas and Tundras) have 5 lugs per wheel. (Yea, I notice stuff like that – and certain 7 lug Fords).
I wonder why Toyota went from 6 lugs to 5 lugs on 2wd trucks.
I hope the answer isn’t cost.
Dodge went from 6 lugs on the 2004 Dakota to 5 on the 2005 for the same reason. 2007+ Tundras all have 5 lugs, even 4WD models. Sadly, the Heavy-Duty Payload Package on the F-150 no longer includes 7-lug wheels, only “heavy-duty 6 lugs.”
Toyota changed to 5 lugs on the Land Cruiser years ago (plus Sequoia and Tundra i gather), on a larger PCD, and cost would not be the reason there.
The concept of a 2wd SUV like this is somewhat foreign to me, because for years there was an import tariff concession for off-road vehicles that required 4wd and meant a 2wd variation would be more expensive. Mind you the 2wd would likely not have been commercially viable for this type of vehicle, but since the rules have changed we now get 2wd versions of CUVs.
This era of 4-Runner wasn’t sold in Australia by Toyota, but there are plenty of grey market imports.
GM went from 6 to 5 on 2wd 10 series trucks way back in ’71. The stud size increased in diameter at the same time, so strength was not an issue. It was at the same time as the switch from drum front brakes. There must have been an engineering reason.
The oddball Ford seven lug setup is just strange. Maybe it was to outwit the aftermarket. Ford tried an oddball Michelin TRX wheel/tire combo for some passenger cars back in the 1980s.
I always liked the styling of these 4Runners, which even today looks timeless and attractive. Good thing given how durable these machines are…
Today’s 4Runner, on the other hand, resembles an unfriendly invader from outer space. I think the current one will look truly absurd and out-of-style in 15 years.
Sinister-looking angles remind me of the Imperial Stormtrooper helmet, as also on the new Prius.
More & more vehicles are getting angry faces. It fits with the general decline in public civility.
I can’t help but wonder if Toyota has any designers left. That is just awful. Awkward and incoherent.
My current car (COAL in a couple of weeks) is a Toyota, but I agree: way too much going on with these designs.
As far as I remember 2WD Toyota pickups have had 5 lug wheels since the mid ’70s
Wow, a 2X4 4Runner, I did not know those existed.
I had a 2000 4Runner 4×4. Compared to my previous Explorer, it was underpowered, rather cramped, didn’t tow very well, and occasionally had trouble starting in subzero temps. It was better off road and better built than the Explorer, but it was pretty underwhelming as an SUV for my needs.
Practical that you can make that “T” slide into the tailgate. Roll Tide.
Just kidding. Good write-up.
Heh, that photo is from when I bought it. The T came off quickly!
There are tons of these still around, but resale is low compared to the equivalent Tacoma pickup. The truck-based SUV craze overbuilt for the long term market. The same thing happened with the Suburban. A C/K series GM pickup is worth double what an equivalent Suburban brings today.
It’s some what regional here in Connecticut the Pickup and SUV resale are pretty close. The Tacoma is better then the 4runner but their both high, suburbans tend to be more expensive then the pickups here thou.
Yeah, around here in the upper midwest 5 year old Suburbans are also more expensive than comparable pickups. Then again, they cost quite a bit more new. Perhaps he’s talking about 25 year old ones.
Yes, Im talking about 15+ year old ones, same age as the 4-runner above. A pickup has much more utility for business use than an SUV.
It really depends on the area I think here in CT even the 15 year old suburbans are in demand more then pickups. Fullsize pickups here (other then cummins diesels etc) seem to have average resale value, compact pickups like the frontier tacoma and ranger do much better. Looking on craigslist I could get a lower mileage (less then 150k) 3/4 ton 4×4 chevy for about 1000.00 less then a similar age suburban.
$1k for three years of service isn’t bad at all; there’s a reason these things are legendary. I’ve only ever driven one 4Runner, of the generation immediately prior to this one, but it seemed to acquit itself quite well in the 30 minutes or so I spent behind the wheel.
I totally understand your reasoning with the commute. After changing jobs last month, mine went from 24 miles round trip 3x/week to 58 miles round trip 5x/week. 24 MPG highway is looking a little lackluster all of a sudden.
I have a people mover (Nissan Cube) that keeps a lot of miles off my 4runner. My back sags also which I understand is because the coil springs are just inadequate. Local mechanic says the answer is to put heavier springs inside the stock Toyota ones. His price is right so think I’ll try it. If it works I can post a picture.
I think this truck is great. At 200k miles it has yet to have a hiccup. Might not be too surprising if it’s the last one I buy.