Many trail rigs run around a single theme. Our 2003 Toyota 4Runner project spans a wide spectrum. To pilot a 4Runner is to experience both the luxurious and the Spartan, as the 4Runner is adept at pampering its occupants inside while taming chaotic terrain outside. Heated leather seats meet coilover shocks and knobby tires. Although 2003 was a few years ago, we consider our 4Runner to be a current model because the 2003 4Runner shares the same platform with the '04-'08 model years. The 4 Runner shares its drive train and chassis parts with the Tacoma (4.0 V-6, front suspension) and the FJ Cruiser (4.0 V-6, front and rear suspension systems) which means that the 4Runner benefits from healthy aftermarket support.
If this 'Runner isn't a familiar sight in this magazine, that's because it's been a while since it's seen any exposure in our pages. A couple years ago, then-editor Kevin McNulty treated it to a mild buildup and drove it a little. About that same time, 4WD acquired an '07 four-door Jeep JK Wrangler. Senor McNulty became enamored with the JK, and the 4Runner ended up gathering dust in a corner of our office parking structure. When we, the current staff, took our respective seats, we decided it was time to dust off the 4Runner, treat it to some new off-road hardware, and get it back in the dirt.
This "round two" buildup was satisfyingly simple, yet yields impressive results.Products and services from Sway-a-Way, Desolate Motorsports, Mickey Thompson, and Downey Off-Road have all found their way onto the 'Runner.
To date, we've logged several thousand miles in the 'Runner, both on the pavement and in the dirt. We've shot frame after frame during product installations and driving adventures. We'll go into greater detail in the future with the tech and the travel stories. For now, we'll re-introduce our 4Runner. Getting re-acquainted has been a pleasure indeed.
Our '03 came in Limited 4WD...
Our '03 came in Limited 4WD trim, including leather seats, a sunroof, an in-dash GPS navigation system, traction control, vehicle stability control, downhill assist control, and 17-inch alloy wheels. From the driver's seat, it's easy to keep tabs on the gauges and the audio and HVAC controls are simple to operate. Those considering an FJ Cruiser would do well to add the 4Runner to their shopping lists, as it's much easier to see out of the 'Runner compared to the FJ.
Does a power moonroof make...
Does a power moonroof make a better trail rig? Of course not, but it's nice to be able to open up the top when the weather's nice. The 4Runner's cabin is superbly insulated, and it's very quiet inside.
The built-in power inverter...
The built-in power inverter comes in handy when it's time to charge camera batteries in the middle of nowhere. The next button to the right locks the center differential in the transfer case. When the t-case differential is unlocked it uses a Torsen limited slip device.The other two buttons are blank, and provide ready homes to switches associated with future upgrades.