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4Runner SR5 blends great performance, style


The 4Runner has a long list of performance features, starting with its 245-horsepower, 4.0-liter, double-overhead-cam V-6 (there is a V-8 option) and a new five-speed automatic transmission.
 (Toyota / The Spokesman-Review)
The 4Runner has a long list of performance features, starting with its 245-horsepower, 4.0-liter, double-overhead-cam V-6 (there is a V-8 option) and a new five-speed automatic transmission. (Toyota / The Spokesman-Review)
Greg Zyla King Features Syndicate

Toyota has turned out another beautiful four-wheel-drive sport-utility vehicle in its 2005 4Runner SR5. The vehicle combines strong on- and off-road performance, excellent safety features and stunning looks. Unique engineering is also noteworthy with 4Runner’s removable third-row seats, but the expectations may leave you “hanging.”

We were critical of Toyota’s addition of third-row seating to the 4Runner we tested in 2004, believing the seats used too much in cargo space (even if they were removable) and created a vehicle too similar to the maker’s biggest SUV, the Sequoia.

Our SR5 for 2005 included a new option. You can leave the seats installed or remove them as before, or you can hang them at each rear side window, hooked securely at the bottom into a mechanical contraption at each wheel well, and at the top with a strap attached to the “sissy grips.”

Passing this vehicle for the first time, we did a double take, thinking it must be some traveling salesman’s overloaded vehicle.

The seats are relatively easy to unhook and install, and the $735 option was growing on us until we crawled into those seats, which should be labeled “For Children Only.”

The 4Runner is more about loading cargo space with camping gear and fishing poles anyway, so let’s not get too stuck on the seats.

The 4Runner has a long list of performance features, starting with its 245-horsepower, 4.0-liter, double-overhead-cam V-6 (there is a V-8 option) and a new five-speed automatic transmission. Also notable are full-time, multimode four-wheel drive; a Torsen locking center differential, which improves stability in slippery situations by transferring the bulk of the engine’s torque to the rear wheels; downhill assist control to prevent unwanted downhill acceleration; hill-start assist control; and independent front and solid rear axles.

As you can see, this vehicle is made to toss you out of your seat now and then.

With all of its off-road capabilities, the 4Runner is sharp and smooth on the road. However, unlike in previous model years, we noticed plenty of sway on the open highway, where a modest wind was seemingly affecting handing more than you’d expect.

The 4Runner includes the Star Safety System and its five features: vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes, brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution.

There are driver and front-passenger advanced airbags, second-row lower and top tether anchors, rear-door child-safety locks, and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

Our tester had a $680 option package that included curtain and side airbags, driver and front-passenger seat-mounted side airbags, front- and second-row roll-sensing side-curtain airbags and cut-off switch. That’s a lot for a little, and we recommend this option.

The SR5 falls short of its sister Sport and Limited editions in features, functions and price, yet still has a respectable list of amenities. Interior highlights include AM/FM/cassette/CD player with six speakers, cruise control, remote keyless entry, power windows and door locks, tilt steering and electronic rear-hatch locking system.

Important numbers include 17-mpg city and 21-mpg highway EPA numbers, 109.8-inch wheelbase, 9.1-inch ground clearance, 4,300-pound curb weight, 5,000-pound towing capacity and a 23-gallon fuel tank.

The 4Runner is a veteran in the Toyota lineup and continues to stand strong in the tough mid-size SUV category. Although you can find both cheaper and more expensive models, always remember that Toyota quality takes a back seat to no one.

Likes: Beautiful shape and looks; off-road features.

Dislikes: If it’s critical you have third-row seats, step up to a Sequoia.

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