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1st Generation (1984-1989) | 2nd Generation (1989-1995) | 3rd Generation (1995-2002) | 4th Generation (2002-)

Note: All information and text comes from the US Toyota Press site so is specifc to the US 4Runner, but the generations and a lot of the information applies to the Japanese Hilux Surfs too.

First Generation (1984 - 1989)

In mid-1984, for the 1985 model year, Toyota brought to market a revolutionary new vehicle - the 4Runner. Based on the mechanicals of its rugged (and strong-selling) 4-wheel drive pickup, truck, the 4Runner combined the versatility and go-anywhere ability of 4WD with the comfort and utility found in passenger cars. It had a fiberglass top covering the cargo area which could be removed for open-air driving.

The first generation 4Runner was available in two models. The first was little more than a pickup truck with a covered rear cargo area. Its emphasis was on utility. With seats in the front only, the rear of the vehicle was intended to be used for cargo (or camping equipment, bicycles, etc.) The second was designed to carry up to five passengers. It included a rear seat (with seatbelts for three occupants) which could be folded flat for additional storage space. The passenger model was available in the SR5 grade, and included a larger fuel tank and more luxurious interior appointments. Both models were powered by the venerable 2.4L 22R four-cylinder engine coupled to a five-speed manual transmission with two-speed transfer case, and all had manual locking front hubs.

In 1986, Toyota added the Hi-Trac independent front suspension to 4Runner, giving it more ground clearance and improved ride quality. In addition to the improved ride, Toyota gave the 4Runner an injection of power with the addition of a turbocharged engine available on SR5 models.

For 1987, the SR5 trim was available on all models, both truck and passenger, but the turbo engine was still confined to passenger models. Slight changes to the grille, headlights, and striping were also new for 1987.

More power was on tap for 1988, as Toyota introduced the 3.0L V6 engine to the 4Runner. Because the V6 was more suited to the off-road environment that the 4Runner was designed for, the turbo model was discontinued, leaving only the V6 and four-cylinder engines.


Second Generation (1989 - 1995)

For the 1990 model year, but introduced in spring of 1989, Toyota unleashed an entirely new breed of 4Runner. Based on the completely redesigned line of pickup trucks, the new 4Runner was muscular and aggressive looking, but still capable of delivering the off-road performance for which Toyota's four-wheel drive trucks had long been known. The vehicle was now available in either two- or four-door configuration, with either a four- or six-cylinder engine and with either two- or four-wheel drive. The new styling eliminated the removable fiberglass top, making the vehicle quieter and more weather tight. 1992 saw a minor styling revision for the 4Runner, with flush headlamps and new grille and molding treatments. It also saw 4Runner become more than just a vehicle for driving in the hills as it was now available with leather seats as an option.

In 1994, safety was emphasized and 4Runner received side-impact protection, a center (third) brake light, and the option of four-wheel anti-lock brakes on all V6 models. Fully optioned with a CD-player, eight-speaker stereo, sunroof, leather seats and anti-lock brakes, 4Runner's price was approaching $30,000 - quite a departure from its beginnings some ten years earlier as a glorified pickup truck! But 4Runner hadn't forgotten its off-road heritage either, and remained as strong a back-woods performer as ever.


Third Generation (1995 - 2002)

For 1996, Toyota’s most popular SUV received a complete redesign, including all new engines, chassis, interior and exterior styling, enhanced safety equipment and added utility. It was the first 4Runner to not share either body panels or a frame with Toyota’s compact pickup trucks.

Available in two- or four-wheel drive, in base, SR5 and Limited trim, and with two engine choices, there was a 4Runner for everyone. Engine choices were a 2.7-liter four-cylinder or a 3.4-liter V6, both twin cam, multi-valve designs.

The new chassis was stiffer for improved steering feel and more precise suspension travel, and was two inches longer to increase wheelbase for a more stable ride. Front suspension was a coil spring with double wishbone design replacing the previous Hi-Trac system, which resulted in greater wheel travel and ride comfort.

Other features on the new 4Runner included a one-piece lift-up tailgate with power window, larger outside mirrors, much increased interior volume with greater head and legroom and a lowered step-in and cargo loading height. For safety, dual airbags were included along with four-wheel ABS, side-door impact beams and ALR/ELR seatbelts front and rear.

For 1997, 4Runner saw only minor changes including the addition of a 2WD Limited model, revised seat fabric in SR5 models, the ability to order 16-inch alloy wheels on 2WD models and two new Preferred Equipment Packages.

For 1998, minor interior changes were made to 4Runner with the addition of rotary-style HVAC controls, a new four-spoke steering wheel and revised audio head units.

The third generation 4Runner entered its fourth year with more standard features and options than any 4Runner to date. All 1999 4Runners received a redesigned front bumper, valence cover and grille with multi-reflector headlamps with an auto-off function, a new center console with dual cupholders, an overhead console with garage door/sunglass holder, two power outlets in the center cluster and an LCD odometer with digital dual trip meters.

The 1999 4Runner Limited model received a new multi-mode 4WD system as standard. The new multi-mode feature is actually a full-time all-wheel-drive system with 2WD capability and can be used in normal driving conditions on all types of roads including dry, hard surfaces such as pavement.

For 2001, all 4Runner models were standard equipped with the 3.4 liter V6 engine and automatic transmission, Vehicle Skid Control with traction control, multi-mode 4WD and a 2WD/4WD selector switch and a pre-wired trailer hitch harness. The brake booster was changed to hydraulic assisted and the rear differential lock has been discontinued. The 2001 4Runner also boasted new interior additions and three new exterior colors.


Fourth Generation (2002 -)
The all-new 4Runner enhances its legendary tradition of off-road capability through the use of numerous technological advancements. At the same time, 4Runner provides enhanced off-road capability, is larger and roomier, with significantly more power, increased fuel efficiency, and improved ride comfort, adding up to a much better value than the previous generation 4Runner.

For heavy duty high-torque performance, 4Runner now offers a 4.7-liter i-Force V8 engine on all models. The powerful V8 produces 235 horsepower at 4,800 RPM and 320 lb.-ft. of torque at 3,400 RPM. Preliminary EPA city/highway gas mileage for the V8 is 17/19 for all 4x2 models and 16/19 for all 4x4 grades and is LEV-certified.

The V8 engine is paired with Toyota’s first use of a five-speed automatic transmission with overdrive in a light truck. The transmission is equipped with an Artificial Intelligence (AI) Shift control, which changes gear-shifting patterns according to driving conditions and driver intent, contributing to a more comfortable ride. All 4Runner 4x4’s equipped with the V8 are full-time four-wheel-drive and also come standard with a Torsen sensing type limited slip differential with a locking feature.

All 4Runner models are equipped with front and rear ventilated disc brakes. Four-wheel anti-lock brakes are standard on all models. 4Runner continues to be equipped with standard electronic traction control, and vehicle stability control (VSC).

All 4Runners with four-wheel-drive come standard-equipped with a new Downhill Assist Control (DAC) system. Through one of the world’s first uses of active wheel speed sensors, the DAC system assists engine braking to improve speed and directional control during descent on steep or slippery surfaces. The same active wheel speed sensors are used for an all-new Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) system that comes standard on all two- and four-wheel drive 4Runners. HAC increases stability for improved control on steep upgrades and stopping and starting on slippery surfaces.

The new 4Runner provides increased roominess in every dimension, with substantial increases in passenger shoulder room and hip room, and cargo capacity. The spacious interior cabin is complemented by a stylish design with an array of standard comfort and convenience features.

The 4Runner is now offered in three trim levels in two- and four-wheel-drive: the SR5, an all-new Sport Edition that features a sporty appearance and enhanced handling capabilities, and the Limited grade for added luxury and a more upscale appearance.


4Runner "Limited"

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Note: This information is freely available online at the following uri: Hilux Surfing.
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