What Years Did The Toyota 4Runner Have A V8?


If you’re looking for a Toyota 4Runner, you’ll find that there’s only one engine available, the 4.0L V6. With Dual VVT-i, this engine is trusty and delivers adequate performance. 

But the Toyota 4Runner once had many engines to choose from, including a V8. Let’s find out what years did the 4Runner come with a V8 and why it doesn’t anymore. 

What Years Did The Toyota 4Runner Have A V8?

The Toyota 4Runner came with a V8 in the fourth generation, which went from 2003 to 2009. The 2003 and 2004 models came with the 2UZ-FE V8, which put out 235 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. From 2005 on, VVT-i technology increased the output to 260 hp and 330 lb-ft. 

The 4Runner used Toyota’s very popular 2UZ-FE. It had a cast-iron block, which increased the engine’s durability. It provided all its torque at lower revs, which made it ideal for SUVs and pickups. The 4Runner shared this engine with other Toyota and Lexus vehicles such as the early Tundras and Sequoias. 

While the powerplant was reliable, it did have some issues that were particular to its construction. These included manifold leaks and engine ticking. 

Eventually, the engine proved to have high fuel consumption. As Toyota was improving other powerplants, it removed the V8 from the 4Runner. The replacement was the upgraded 4.0L V6. 

The idea of a V8 4Runner is enticing. But this particular powerplant wasn’t the most efficient. In fact, performance figures with the latest V6 are very similar. Let’s find out more about the 2003-2009 Toyota 4Runner, the only one to have a V8. 

The Fourth-Generation Toyota 4Runner

The fourth-generation 4Runner entered the market in 2002 with the 2003 model year. It was a mid-size, semi-luxury SUV aimed at people who wanted to mix both comfort and off-roading abilities in a single package. Known as the N210, it came with many changes from the previous generation. 

The first of which was the inclusion of the 4.7L V8. In the first two years of production, the V8 4Runner put out a respectable 235 hp with 320 lb-ft of torque. Toyota improved on its fuel injection technology and started it on all its vehicles. So, in 2005, they upgraded the engine with the new VVT-i system. 

This improvement increased the horsepower to 260 and the torque to 330 lb-ft. But fuel performance took a big hit. On average, the V8 engine had an EPA estimated 15 mpg on the city and 19 mpg on the highway. This generation of 4Runner also came with the 4.0L V6 as an option, which produced 245 hp and 282 lb-ft of torque. 

Though horsepower seemed similar, the V8 model outperformed its V6 counterpart in towing. V6 models towed a maximum of 5,000 pounds, while the RWD V8 version could tow up to 7,300 pounds. This difference was thanks to the more than 40 lb-ft increment on the 4.7L powerplant. 

The 4Runner used a solid rear axle and double wishbone suspension in the front. This configuration made it ideal for off-roading and towing but, like most 4Runners, made its ride choppy at highway speeds. Cornering has never been the 4Runner’s strong point, and this generation was no exception. 

When the fifth-generation 4Runner entered the market, known as the N280, it came with two engine choices. And neither was a V8. Let’s find out why. 

Why Did Toyota Stop Making A V8 4Runner?

There are several reasons why the Toyota 4Runner ceased to have a V8 engine. First of all, Toyota was aggressively promoting improved powerplants. Now it’s commonplace, but back then, the VVT-i system was brand new. 

In the mid-2000s, manufacturers faced pressure to improve fuel efficiency in their engines. It wasn’t uncommon to see several models drop their larger engines from the lineup. Instead, they opted for smaller, more eco-friendly powerplants. Toyota was no exception. 

They promised that the upgraded 4.0L V6 was more powerful and more efficient. But the 4.7L V8 also had quality issues. Though usually recognized as a very reliable engine, the 2UZ-FE V8 sometimes had a cracked exhaust manifold. 

As fuel emissions standards increased, Toyota had to find a way to decrease emissions on its V8 engines during cold starts. Also, to the original catalytic converter, Toyota added a second converter into the exhaust manifold. 

Converters need warming up before they can be fully efficient. So, Toyota thinned out the steel surrounded the catalytic converters. After many heating and cooling cycles, the thinner metal would crack. This problem leads to hampered performance and, worse, failed catalytic converters. 

Though the problem wasn’t frequent, maintenance was vital in keeping the V8 in top conditions. But the 4.7L engine is picky. For example, the engine required that the timing chain be replaced every six years of average use, less if you’re a mile-eater. Each replacement costs $500 to $1200 per change, which can pile up in the long run. 

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only issue. The 2003-2005 versions came with rust issues. Though this wasn’t related to the engine, it generated a bad reputation for the early fourth-generation models. 

Interestingly, the fourth and fifth-generation V6 4Runners are known for extreme reliability. They’re not perfect. Some have transmission issues, such as those we mention in this article. But they can drive for hundreds of thousands of miles. 

What Engines Replaced The V8 On The Toyota 4Runner?

The fifth-generation Toyota 4Runner had improved suspension, interior, styling, and transmission. Plus, it came with two engines. The most popular powerplant was the 4.0L V6 1GR-FE. 

Tried and true, this engine was already on several Toyota vehicles. But, the 4Runner came with an improved injection system, thanks to VVT-i technology. Toyota promised that the V6 performed just as well as the V8, and it did. To a degree. 

The power was a respectable 274 hp, but the torque was 278 lb-ft, lower than that of the previous V8. This translated to a lower towing capacity, 2,000 pounds less, to be exact. And this was important to all those users looking to tow with their 4Runners. Here’s an article we wrote on the topic. 

Fuel performance was like earlier engines, with 17 mpg in the city and 21 mpg on the highway. 

But, there’s another relatively unknown engine. And, with due reason. During the first two years of production, the fifth-generation Toyota 4Runner came with a 2.7L I4 engine, which produced 157 hp. It was available only in 2WD models and was pulled out of the product line in 2010. 

Since then, Toyota has stuck to a recipe that seems to work. The 4.0L V6 is responsive. It can carry the 4Runner through the most challenging terrains and has adequate power. But it’s a powerplant that has a decade of use. Yes, Toyota has improved the injection systems, but as competition improves, the 4Runner is beginning to show its age. 

So, if Toyota wants to stay competitive in the mid-size SUV market with one of the last true off-roaders, it must look to rejuvenate the 4Runner. And, with companies migrating to hybrids, it’s unlikely that we’ll see another Toyota 4Runner have a V8 ever again. 

Closing Thoughts 

This article wanted to answer what years did the Toyota 4Runner have a V8. Toyota produced the Toyota 4Runner with a V8 option from 2003 to 2009, as part of the fourth generation. The fifth-generation saw Toyota stop this option. 

The Toyota 4Runner came with a 4.7L V8 that produced a respectable 235 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque during the first two years. Thanks to VVT-i, from 2005 on, the engine put out 260 hp and 330 lb-ft of torque. 

But the V8 made the 4Runner thirsty, and it was unable to reach 20 mpg on the highway. The engine is reliable and has a reputation for going for hundreds of thousands of miles. But some presented cracks in the exhaust manifold. To follow emission standards on cold starts, Toyota installed a second catalytic converter in the engines. 

Engineers had to thin out the metal surrounding the second converter. Due to expansion and then shrinking of the metal, the manifolds would crack, and the converters showed failure. 

Toyota was already working hard on improving the 4.0L V6, which would eventually make its way to the 4Runner and become the mainstay engine. So, this combination of factors led to pulling the V8 out of the 4Runner lineup. 

While the current engine delivers good power and torque, it’s already showing its age. Plus, thanks to its body-on-frame construction, the 4Runner isn’t the best-handling SUV. So, it’s beginning to feel outdated compared to other SUVs. 

But one thing is clear. The Toyota 4Runner is a solid 4×4. It can go for hundreds of thousands of miles, and its 4.0L V6 is reliable. We may never see a V8 in a 4Runner again, but we’re sure to see 4Runners on the road or off it for many more years. 

Kern Campbell

I've had a passion for four-wheel-drive vehicles since I was a kid riding in the back seat of my Grandfather's Jeep Grand Wagoneer. I have owned a lot of vehicles over the years. They each have their pros and cons and I look forward to sharing my knowledge with you so you can find the vehicle that's just right for your needs.

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