If you're looking for 4x4 performance, forget about spending 60 grand on a German-built controversy with underdeveloped four-wheel-drive technology. Look instead at Toyota. The folks there have hit another home run with the addition of the '04 TRD supercharged 4Runner to the company's product lineup.
Priced at $48,336 we'd take the 353hp 4Runner over the Cayenne any day, just as it took the quarter-mile crown from Porsche's bullet-fast Cayenne S. That's right, Four Wheeler has a new winner in the fastest-accelerating-4x4 sweepstakes. This 4,700-pound SUV scoots, taking only 7.6 seconds from 0 to 60 mph, three-tenths of a second faster than the Porsche. Not to say that speed is what matters most, it's just one impressive option with which Toyota engineers have armed the latest model revision.
In its stock form the 4.7L V-8 engine is an excellent powerplant, putting out a decent 235 hp and a very usable 320 lb-ft of torque. The additional 118hp gain from the TRD supercharger inspires the driver to explore a bit deeper into the rpm range. We found the five-speed, electronically actuated automatic transmission to be well matched to the engine, downshifting at exactly the right times as the manifold pressure increased.
Pavement prowess aside, the '04 Toyota 4Runner has always been a competent trail performer, sharing much componentry with its sibling, the Lexus GX470. One example of this shared-technology approach is the traction-control system, which employs the vehicle's ABS system to redirect torque to the wheels with the most traction. The system takes some getting used to, but once familiar with the dynamics and timing of it all, a driver can rely on it to get enough traction for almost any situation. The suspension system allows for ample compression and is well balanced for light washboard. Body roll was minimal during hard cornering maneuvers. For the most part we found the 4Runner's IFS/solid rear suspension could handle whatever we wanted it to.
The interior of the new larger 4Runner is also more luxurious than previous editions. Surface treatments make the inside interesting, and encourage idle hands to touch and explore the various textures. The controls are large and easy to operate. The optional JBL sound system got the job done and its integrated GPS navigation system included a rear-mounted video camera that will be great for backing up and hooking up trailers. One dissonant note was the Formica-like finish on the lower portions of the center dash, which to our eyes cheapened an otherwise quality interior. The front seats are comfy and provide good support for most average-sized people.
The rear seats are also roomy and feature a wide center armrest that folds down to provide two cup holders and a level tray for whatever your kids need on long road trips. The rear cargo area was designed with integrated cargo nets that help isolate and stabilize loose items. A retractable security cover extends out to hide valuables. A third-row seat is available as a $735 option. All in all, the entire interior is well thought out and complements Toyota's mechanical excellence.
We recently had the opportunity to drive the TRD supercharged Tundra Double Cab pickup, powered by essentially the same engine as the 4Runner tested here. Though its performance gains are not as impressive as those of the 4Runner, the supercharger did add substantial gains to the truck's performance. Ample low-end torque easily broke the tires loose on pavement and lane changes at freeway speeds were similar to a much lighter sports sedan. Towing with the Tundra would be the best reason to get the supercharger option, as the naturally aspirated 4.7L can seem a bit underpowered when it's laboring against heavy loads.
Vehicle model:'04 4Runner
Base price: $36,970
Price as tested: $48,336
Options as tested:
TRD supercharger, driver and passenger curtain and side airbags, rear air suspension, JBL CD player with 10 speakers and navigation system and back-up monitor, rear spoiler with stop lamp, power tilt/slide moonroof, rear cargo accessory package.
Type: V-8, 32-valve, iron block and aluminum heads
Displacement (liter/ci): 4.7/283
Bore x stroke (in.): 3.70 x 3.31
Valve actuation: DOHC, four-valve/cylinder
Compression ratio: 9.6:1
Induction: Eaton Supercharger, port fuel injection
Mfg's power rating @ rpm (hp): 353 @ 5,200
Mfg's torque rating @ rpm (lb-ft): 359 @ 5,200
Mfg's suggested fuel type: Premium unleaded
Transmission: Five-speed ECT automatic
Second : 2.042
Differential ratio: 3.727:1
Transfer case: Two speed
Low-range ratio: 2.566:1
Crawl ratio: 34:1
Frame: Steel ladder type
Front: Independent suspension
Rear: Four-link rigid type with coil springs
Type: Power-assist and variable gear rack-and-pinion
Turns (lock-to-lock): 3
Front: Ventilated disc ABS standard with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA)
Rear: Ventilated disc ABS standard with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA)
Wheels (in.): 7.5x17 steel
Tires: P265/65 R17 M/S
EPA city/highway : 13.7/16.5
Actual combined, city/highway/trail: 13.4
Weight (lbs.): 4,450
Wheelbase (in.): 109.8
Overall length (in.): 187.8
Overall width (in.): 73.8
Height w/roof rack (in.): 71.2
Track f/r (in.): 62
Minimum ground clearance (in.): 9.1
Turning diameter, curb-to-curb (ft.): 36.7
Approach/departure angles (deg.): 32/24
GVWR (lbs.): 5,510
Payload (lbs.): 1,060
Maximum towing capacity (lbs.): 5,000
Seating Capacity: 7 with optional third row seat
Fuel capacity (gal.): 23
Claimed interior volume (cu. ft.):103
0-30 (sec.): 2.87
0-60 (sec.): 7.60
30-50 (sec.): 2.95
50-70 (sec.): 4.24
Quarter-mile (sec. @ mph): 16.01 @ 88.63
Braking 60-0 mph (ft.): 141.44