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With as many classic nameplates as Toyota has produced, it’s hard to pinpoint the single best Toyota SUV of all time. Models like the Land Cruiser FJ40 tend to dominate the conversation – but there’s one model that often goes overlooked. The V8 4Runner was only available for a few years, yet it makes a strong case for itself as one of the best Toyota SUVs ever made. 

When did the Toyota 4Runner have a V8 engine?

A line of fourth-generation Toyota 4Runners on display at a dealership. This generation was the only 4Runner with an available V8 engine.
Fourth-Generation Toyota 4Runners | Bloomberg, Getty Images

Toyota produced the V8 4Runner from 2003 to 2009 as a part of the fourth-generation model. 

The Toyota 4Runner has been a staple for 40 years through five generations. Yet, only a handful of those model years offered a V8 engine. The SUVs were available with a 4.7-liter V8 for a stint through the 2000s. 

According to Motor Trend, the 2UZ FE engine started out making 235 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque. Once Toyota added variable valve timing, power jumped to 260 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque. 

V8-equipped 4Runners are now among the most sought-after versions of the SUV. There are a few reasons for that. 

1. 4Runner V8 had an upgraded 4×4 system 

One of the main differences between V6-equipped fourth-generation 4Runners and V8 versions is the addition of full-time four-wheel drive to eight-cylinder variants. 

Most 4Runners have used typical part-time, manually engaged 4×4 systems. That’s precisely how four-wheel drive works in most modern models (except the Limited trim). However, the fourth-generation 4Runner offered full-time four-wheel drive in V8 models. 

As the name suggests, full-time four-wheel drive delivers to all four wheels all the time. The system uses a center-locking differential instead of a rear-locking differential. It’s similar to the symmetrical all-wheel drive system used in Subarus. 

2. The V8 4Runner was the best model for towing capacity

4Runners with the 4.7-liter V8 had higher towing capacities than any other 4Runner models. 

These V8 models were the versions to get if you needed serious towing capability. Properly equipped rear-wheel drive models could tow up to 7,000 pounds. That’s 2,000 pounds more than the max towing capacity of the 2023 4Runner. Adding full–time four-wheel dropped the towing ability a bit – but towing capacity still remained high.  

3. Bullet-proof reliability 

The 2UZ V8 engine available for the fourth-generation 4Runner has a reputation as one of the most reliable engines Toyota has ever produced. 

Toyota has used the 2UZ in everything from the 100 Series Land Cruiser to the Toyota Tundra. Owners are quick to share anecdotes of these engines going hundreds of thousands of miles without much more than routine maintenance. 

No engine is perfect – and the 2UZ V8 is no exception. However, sturdy engineering, plentiful parts availability, and the multitudes of Toyota mechanics throughout the country help ensure longevity for the V8 4Runner.

4. The V8 driving experience 

If you want a memorable driving experience, the V8 4Runner delivers in spades. 

While its standard V6 is an admirable workhorse, the available 4.7-liter V8 is more likely to stick in your memory. Its low-end torque and grumbling exhaust provide a more visceral experience overall. True, it’s an entirely subjective factor to consider. But not all driving benefits are quantifiable or come from a spec sheet. 

5. You can’t get the V8 4Runner anymore

Toyota dropped the V8 from the 4Runner lineup with the arrival of the redesigned 2010 model. Thus, an era of V8 Toyota SUVs. In fact, Toyota axed its V8 for all its SUVs.

They say you always want what you can’t have. Scarcity drivers demand – and that’s certainly the case with the V8 4Runner. Toyota truck enthusiasts have placed the eight-cylinder SUV on a pedestal alongside other Toyota classics. And it deserves to be there.


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