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2003 Midsize SUV Buyer's Guide
by Steve Siler

Toyota 4Runner
Toyota 4Runner

Toyota is one of the few automakers to sell not one, but two mid-size SUVs, the other being the Camry-based Highlander.

Now for those who really have been paying attention, the truck-based 4Runner has been around for about two decades now, making one of the original mid-size SUVs (actually, it was more of a compact back in the '80s), and it's certainly the oldest nameplate in this group.

You can attribute its staying power to its winning combination of rugged good looks, stolid off-road ability and excellent reputation for quality. The new 2003 model takes all of those virtues to a new level, while offering even more by way of a comfortable interior with considerably more space), a smoother ride quality (that won't skip your CDs) and added safety features (like standard front side air bags and optional curtain air bags).

Another huge improvement comes in the form of a standard 245-hp V-6 and the offering of an optional 235-hp V-8. You read that right, there is more horsepower in the V-6 than the V-8, although trailer people should know that the V-8 is the torque champ, with 320 lb-ft compared with the V-6's "mere" 283 lb-ft. Seriously, the V-6 is more than enough for nearly all of us, especially considering the 2-mpg (both city and highway) penalty the V-8 exacts over the more efficient V-6.

Prices are on the high side, with base models starting in the upper $20Ks and top-shelf Limited models topping $40K in well optioned 4WD guise.