For many, going off-roading is a true joy: no disrupting phone calls, no social media updates, a lot of fresh air and mud. Regardless of this, the challenge of finding the right kind to drive on these adventures is tricky for many.

The 3rd Generation Toyota 4Runner has become a legendary name for old-school off-road enthusiasts. It’s loved and preferred for its rough-trail capability, durability, and rugged design. In this article, we’ll be reviewing all that you need to know about this excellent vehicle, as well as why you might want to buy it.

History of the 4Runner

The Toyota model was first introduced to the United States in the 1980s, although the initial type seemed more like a pickup style with a cap at the rear, causing it to appear dissimilar to an SUV. The automobiles had only two doors, taking away family suitability and practicality.

When the second gen was released in the 1990s, it improved its predecessor. Regardless, most off-roading lovers agree that Toyota finally got it right after releasing the third-gen variant. It ran from 1996 to 2002 and is often called the best gen for anyone seeking a used model.

The Third-Gen expertly balances traditional vehicles’ simplicity and fundamentals with remarkable rough-trail abilities. It also includes iconic reliability and a modern experience that makes it ideal and off-road.

Characteristics of the 3rd Generation 4Runner

Engine Specs

As always, starting with its engine, this trim is powered by a 3.4-litre Toyota V6 with about 220 pound-feet of torque and 180 horsepower – a significant improvement on the previous types. This decent motor lets users to adjust easily to contemporary, on-road usage while being powerful enough for off-road adventures. The numbers are not high, but they are adequate.
It was also provided with a 4-cylinder engine with a slightly improved gas mileage, but it was slower than the regular motor.

This includes a manual transmission, which is rare among similar types today. It’s tough to find this was the last kind that was available with it. This is next to four-wheel drive, so it is more uncommon.

Boxy Design and Simple Style

It offers the traditional, boxy structure that enthusiasts knew off-roaders in its time for. This is the charm of this automobile, as most modern models don’t have this old-school feeling that many enthusiasts are looking for.


The style is not head-turning, but it’s well-loved among lovers because of its vintage structure. The third-gen provided a small or big wheeling option, with fender flares that made it appear similar to an off-roading trim.

Interesting Rear Quirks

Considering the Third Gen auto’s rear area, there are a bunch of quirks that one should look out for. Firstly, the window will roll down by pressing a control on the dashboard in the front seat or on the key fob. It rolls down behind the tailgate, bringing air to the interior.

Many of this neat feature is loved as it allows you to carry items such as surfboards that hang back or give your dog breeze while in the trunk. It becomes easier to load smaller items into the cargo section without opening the tailgate.

The SUV also has a rear spoiler with the third brake light connected in the middle on the top of the tailgate.

The load section is quite large and has a simple layout, with none of the many quirks and includes that contemporary automobiles feature. Given the portable size, it manages to provide enough cargo room. There is also a trunk cover that you can clip to the headrests of the backseats and the end of the tailgate.

The area also has a panel at the side operated as a tiny storage compartment. Its function is to store items that are too fragile to roll around. There is a power outlet beside the panel, most likely for plugging in air compressors during rough trailing.

Toyota 4Runner Interior Design

One of the most interesting quirks in the interior is the Garage Door Opener. This is located in the little lid on the ceiling, usually operated by users to place their sunglasses and other minor items. Apart from this, its other purpose is to help you easily open your garage. It has a Velcro square where you fit in the garage opener.

When you connect that, you also fit little plastic circle pieces to the inside of the lid’s door. Once you fit them in and close the lid, the plastic pieces push on your garage opener buttons, automatically opening it.

Moving on from this interesting little quirk, we have the dashboard. A glance at it, and off-roaders who love classic simplicity will fall in love with the interior decor. There is no overload of designs or characteristics, but everything is straightforward yet functional. Every dial and knob was installed in their place, making it easy for users to get the hang of.


The vehicle also has three different power ports in its central control stack. Firstly, there is the standard cigarette lighter on the left and two other ports operated as USB ports for in-car charging.

The variant provides a middle console with two storage areas. The first level is shallow storage that is hard to find, while the second is the normal one is the most variants feature.

In front of the center console area, you have the four-wheel lever beside the manual transmission lever. The car permits you to move from two-wheel to four-wheel drive up to 50 miles per hour, without any stress.

Besides the steering wheel, there’s a control named ‘Clutch Start Cancel.’ This allows you to start the auto without having the clutch pressed in, a good fit for driving on hills. This sets it apart from the regular, family-friendly trims.

The backseat of the 3rd Gen 4Runner offers a climate selection button, although this only heats the section. There are behind seats climate control vents under the front passenger seats and in the middle console.

Placed behind the center console for backseat passengers, an adjustable cup holder can fit a wide range of cups and be tucked in and pulled out.

You can fold down the backseats if you need more space, although you’re expected to tuck in the seat belts in the little pockets so that you aren’t affected before you fold that. You also remove the headrest.

The seats don’t offer much legroom for passengers, although the headroom is decent. The third-gen trim isn’t huge and so tall people won’t feel comfortable sitting behind.

Some Flaws to Look Out For

The Third-Gen 4Runner isn’t perfect, like any other off-roading SUV. Apart from some downsides that have been previously mentioned in this guide, here are some flaws that you might want to keep your eye out for.

The model’s fuel economy isn’t the best out there, and so those that are using it for rough-trail and daily purposes will be discouraged by this fact.

Since the engine is not as powerful as modern enthusiasts expect, the trim doesn’t have a smooth ride. This won’t affect you as long as you’re off-roading, but it’s not exactly the ideal choice for someone who wants to go highway driving.

Finally, they are quite expensive if they are used. They are known for being very reliable and durable, so it’s no surprise that it attracts high prices in the used market.

Is the 3rd Generation Toyota 4Runner Worth It?

The 4Runner is a pretty impressive off-roader, even today. It’s a great nostalgia piece popular for being capable and reliable for all off-roaders. It combines several factors, including practicality, family-friendliness, rough-trail capability and longevity, to give you a great car.

It’s a remarkable combination of all these characteristics that must be why it’s becoming more valuable today among off-road lovers. It will not seem special by modern standards because of the lacking technology and flashy features. But to other drivers, this is what makes it special – an honest, old-school off-roader.



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Pavlo Prannyk
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