I stumbled upon this car because I needed an SUV after moving to Chicago (very hasty purchase). We had just purchased a house, had a baby and my wife was not working. I drove Honda ( till it was stolen), and 5 german vehicles prior. This 4runner was 15 years old with 126000 miles and affordable ($4K out the door after trading in my Audi A4). I went straight to my mechanic and Replaced the Timing/drive belts, gasket, fuel filter, plugs, battery, and wires. I also poured sea foam into the gas tank and vacuum lines. I also replaced the rear front rotors, pads, rear drums and cable lines (a year later). All in all, $2500 in preventative/replacement maintenance work and $1000 on Dura-trac tires (5). It has been a very dependable, low maintenance vehicle. The only problem I have is an intermittently working digital clock (and If you have ever owned European vehicles, this is laughable or even "cute" problem...REALLY!) I had very little expectations of they vehicle and Toyota in general as I (honestly) snubbed the brand. This truck/runner has been a true winner and worthy vehicle. The 3rd generation build is simple, and ruggedly handsome per-se and I have truly come around to appreciate it greatly (just like Glocks!). I was so impressed that I purchased a 2011 Toyota Highlander for my wife, which we later traded for a Lexus GX 470 (we preferred the body-on-frame V8 - a superb vehicle based on the 03-08 4runner). Back to the subject. What makes this a superior vehicle is the simple design! It drives like it is new, no squeaks or rattles. I will not hesitate to drive this thing to the ends of the earth (literally because parts are readily available world-wide). The engine is amazing! It is not sluggish like the older 4runners/Land Cruiser 80, nor is it as peppy as its modern V6/8 counterparts but It is ample at best. The best thing about the engine is that it is a "non-interference engine" which means that if the TIMING BELT breaks, your engine will just STOP and NOT BE DAMAGED!! I really love this truck and have decided to have the frame sand blasted and undercoated to extend the service-life (what's the point of a 500,000 mile engine when the frame succumbs to rust right?) My mechanic and I have come to the conclusion that my only future repairs will be the bearings/bushings (whenever it goes), regular maintenance and wear replacements. As the blue book value drops, one be sure that this vehicle can command a higher value given the condition. I will most probably never let go of this gem and simply pass it down/on.
I just purchased a 1999 4Runner Limited with 260K on the odometer. I had driven many Toyotas and Subarus prior to this purchase. The interior shows wear but the drive and the ride are amazing. I live in Florida and this machine has never been in the snow/salt of the cold north. My plan is to fix and repair as needed. I am amazed that this truck feels so new. The only thing that needs fixed/replaced is the climate control module. It is intermittent.
Maybe our 1999 4Runner 4x4 was built on a Friday, but we have had a few repairs that we didn't expect, given the reliability rating it gets. Starter motor, Oxygen and Mass Air Sensors, and starter failed at under 100K miles, a complete failure of a lower ball joint in the front end, rear axle seals leaked (then leaked again after dealer repaired them, just after warranty of course), Driver's side Master Switch for power windows went out, then after living with it for a couple years, started working again. Front Driver's Seat Belt Tensioner springs are about shot, so the seat belt doesn't retract most of the time. Water pump went out at 165K, even though we replaced it at 90K when we had the timing belt replaced as part of scheduled maintenance. At the same time, second starter went out, now on #3.
The V6 has never made great power, but is OK. So far, it's been reliable and doesn't burn any oil, and get around 20 MPG on the highway, which isn't bad for a 4x4. We did have to have the Valve Cover Gasket replaced. Some of the plastic covers on seat adjustment levers, seat belt return, are breaking. At least one of the 12V power ports should be On if the ignition is off.
Seats could be a little bigger, but the vehicle is narrow, so no fault really. Controls are well thought out, and dash layout is good (could use full instrumentation for Oil and Alternator). One thing I smile about driving in the city every day is great turning radius, and overall maneuverability for a SUV, another is the Power Rear Window (which NO OTHER small SUV has)...our dog especially loves it!
The repairs we've had to make are, in my mind, worth the overall experience of owning our 4Runner. It's a nice looking vehicle, offroads well (fire roads and unimproved logging roads), drives responsively in the city. It could have more room, but it drives and parks easily in congested San Francisco, so the tradeoff is OK.
This is the BEST car I have ever owned. Purchased it new in 1999. Never had any problem with the engine or transmission. I change the oil approximately every 10,000 to 20,000. I use synthetic Castrol, since day one. Replaced timing belt around 200,000. Almost time for another one. I've owned many cars through the years but this one is outstanding!