In 2017 I had just gotten rid of my Volvo XC90, and my Volvo XC60. I had just bought my first new car, a 2017 Subaru Outback. I had plans of just going to one car, and driving the Subaru around. Well, as many of you know, things change. I had a 1977 Scamp 13 ft travel trailer that I enjoyed using quite a bit, but I wanted something with AC. I started searching for a newer Scamp with AC, but they were very hard to find. I stumbled on a Casita trailer. While bigger and heavier, it seemed better built than my old Scamp. The only issue was, I needed a car that could tow more than 3,000 pounds.
The only Volvo that can tow would be a XC90, and since I had just gotten rid of one I was not too keen on adding another back to the stable. Especially after the bad taste the other one left in my mouth. This could only mean one thing; I would have to step out of my Volvo comfort zone. I thought a lot about a truck, as the versatility could really come in handy towing a camper. I could not find anything in my price range of under $8,000. I thought a lot about a Toyota Tacoma, or a Honda Ridgeline, but both hold their value so well that if I did find one in my price range it would be really beat up, or high miles.
My girlfriend’s dad, now father-in-law, at the time was a die-hard Toyota guy. He had a Tundra, and drove a lot, and usually drove them very hard. He had mentioned to me in passing that I should look at a 4Runner. I was not too sure, as I had never had a Toyota, and never knew how they drove. My girlfriend had a 4Runner for her first car with well over 200,000 miles, and it looked brand new, and gave them no issues. Her sister also got a 4Runner for her first car, and had 250,000 miles with no issues. I decided to plug it into Craigslist just to see what was out there. I was on the fence about getting 4×4 as the prices were much higher, and I had my Subaru.
I found a one owner 4Runner in the town over from me. It was a single lady who had taken very good care of it. I met her for a test drive, and was blown away. It had 180,000 miles on it, but it drove like a new car. No rattles, no squeaks, it was smooth, and rode very well. It was 2wd and I was alright with that at the time because I would only be using it for towing. I offered her $7500, and she took it on the spot. I gave her the cash, and was on my way with a new car.
This was the first time that I had not had a Volvo in my driving fleet. I still had my 1800, and 444, but those were just my classics. This was a SR5 trim which was the base trim. My car came with leather, and heated seats. This was my first experience with a Toyota, and I got a taste of how odd they came off the line. This car was made for consumers in the gulf states. That means it came with a secondary alarm on it. Why that is, I have no idea, but only gulf state 4Runners have this red button on the dash for a second alarm. 4Runners of that era also come with trailer wiring, and hookup for a brake controller already wired. Even though my car did not come with a hitch from the factory, it still had all the wiring harness tucked under the car. Lastly, my car came with cloth seats, but dealers would often upgrade them to leather for the customer. They use a weird type of leather with a gel memory foam. I have seen several others like this. You can tell because they have a black tag toward the back of the bottom seat cushion.
So this secondary alarm proved to be quite the issue with me. I had accidentally bumped the red button with my knee while getting out of the car one day. The car alarm went off like crazy. I quickly hit my panic button on the key fob, but it did nothing. I ran in and grabbed the spare thinking it might be just this fob, but still nothing. As a last result, I pulled the battery cable just to get it to shut off. I then plugged it back in, and it continued to go off. After several attempts to get the alarm to shut off I finally pulled the fuse, but the lights were still blinking. Thinking there was something more wrong I had it taken to the Toyota dealer, but they were already closed. The dealer called me the next morning asking what was wrong. I told them the alarm kept going off, and the service adviser was quiet. He said he was in the car, and nothing was happening. I came back to pick it up later that day, and it was all fine. No cost to me, but a stressful situation to say the least. I don’t know what made it be quiet, but I made sure never to get anywhere close to that red button again.
Being the SR5 trim it still had a lot of features. I got leather that was added by the dealer, power back window which I loved, sunroof, soft close trunk, and AUX for an Ipod. Mine had the V6 motor which was capable of towing 5,000 pounds, and since it had all the wiring, all I had to do was bolt on a hitch. This was the easiest hitch I had ever installed, 4 bolts drilled into pre-drilled threaded holes in the frame. I got a brake controller for the Casita, and under the dash was a plug-n-play connector that took 2 seconds to install, and I was ready to camp.
Besides the alarm issue, the only other problem I had with the car was a few check engine lights, that were all related to emissions. I had an evap hose pinched from when the fuel pump was replaced, and a bad gas cap. Other than those things the car ran and drove great without any issues. I did resurface the brake rotors, and replace the serpentine belt, but that is all just maintenance.
I drove the car for quite a while, putting almost 200,000 miles on it. The only reason I sold it was because I figured out that I needed 4×4. I had never gotten stuck with it, but there were a few times where it was close. Especially in campsites where there are not always paved roads, or in the times we had snow. I got caught in a snow driving back from Bentonville one time, and had wished I had 4×4.
I really liked this car, and would have kept it longer, but I just needed something different. In the end I sold it to someone local who was born in Sweden. I enjoyed talking to him about Volvos and we were both car guys, so it worked out in the end. I had no real complaints with this car, and can see why there is such a cult following with these. The next car I got to replace it was very close.
2WD paired to heated seats is a curious combination, considering a climate cold enough to warrant one increases the odds of needing the other.
I had a friend who bought a used 2WD Pathfinder back in our college days. I watched her get stuck in a parking space in winter, rear wheels churning uselessly on the thin ice. In a sedan, that sort of scene is acceptable. In a boxy SUV that suggests offroad and all weather prowess, it is truly a pathetic thing to see.
Glad your 4Runner treated you well.
It’s the Gulf States Toyota Tax, see below for the shenanigans that distributor plays to improve their profits. So most likely they packaged the seat heaters with the leather seats they added.
When I think of 2WD 4Runners, I’m reminded of a friend of mine for when I lived in North Carolina in the late 1990s. He was a Florida native, living then in the mid-South, and wanted an SUV, but didn’t quite see the point of 4WD, so it snowed so rarely where we lived.
He bought a 2WD 4Runner, and the salesman told him it would be OK in the snow because it had good ground clearance (remember, this was the South, where snow driving is virtually unknown). A year after my friend bought his 4Runner we had a snowstorm, and he decided to take it out for a ride. He had as far as the entrance to his apartment complex, when he skidded off the road and got hopelessly stuck.
I’m sure there’s many such stories throughout the South.
I moved from the snow belt to the south many years ago, but brought down the car I was driving up north, and I had a set of mounted snow tires that I’d put on it just to use them up (didn’t plan to go north with them, so just trying to get my money out of them). One of my co-workers at the time gave me a hard time about it, saying something like I should just get rid of the snow tires and rims…that winter (1985) we had a snowstorm (actually 3) and this guy who was from San Antonio was stranded down there (they had 12 inches of snow), and when he got back, he offered to buy the snow tires from me…not sure if he was serious, but he didn’t give me a hard time about the snow tires after that.
I live in California, and as in most of the country, Toyota distribution is corporate here. But from what I’ve read on the forums, in the Gulf States and Hawaii, Toyota distribution is by independent companies that include different non-factory options, and even trim packages, added at the distribution center. They also have different transportation fees as I recall. Question: you mention “putting almost 200,000 miles on it”. Was that 20K of your own, adding up to 200K total, or 200K over and above the 180K that were on it when you bought it? The latter is quite an achievement!!
I was questioning the same, dman. Welcome to the world of Toyota, Connor! I going to wager we’ll see another in your lineup…
Haha you would be correct!
Brief synopsis: Like most foreign manufacturers in the 50s and 60s, Toyota didn’t want to/couldn’t afford to open their own distribution networks in the US, so they carved the nation into zones and sold distributorships to local businessmen. (Think Max Hoffman).
Later on (I’m not sure exactly when) Toyota got big enough that they wanted to do their own US distribution. So they offered to buy out their distributors. Every one of them took the dough, except the fellow who owned Southeast Toyota. (A guy whose name is lost in my memory). He refused to sell and he or his heirs still own it. Toyota has no control of their distribution in the southeast to this day, and whoever is running it has enough clout to get unique options installed directly from Toyota.
Example: The Scion xB1 did not come with cruise control, nor could it be ordered from the factory. There was a dealer-installed accessory available. Except for cars sold by Southeast Toyota, which came with factory CC standard.
Gulf States Toyota still exists too at least. Commercials will usually even have some mention of Gulf States Toyota, I remember the first time I saw one in OK and thought “Wait, this is a Gulf state?” It’s apparently Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana & Mississippi
Was it truly factory installed or was it a port install like the leather seats and additional alarm?
Gulf States Toyota also has an irritating habit of installing things like an “All Season Package” on its cars before they reach dealer inventory, much like the ones installed at the dealer level with other makes. So even if you search the extended inventory at multiple dealers, there’s little or no chance that you’ll find a vehicle without the package.
Fortunately, I live close to the border of a state that’s not in GST’s territory, so if I ever want to purchase a new Toyota without these packages, I could easily find within a one-hour drive.
Sorry, I put 20k on it, adding up to 200k
I’d forgotten these came in 2WD. seems a bit odd, given the name, and that Toyota had the Highlander for folks who wanted something less off-road suitable. They should have called it the 2Runner.
I want my RAV2! 🙂
But seriously, folks… lots of 2wd SUV and CUV here in the desert Southwest. And they seem largely suitable for exploring BLM and other trails, where ground clearance and suspension travel are more important issues than traction.
I’ve often wondered how many of these, or 2wd Wranglers, get sold to people who just assume they’re all 4wd and that they’re getting an especially good deal.
The fellow who owned Southeast Toyota Distributors was Jim Moran. he toured our small dealership in 2000 and I met him. i think he dies in the early 2000’s. the company is now controlled by his family. He also formed JM&A group which provides financial and warranty services to car dealerships…and i’m sure a lot more I don’t know about. I worked in the parts department and Port installed accessories were extensive! I also think they sometimes got added whether or not the dealer wanted them. We’re talking: alarms, alloy wheels, cruise control, keyless entry, sunroofs, rear spoilers, 2 tone paint, wood applique trim, leather…and all of it different from the factory stuff! It made replacement part procurement…. interesting at times. We has a Corolla come in one time with a broken alloy wheel….a port installed alloy wheel from Gulf states Toyota distributors that we could not match. They left with 4 new matching steel wheels!