What's New for 1996
A new 4Runner with a potent V6, updated styling and more interior room debuts.
After a successful five-year run, the second-generation Toyota 4Runner has been retired, and not a moment too soon. Fresh in 1990, the 4Runner aged quickly as the sport-utility market exploded and other automakers introduced larger, safer and more powerful rivals. By 1995, the compact pickup-based 4Runner offered little, other than Toyota's reputation for reliability, to entice buyers.
For 1996, Toyota has separated this high-volume SUV from its pickup truck roots. The new 4Runner shares little with the Tacoma pickup. As a result, engineers have created a more refined vehicle without sacrificing tough off-road ability. Suspension travel and tread width are both up to improve off-road ability, ride, and handling. The interior is larger in every direction, thanks to a wheelbase that is two inches longer than the previous version. A lower floor and wider doors make getting into and out of the 4Runner less of an exercise in contortionism. Rear leg room is up by three inches, and cargo space has been improved as well.
Two engines are available on the 4Runner: a 2.7-liter inline four cylinder that makes 150 horsepower at 4800 rpm and 177 foot-pounds of torque at 4000 rpm., and a 3.4-liter V6 producing 183 horsepower at 4800 rpm and 217 foot-pounds of torque at 3600 rpm. These figures represent a substantial improvement over the old anemic four cylinder and wheezy V6 -- in fact, the new 2.7-liter four is more powerful than the 1995 model's 3.0-liter six.
Needless to say, all of this adds up to a much improved sport-ute. Safety hasn't been ignored in the revamped 4Runner, which sports dual airbags. Antilock brakes are standard with the V6 and optional on four-cylinder models. Steering response and feel have also been improved by replacing the old recirculating ball-type steering with a rack and pinion setup. Access to the cargo area is improved by switching from a two-piece tailgate to a one-piece hatch-style liftgate with a power-down rear window.
Also new are 20-ounce cupholders, a bigger console storage area, and relocated rear speakers. Seven new exterior colors debut, and all new interior fabrics and designs round out the new 4Runner package. Overall, a very nice effort, resulting in a tough truck with looks to match. Pricing runs from $20,000 for a 2WD four cylinder Base model to $36,000 for a fully loaded Limited. This lands the 4Runner right smack dab in Tahoe, Explorer and Grand Cherokee territory. Keep it in mind.