2003 Montero: Keep, Trade for 4Runner, or ???

CJREX

New member
So I have a 2003 Montero Limited that I bought in 2003.

Basically stock. It has been nothing short of a stellar vehicle as far as reliability goes (15+ years, 145k miles, and non-routine maintenance costs have been a tensioner, a solenoid, and the updated crank pulley bolt/washer. <$100)).

Now though, I want to trim my fleet so I will be selling my built Bronco. It is awesome off road but not so much on road.

That will mean that either my existing Montero gets built or I trade it for something that may be more capable.

General consensus is that the 4 runner (I want a 2005-2009 model) is better, but how much better?

Is it worth trading to get only a little more capability?

I guess the rear IFS is the only real downside to the existing Montero as the rest of it is pretty solid.

What about a gen 2.5 Montero?

I like the look of those.

End goal is general trail riding/overlanding. No rock crawling.

What would you do?

Thanks
 

plh

Explorer
Go drive a 4Runner, my personal opinion is that they feel built / drive cheap. Not near the same league as a Montero. I'd build your current Montero being you know the history very well. Not sure what you mean by "building" a 4Runner - it will cost a ton more to get it to the stock capability of your Gen 3. Unfortunately your Gen 3 is only going to sell for $3k +/- (trade for sub $2k) and a mediocre 4Runner will cost $10K +/-. So if you look at it this way, what enhancements can you do to your Montero for that difference $7k?

A/T Tires - $1k (4Runner will likely need these as well)
OME + Bilsteins + Suspension freshened + Alignment - $1.5K installed (4Runner will likely need this as well)
4.90 re-gear and rear LSD - $1K (4Runner will likely need this as well but will cost 2x)
Front Air Locker - $1.5K installed (4Runner will likely need this as well)
Upgraded skid plates $1K (4Runner will likely need this as well)

So far I see no point in the 4Runner.
 
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Michael Brown

You followed me, so now we're both lost
Put some All Terrain Tires on the Gen 3 and go drive it. Only upgrade when you find something where it does not meet the challenge. I have stock ride height and 32" Toyo ATs. I will point mine towards any path that the Rubicons go, even ones where others turn back. I have never once gotten stuck or was worried that it wouldn't be capable of reaching the end. This included river crossings up to the headlights, boulder fields along a mountain path, slick wet clay pulling a trailer, and sticky mud. It has to be driven differently, and you will need faith in the traction control system to get to where you are headed. As long as it keeps at least the 2 opposite corners, the system will be able to move you forward. I can give you tips for how to approach different obstacles with a Gen 3, but mostly just keep it slow and balancing with steady throttle input. The traction lights will blink as the ABS starts to sort the power flow, but you will begin to move forward as the tires grab.

I would only recommend a SkidMark trailer hitch plate since it will hang low enough to contact obstacles. I have used mine as a jack point for the rear and as a point to slide down from rocks/pipes/obstacles. It has not flexed or bent and keeps my bumper off the ground. https://www.skidmark4x4.com/order-now/

I think you are more worried about what you think it will need to be great offroad than what it is already capable of accomplishing. Mitsubishi won 11 overall Dakar victories including wins using a production class vehicle. I think it will handle far challenges more than you or anyone else expects. Be smart, be safe, use a good spotter, and have fun.

520098
 

Swank Force One

Adventurer
Go drive a 4Runner, my personal opinion is that they feel built / drive cheap. Not near the same league as a Montero. I'd build your current Montero being you know the history very well. Not sure what you mean by "building" a 4Runner - it will cost a ton more to get it to the stock capability of your Gen 3. Unfortunately your Gen 3 is only going to sell for $3k +/- and a mediocre 4Runner will cost $10K +/-. So if you look at it this way, what enhancements can you do to your Montero for that difference $7k?

A/T Tires - $1k (4Runner will likely need these as well)
OME + Bilsteins + Suspension freshened + Alignment - $1.5K installed (4Runner will likely need this as well)
4.90 re-gear and rear LSD - $1K (4Runner will likely need this as well but will cost 2x)
Front Air Locker - $1.5K installed (4Runner will likely need this as well)
Upgraded skid plates $1K (4Runner will likely need this as well)

So far I see no point in the 4Runner.
I disagree a lot. Going from my minty 2003 20th Anniversary Montero to now a minty 06 V8 4Runner Sport Edition, the only way it feels "cheaper" is that it doesn't have a black leather interior or seat heaters. Luckily i hate leather interiors, and we can live without seat heaters. (Or i can add them because that's easy.) It drives just as solidly, is far more nimble-feeling and generally just oozes quality. The generation 4runner in question is a Land Cruiser 120 chassis.

So far, the only area i can come up with that the 4runner gives up is just plain old size. It's smaller. Delta in cost between our two was $2000.

It gets the same MPG, but has TONS more power and tow capacity. Does not need a regear for 33s. If you want to add a rear locker, FJ Cruiser takeoffs are cheap, and better than an OEM LSD.

I also saw mentioned that stock 4runners can't fit 33s. Yes, they can.

Anyways, OP. I have a Gen2.5 Montero for sale. You should buy it. :) https://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/fs-1998-montero-winter-package.203876/#post-2625018


CLARIFICATION: Gen3 Monteros are cool. I am not bashing them. They're great value. Just, having owned both of the vehicles in question, i'm in a position where i can be objective, and correct misinformation.
 
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SONICMASD

Adventurer
There is not a consensus around here that a 4runner is more capable.

4Runners are good, Monteros are good. Both would be good overlanders.

Gen3 Montero Pros:

  1. Size - There's no way I'd want anything smaller than a Montero when traveling with 2 or more people.
  2. Suspension - IRS is better for overlanding.
  3. Cost - Way better value when it comes to capability per $ and condition for the same price when purchasing.
  4. Super Select 4x4 (2wd, AWD, 4Hi, 4Lo) with amazing Traction Control system
  5. Also, where are you going to put a 33" spare tire on a 4runner? On the roof, in the rear cargo area, deflated and sticking down really low in the factory location, or buy a $1000 rear bumper swing out?

Gen4 4Runner Pros:

  1. Engines - Find a V8 one of course
  2. Parts Availability / Aftermarket Support
  3. Reliability - If you can afford to get a newer one then they should require less initial maintenance but maybe not if your current Gen3 Montero is well maintained.
  4. Quieter - The Gen3 Motnero has a loud cabin once you get bigger tires on it.
 
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CJREX

New member
...
  1. Super Select 4x4 (2wd, AWD, 4Hi, 4Lo) with amazing Traction Control system
I thought the 4Runner 4x4 system was similar?

My understanding was that the 4x4 system between the V6 and the V8 was basically the same with the V8 being AWD all the time.

The V6 system can be driven in 4x4 on the road and has a button to lock the center diff for off road.

I haven't went to drive one yet but just going off of what I've read.
 

Toasty

Looking for that thing i just had in my hand...
I'm on board with PLH, when i bought my GX they were still very expensive. Quality for cost was way off compared to the Gen 3 (mine were 2005 Gen 3 vs 2007 GX) unfortunately my GX had the Sport package and KDSS suspension. The GX suspension was total garbage but like Swank Force said FJ take offs are cheap and after that you'll have a fantastic truck. Now that prices on the GX are more reasonable and starting to get wheeled by average Joes I'd rock another one. The Montero can kinda just take a beating better than others stock and you own it already so that's a huge plus but definitely go drive the other trucks because the 2UZ engine is really easy to love.
 
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sedole

Member
I went through the same debate when selling my Gen 1: gx470/v8 runner vs gen 3 Montero.

Ultimately it boiled down to budget and my expectations for the truck. I got my Gen 3 for $3,500. Great condition, but due for maintenance. Entrance price for similarly conditioned GXs/runners was double+. I've now spent about $6,500 total including purchase price and have had all major maintenance caught up and done by a shop (I could have saved $500+ by doing it myself), plus sized tires + new wheels, shocks and lift springs purchased and waiting to go in, carplay headunit + subwoofer, and a steel front bumper. Still a little shy of the entrance price for a stock GX/runner... To get the GX/runner to that point is already pushing $10,000.

I do think that with the massive aftermarket support and body on frame of the GX/runner, you can ultimately have a much more kitted out and capable vehicle with much less hassle (lots of bolt ons) if that's your thing. But, if hardcore wheeling isn't your thing (it's not mine), then you'll likely find the Gen 3 to be perfectly capable at whatever you throw its way.


There are of course many other factors, but those were the biggest for me. But others that swayed me for the Montero were:
-interior space & 2nd row passenger space
-transfer case (namely being able to have 2wd)
-driving position (more comfortable for me than the runner...GX is comparable to the Montero)
-unique factor
-junkyard mods that can really up the capability for pennies (i.e. 4.9s, LSD...not likely to find a yota in the yard)
-looks

The only things I really lusted after are the v8 power and sound, and the rough and tumble nature of a body on frame.
 

tj90

Member
I'm in similar boat as you - I own a 03 limited but with 270k mi. I just picked up a 18 5th gen 4 runner Trd off road. You may have seen my other posts, where I'm dealing with mechanical gremlins on montero. I had to use "creativity" to pass CA emission test here in ca. I know I need a engine rebuild due to worn valves or rings and my tranny may need service as well. With that said, I'm enjoying my montero more than I ever have before. I just spent 3 days on the mojave trail - 150 mi of dirt roads and camping. The week before I was in ohv trails in sedona. Not trying to beat the truck up but it's been pinstriped by cactus and it doesn't bother me. For the first time in 16 years I'm actually enjoying it to its potential. Putting falken atw3 tires is the only upgrade I've done for 4wd and it is insane how much more capable this truck is! Even some jeep guys were admiring it on the mojave, it definitely has earned its place off road.

With that said, imo my 4runner is a better offroader. It has much better rear clearance - the montys hitch is just too low and constantly hit rocks. The 4 runner has atrac which is similar to montero system. Using abs braking to direct power away from spinning wheels works but it's not smooth and efficient. 4runner trail, off road or pro adds a rear locking diff which I have found to apply power more consistently on moguls where the atrac system kinda works but it's not smooth. 4runner also has kdss which is a valve controlled sway disconnect for more body articulation. Finally 4runner has crawl control and terrain management. Think of it like slow motion cruise control. Some think it's a gimmick, but I like it on hill decents. Much more comfortable for novice guys like me or my wife to confidently go up or down rough terrain smoothly and comfortably. I do miss AWD mode in montero... toyota doesn't offer that.

With all that said my truck of choice is montero. It goes everywhere I want to go. It's not worth as much. Minor body damage is no big deal. Spilling a coffee or coke in it while camping? Who cares! My 4runner won't see much offroad until the original tires wear out or montero finally dies. I suspect with your mileage, you have much more life in your truck. Keep it and enjoy it!

Build quality of the 4runner is good, but honestly the montero seems more solid with nicer interior bits. The 4 runner has typical toyota feel (like light and plastic-y door handles and sheet metal that seems thinner. When I got into an accident in montero, my body guy was shocked how overbuilt this truck was and how much force his alignment rack needed to straighten the frame out. Maybe that's why montero gets 11-14 mpg and toyota is 17-18? They just dont build em like that anymore!
 

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SONICMASD

Adventurer
Great post tj90, my best friend has a 2015 SR5 4Runner and we've wheeled it a lot together. I share many of your opinions.

Things that stand out to me on the 5th Gen 4Runner: lots of cheap plastic, poor visibility, small interior, traction control not as good, better reliability because it's newer, $30k more expensive, better stock ground clearance except for maybe the min. ground clearance number under the rear diff, handles really well on dirt and very capable as-is even with the base trim & stock suspension.

Think about how amazing a 2003 Montero would be if you put even $10,000 into it with King Suspension, a Rear Locker, Engine Refresh, Suspension/Steering Bushings refresh, and still have $2,000 left over. The downside - it will be really hard to ever get all that money back when you sell whereas a stock Toyota holds its value really well.
 

SONICMASD

Adventurer
I'm on board with PLH, when i bought my GX they were still very expensive. Quality for cost was way off compared to the Gen 3 (mine were 2005 Gen 3 vs 2007 GX) unfortunately my GX had the Sport package and KDSS suspension. The GX suspension was total garbage but like Swank Force said FJ take offs are cheap and after that you'll have a fantastic truck. Now that prices on the GX are more reasonable and starting to get wheeled by average Joes I'd rock another one. The Montero can kinda just take a beating better than others stock and you own it already so that's a huge plus but definitely go drive the other trucks because the 2UZ engine is really easy to love.
This is a much more toned down version of Toasty vs 3 years ago when he had the GX which was "this thing is so weak", "the CVs are tiny and the Toyota dudes think it's normally to spend thousands to make them stronger", "it can't hang with the Monteros, I need to buy a Gen3".
 

plh

Explorer
This is a much more toned down version of Toasty vs 3 years ago when he had the GX which was "this thing is so weak", "the CVs are tiny and the Toyota dudes think it's normally to spend thousands to make them stronger", "it can't hang with the Monteros, I need to buy a Gen3".
We will all need to move to an updated platform at some point. No new Monteros in USA since 2006 - that is a big problem. Plus there really were very few Gen 3s imported making the pickings for a good one slim. Roughly 18,000 of them from MY2003 thru MY2006 total. Personally I would not consider a pre '03. I love the 3.8L and 5 speed auto way too much. Jeep does that volume in a month these days. Newest Montero is now 13 years old, that is really OLD in car years. Facts and figure estimates from NHTSA says there are maybe 4,500 left on the road. My DD is my '05, have had it for nearly 8 years and 100K miles. I'm shopping slowly for its replacement, unfortunately will probably not be another Montero unless I could by chance find a sub 80K miles '06 from the rust free states. A 4Runner is not on my short list, a GX470 is.
 
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