4th Generation 4Runner Years: An Overview of Production and Features

The 4th generation Toyota 4Runner, an enduring favorite among SUV enthusiasts, was produced from 2003 to 2009. This era of the 4Runner is celebrated for its rugged body-on-frame construction and its ability to balance off-road capabilities with on-road comfort. Throughout its production years, the 4th generation 4Runner was offered in various trims and configurations, catering to a wide range of drivers who valued both utility and performance.

Fourth Generation 4Runner (2003-2009)

Under the hood, the 4th generation 4Runner featured engines ranging from a 4.0-liter V6 to a more powerful 4.7-liter V8, delivering a blend of efficiency and power that was well-suited to the vehicle’s versatile design.

In addition to its engine options, the 4th generation 4Runner also offered advanced features for its time, including electronic stability control and optional third-row seating, enhancing its appeal as a family-friendly SUV that did not compromise on toughness.

Key Takeaways

  • The 4th generation Toyota 4Runner ran from 2003 to 2009.
  • It retained its body-on-frame construction, suited for both off-road and on-road use.
  • The 4Runner featured engine options like the 4.0-liter V6 and 4.7-liter V8, along with advanced safety features.

History and Development

In this section, you’ll discover how the 4Runner evolved from its roots in the Toyota Hilux into the sophisticated 4th generation model known today.

Genesis of 4Runner

In 1984, Toyota took the robust, body-on-frame design of the Hilux pickup truck and transformed it into the first generation of the 4Runner.

Initially, these utility vehicles were simply pickups with fiberglass shells over the bed, offering a blend of off-road capability and comfort for passengers.

Transition to 4th Generation

Jump to the 4th generation 4Runner, and you’ll see a significant shift. This generation, which started in the early 2000s, marked a transition with improved on-road manners without sacrificing the off-road prowess that the 4Runner was known for.

It retained the body-on-frame architecture, a defining feature that contributes to its durability and ruggedness.

Production Years and Variants

The Toyota 4Runner, in its 4th generation, encompasses various models and configurations introduced between 2002 and 2009.

During this era, the 4Runner was offered in multiple trim levels with special editions highlighting its versatility.

Release and Timeline

The 4th generation 4Runner was initially released in 2002. This generation spanned until 2009, with several updates along the way.

Notably, 2003 saw the introduction of new features and variations that became staple offerings for the model line-up.

Special Editions

Throughout its life, the 4th generation 4Runner included several special editions:

  • 2003: The introduction of the Sport Edition, adding sporty design cues and performance-oriented features.
  • 2009: The Trail Edition was offered, catered towards off-road enthusiasts with added rugged features and capabilities.

Trim Level Explained

When you were considering a 4th generation 4Runner, three primary trim levels were typically at your disposal:

  1. SR5: The base model providing essential features with robust functionality.
  2. Sport Edition: A step up from the SR5, featuring enhanced styling and performance-focused upgrades.
  3. Limited: The top-tier trim, offering luxury comfort features and highest levels of equipment.

Each trim was designed to suit different needs, from practical daily driving to more adventurous pursuits.

Design and Features

When you consider the 4th generation Toyota 4Runner, you’re looking at a vehicle that blends rugged utility with design enhancements aimed at providing a comfortable driving experience.

Exterior Styling

The 4th generation 4Runner, introduced between 2003-2009, received a notable facelift in 2006 that included a new grille, updated bumper, and modernized headlights.

This refresh improved the vehicle’s aesthetic appeal, maintaining its aggressive stance and off-road readiness.

Notably, the characteristic hood scoop—though non-functional—added to its sporty appearance, making it a distinctive feature in the lineup.

Interior Comfort and Utilities

Your experience inside the 4th generation 4Runner is underpinned by a focus on comfort and utility.

The dashboard is ergonomically designed, providing straightforward access to the various controls.

In select models, leather seats elevate the luxe factor, while the dual-zone climate control ensures a pleasant environment for both driver and passengers. Here are the key interior features that you’ll appreciate:

  • Dashboard: Intuitively designed with driver accessibility in mind.
  • Leather Seats: Available for enhanced comfort and a touch of sophistication.
  • Climate Control: Enables you to adjust your environment to your preference.

Each element contributes to an inviting interior atmosphere, complemented by functional styling that does not compromise on the 4Runner’s inherent robustness.

Performance and Drivetrain

The 4th generation Toyota 4Runner, produced between 2003 and 2009, is recognized for its robust performance and solid drivetrain options.

These attributes cater to both daily driving and off-road adventures.

Engine Specifications

Your 4th generation 4Runner comes equipped with two engine choices:

  • 3.4L V6 Engine: This standard engine offers a balanced blend of power and efficiency.
  • 4.7L V8 Engine: Available from 2003 to 2009, the V8 option boosts your 4Runner’s towing capacity significantly.

When opting for the V8 engine, expect higher output which is ideal for more demanding towing tasks.

Transmission and Handling

  • Transmissions:

    • Automatic Transmission: A 4-speed automatic transmission is paired with the V6 engine, while a 5-speed automatic accompanies the V8.
    • Manual Transmission: Earlier models offer a manual transmission for drivers seeking greater control.
  • Handling:

    • Steering: Your 4Runner provides responsive steering, an essential feature for navigating tough terrain.
    • 4×4 Drivetrain: For optimal off-road capabilities, the 4×4 drivetrain system allows the 4Runner to tackle challenging conditions with ease.

The combination of these drivetrain and transmission features ensures a driving experience that meets your expectations for both on and off-road performance.

It’s important to note that when fully utilizing the 4×4 system and V8 engine, you will see reduced fuel economy in exchange for enhanced abilities in towing and off-road navigation.

Off-Roading and Utility

In the 4th generation Toyota 4Runner, your off-roading experience is notably influenced by its dedicated chassis and suspension design, paired with purpose-built enhancements that facilitate rugged trail adventures.

These features collectively bolster its capability to navigate challenging terrain, supporting both utility and recreational off-roading pursuits.

Chassis and Suspension

The 4th generation 4Runner is built on a body on frame construction, a design choice favoring durability and off-road performance.

This setup positions you to effectively manage rough trails due to the chassis’ inherent strength.

For your off-roading activities, the 4Runner features coil springs in the front and a solid rear axle with coil springs, offering balanced handling and stability on diverse terrain.

The 4Runner’s chassis allows for a high towing capacity, making it capable of hauling your gear on adventurous outings.

Off-Roading Enhancements

Your 4Runner boasts an array of off-roading enhancements designed to tackle challenging environments:

  • Four-Wheel Drive (4WD): Employs both the front and rear axles to provide traction, essential for handling tough off-road conditions.
  • Skid Plates: These protective plates guard vital underbody elements from rugged terrain damage.
  • The exterior has features supporting utility, such as tow hooks and roof racks for additional gear storage.

Each enhancement on the 4Runner is engineered to ensure that your off-roading experiences are memorable and secure, ensuring peace of mind when taking on the trails.

Comparative Analysis

In this section, you’ll explore how the 4th generation Toyota 4Runner stands in the SUV market and how it compares with its competitors.

4Runner in the SUV Market

The Toyota 4Runner, particularly the 4th generation, has built a reputation for durability and off-road capability.

With an emphasis on rear-wheel-drive architecture, it offered a balance between daily driving comfort and weekend adventure readiness.

Notably, in the progression from the 3rd to the 4th generation, the 4Runner maintained its body-on-frame construction, which is a hallmark trait for purist SUV enthusiasts.

This generation saw improvements in power, ride quality, and amenities over the 2nd and 3rd generations.

  • Key Features:
    • Body-on-frame construction
    • Improved powertrain options
    • Enhanced ride quality

Comparisons with Competitors

When setting the 4th generation 4Runner against its rivals, the most direct comparison often comes to the Ford Bronco.

While the Bronco has a legacy of its own in providing rugged utility, the 4Runner’s blend of off-road prowess and commuter comfort garnered a unique appeal. The Toyota Tacoma, often considered a sibling to the 4Runner due to shared components, leans more towards the pickup truck domain but provides similar reliability.

Comparatively, the transition to the 5th generation 4Runner introduced even more refined features while retaining the robust DNA essential for a suiting Toyota Trekker successor.


Vehicle Off-road Capability Daily Comfort Reliability
4th Gen 4Runner Excellent High Very High
Ford Bronco Excellent Medium High
Toyota Tacoma Good High Very High
5th Gen 4Runner Excellent Very High Very High

As displayed, the 4Runner’s consistency in providing trustworthy SUV attributes has cemented its standing in the competitive landscape.

Legacy and Community

The Toyota 4Runner holds a significant place in the automotive world, not only because of its heritage but also due to the strong community it has fostered.

Since the introduction of the 4th generation 4Runner in 2002, its design and capabilities have cemented its standing among enthusiasts.

As you look at the various trim levels available over the years, you recognize each one caters to different aspects of driving and lifestyle preferences, from the urban terra firma to unpaved mountain passes.

  • SR5: The base trim, balancing utility and comfort.
  • Sport Edition: Added features for a more dynamic driving experience.
  • Limited: Top-of-the-line luxury and convenience.

In celebration of four decades of rugged adventure, Toyota unveiled a 40th Anniversary Special Edition 4Runner. It signifies Toyota’s commitment to quality and its understanding of what excites the 4Runner community.

This special edition model carries unique badges and a distinct color scheme that pays homage to the rich lineage of this storied vehicle.

You’ve likely noticed the camaraderie at 4Runner meetups or seen the wave exchanged between 4Runner drivers on the road.

This kinship extends globally, with various online forums and local clubs dedicated to 4Runner owners. Sales of the 4Runner have remained robust over the years, a testament to the lasting appeal and trust in its capability and longevity.

Whether you’re a seasoned owner or aspiring to join the ranks, being part of the 4Runner community means you share in its heritage and contribute to its ongoing legacy.

Frequently Asked Questions

When exploring options for a used 4th generation 4Runner, key considerations include model years known for reliability, performance differences between the V8 and other models, and customization for off-road use.

What are the best years to look for when purchasing a used 4th generation 4Runner?

The best years to consider when purchasing a used 4th generation Toyota 4Runner are often regarded as 2003 to 2009. These model years are praised for their balance of reliability, features, and overall performance.

How does the 4th generation 4Runner V8 compare to other models in terms of performance and reliability?

The 4th generation 4Runner V8 stands out for its robust performance, offering more power and towing capacity compared to the V6 models. It is also known for its reliability, though it may consume more fuel due to the larger engine.

What are some common modifications for enhancing the performance of a 4th gen 4Runner off-road?

Common modifications for a 4th generation 4Runner to enhance off-road performance include:

  • Upgrading to larger all-terrain tires.
  • Installing a lift kit for increased ground clearance.
  • Adding skid plates to protect the undercarriage.
  • Fitting a more aggressive front bumper for better approach angles.

Where can I find a 4th gen 4Runner Limited for sale, and what should I consider before buying?

You can find a 4th gen 4Runner Limited for sale on online marketplaces, automotive forums, and used car dealerships. Before buying, inspect the vehicle for signs of off-road wear, ensure maintenance records are available, and check for any modifications that might affect reliability.

What distinguishes the 4th gen 4Runner grill design from other generations?

The 4th gen 4Runner grille is distinctive for its sleek, vertical chrome slots and integrated Toyota emblem, setting it apart from the horizontal bars seen in other generations.

How does the longevity of the 4th gen 4Runner compare to newer models?

The 4th gen 4Runner is renowned for its longevity and is often compared favorably to newer models. With proper maintenance, many 4th generation 4Runners surpass 200,000 miles, a testament to their enduring design and build quality.

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