COAL: 2001 Toyota 4Runner – The Workhorse


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.