1989’s V-6 4Runner was Toyota’s answer to the Bronco


Unlike the still tough-as-nails J60 Land Cruiser generation of the ’80s, the 4Runner first emerged from the Hilux family, developed by Winnebago Industries as the 1981–83 Toyota Trekker. Following its first two years on the market, Toyota’s answer to the Ford Broncos, Chevy Blazers, and Jeep Cherokees of America gained an independent front suspension and, for 1988, a beefier 3.0-liter V-6. The 4Runner SR5’s 3VZ-E produced 145 horsepower at first and five more in 1989, along with 185 pound-feet of torque.

Retaining its well-vented, removable fiberglass canopy over its 80-cubic-feet cargo area, 1989’s RS5 also came with auto-locking front hubs with a five-speed manual, a heavy-duty rear differential, a seven-way adjustable driver’s seat, an adjustable steering column, and a folding seat limited to the passenger side only.

black rear three-quarter off-road

With its car-like and highly versatile interior, 20-mpg V-6, and $17,000 starting price, the 1989 4Runner was a fair offer before the next generation took over. However, retailing for over $22,000 with options, it also gave you vague steering feel even by SUV standards, paired with only moderately-effective brakes lacking ABS. In hindsight, four-cylinder 4Runners also proved to be more reliable than these V-6 trucks. 

With that context, enjoy this delightfully retro look at Toyota’s “4×4 fun machine,” the ’89 4Runner.

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