Here it is March Break, and this year I’m not in Costa Rica. I’m at work staring out my window at the snow, and at my 4Runner.
My normal daily driver, the 2015 Grand Caravan has gone to West Virginia for a youth retreat along with our daughter. Yes we lend out our vehicle for such occasions, that’s one of the reasons we bought it. Anyway as part of the deal I get someone else’s vehicle to drive for the week, and this time it’s a 4Runner.
My first thoughts getting in were:
1 – This seems awfully sacked out for a vehicle with 150,000 kilometers on it.
2 – I thought Toyota stopped making the 4Runner a LONG time ago
But a closer look at the dash reveals a speedometer in MPH, so it’s 150,000 miles which checks out with the level of sacked out-ery. No doubt this truck started out in the US and was exported to Canada at some point. When the owner handed me the key he said “The dash is lit up like a Christmas tree, but don’t worry about it.” Indeed it is, but I am not worried.
For question 2 I looked at the data plate and turned to Wiki research, apparently this is a 2006 model, which makes it Gen4 of the 4Runner series. It’s made in Japan, it has body on frame construction and a 4.7 L V8 with 5-speed Aisin automatic. [Edit – I checked with the owner and this one is a V6 2WD]
I haven’t owned a Japanese made car in 25 years, but the font of the data plate brought back some pleasant memories.
Less pleasant the memories brought back by the rusty seat bracket typical of Japanese cars in the salt belt.
As I have said several times at CC, if I lived in Moab Utah I would definately have a 4WD vehicle. It really does look like a lot of fun, witness this 4Runner climbing mini lion’s back. As it stands I live near Toronto and have no use for this capability on my daily commute.
Compared to my van (with it’s newly installed remanufactured transmission) the Toyota powertrain is superior. The V8 has loads of grunt, and good throttle response. The gas pedal must be connected to a cable actuating the throttle butterfly, rather than a position sensor connected to a computer. The transmission is decisive and shifts crisply, what a pleasant driving experience. The suspension manages to simultaneously be marshmallowy soft and jarring over bumps, but I’ll put that down partially to the high mileage and apparent lack of maintenance.
The riding experience is mixed. From the waist up it’s a lot like a minivan, you’re up high with a good view of the road. Visibility is good, slightly hindered by the rear pillars. Legs are a different story, with the BOF construction it has a super high and flat floor, my legs stick straight out like in a sports car or a 1965 Studebaker. There’s the compromise for the truckish capability.
I’m not a fan of the center controls. The heater controls are ridiculous, resembling 3 dial controls but it’s actually push button clusters. Information is displayed on LCD screens which are too small for my 50 year old eyes to see, I guess this vehicle is built for younger folks than I. In my defense it would have been no problem for my 40 year old eyes back in 2006. Speaking of old guy stuff, the radio was able to clearly pull in NPR from Buffalo, which is something both my own vehicles struggle with.
This button gave me cause to ponder Paul’s trip report here where he discussed LSD. If I push the button do I get automatially dosed with LSD, or perhaps the auto get dosed? Either way I figured it wasn’t wise to experiment with psychedelics while driving, so I left the button alone. Note the three blanked off buttons, nothing says “You cheaped out and didn’t get the highest trim level” like a row of blanked off buttons.
At the back we have decent cargo space, although a lot less than my Caravan. I also see some tools, the owner is retired but his son works in construction, maybe this is actually his daily driver. This one has a trailer hitch and brake controller, 4Runners are apparently robust tow vehicles. My aunt and uncle have a Gen5 SR5 and pull their big travel trailer all over the continent in the summer.
So in summary, the 2006 4Runner was really quite good at three things: Driving off-road, towing trailers, and looking cooler than a minivan. I don’t need to drive off-road, I have a very small trailer and I’ve long given up on trying to look cool so this is not the long term vehicle for me. However it did get me back & forth to work five times, so I was happy to have its use over March Break.