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  • Utili-mule

    I have long-coveted a vehicle I could use for many purposes: towing the Miata, carrying our 70# dogs, exploring mild-medium mountain trails, winter driving to MI for family visits, drive on the beaches, tour Yellowstone and Utah, carry loads of homer-owner equipment, etc. Something that is relatively easy to work on, capable off road, reliable, comfortable, and timeless. For this I tend to gravitate towards Toyota; the Landcruisers (FJZ80 and up), 3rd and fourth gen 4Runners, even the LX and GX 470. Something capable but not ginormous enough to make it difficult to drive in the city. A new vehicle does not appeal to me, given the mule-like activities we would use it for, something around $8k +/- $2k.

    I'm not a fan of Jeeps, any of them. The domestics are probably cheaper, but they may be too big and I question the reliability. I guess if I had my druthers, something that could tow 5000#+ and still last 300-400k miles.

  • #2
    The Sequoia...Seriously best purchase I have made yet and I'm sure you've seen on FB the driving we do in it and the trailers/loads it has hauled...


    • #3
      I *want* to like the Tree, I really do, but man there is something about it that sticks in my craw. I can't put my finger on it.


      • #4
        If you are looking for someone to talk you out of a Toyota truck, don't look this way!

        I've never been into trucks (I always thought man, if I'm getting another car why not get another fun one!) but when I wanted to start towing it was a necessity.

        I started out in a 2002 Toyota Sequoia. I loved that truck - it did everything well. TONS of space, pulled an open with a trailer and Miata without hesitation, and was mechanically reliable even with close to 200k on the odometer.

        A little over a year ago I "upgraded" to an older LX470. It's a 1999 and also has close to 200k on the clock. The ownership experience has been similar to the Sequoia. To compare the two, the Sequoia was noticeably larger. That made a huge difference in space for loading gear for the track. Also, there was 6' of space in the Sequoia with the third row removed meaning that I could camp in in it without any special preparation. For the LX I had to build a sleeping platform to raise the space behind the second row so that it would be level. In favor of the LX is the overall build quality - feels less plastic-y inside and has better fit and finish.

        The LX/LC market is kind of crazy - people are still willing to pay a lot for these trucks, but if you are patient there are some good deals out there. I paid $7k for both the Sequoia and the LX, but the Sequoia was much easier to find.

        I think you and/or Yancey drove my LX? Or was that the Sequoia?

        This one looks decent:


        • #5
          Nick, thanks! Yes, we used your LX to tow my pathetic lump home from AMP. I was impressed, I was surprised how well it pulled, though Yancey drove it.

          I have no issues with higher miles on the Toyotas if the maintenance is relatively up to date.

          I hem and haw about which model would be best.

          I like the V8 4runners (03-06) with the 4.7. The size is perfect for me, and I think my wife if she needed to drive it. I don't like that the 4WD versions are full-time 4WD. The 7000# tow rating is also nice. The 4Rs are pretty vanilla on the inside, though. That could be good or bad as I'll get to below.

          The Land Cruisers...are impressive. I read they go forever, but the parts are stupid expensive. Bryan's friend used to build them professionally (IIRC) as overland vehicles, but he now lives in Chile or Argentina(?). Are they full-time 4WD?

          The LX470 is really nice, I know my wife would like it, she loved her IS300 Sportcross. I have concerns that repairs could get expensive. Air suspensions are never a cheap fix, though I have looked at the aftermarket fixes for that.

          The GX470 really intrigues me for it's size and a lot of them are priced surprisingly well. As I understand it, they are restyled bodies on the N210 frame (4runner) with the Land Cruiser drive system? The same concerns apply here as the LX470 and Landcruiser.

          I love the Lexus interiors. My concern is the dogs. Two 70# greyhounds with raptor-like claws could do some damage to the leather.

          I have been secretly studying, researching, and pricing these cars over a few years. Recently, my wife and I started discussing driving out to Yellowstone and tour Utah/Colorado/AZ/NM. She figured we could board the fellas (dogs) and drive the 325iT out there. I sort of bit my lip on that. She thought I was apprehensive about relying on the BMW, and suggested we fly out and rent an SUV. Then I just sort of let loose on the research I had been doing. I showed her a few videos about Bryce, Moab, Arches, etc. about how much more you can see from a 4x4, but not do anything crazy like climb the Lion's Back. I explained it would be my commuter, so it didn't have to look pretty, just run well. I told her I could use it for transporting the fellas, towing the Miata, etc. and then showed her some TLC (Toyota Land Cruiser) videos of what people do, the comfort, touring, and she loved the idea. That sort of surprised me.

          The only SUV we have had after 10 years of marriage was an AWD Honda Pilot. It was her DD when we lived in CA, and it was a turd. We have stuck to wagons when we could to stay away from SUVs, but I have wanted one for myself for many years. After the issues with the Miata, and her losing the Sportcross, it brought us down to one vehicle to transport the dogs or fetch large items. The BMW is not great at being treated like a mule. It's already fairly beat up, cosmetically, but for other reasons I don't want to get into (wife).

          I love the Gen 3 4Rs too, but you can't tow crap with them (3500#), though I don't know how often I would *really* tow the Miata, if at all (but it sure would be nice...if just another expense). We are very lucky to have the tracks as close as we do, so towing it means, upping my game on it (full cage?).

          I also like the '05+ V6 4runners. Those received the 5sp automatic the V8s run, better fuel economy, timing chain, selectable 2WD and 4WD. 5000# tow rating would require a light trailer if I use it to tow the Miata.

          The Sequoia is interesting, but I wonder if it's too big for what we need? It reminds me of a Suburban/Expedition, I suppose.
          Last edited by kung fu jesus; 04-26-2017, 08:44 AM.


          • #6
            I became interested in Toyota SUVs when I met my best friend in college. He had a first gen 4R 4x4 with the 22RE, 5sp manual and removable top. It had a bunch of aftermarket suspension on it, big tires, riveted-on flares, etc. It had over 300k on it and we would go trail running in it all over west MI. It was slow as fack, but it NEVER got stuck. He hung on to that thing until rust reduced it to scrap. It left a lasting impression on me.

            I also find myself watching Motor Trends' "Dirt Everyday" videos. I'm a sucker for petrol-fueled driving adventures, and they use a few Toyotas occasionally. I'm not looking to go rock climbing or mud bogging, but there's a lot of stuff, local and far away, that I want to see in a 4x4. It's a big, beautiful country, and I want to go see it.

            I need it to make sense for the rest of the times I use it, though.


            • #7
              The Sequoia has the most space, lowest entry costs and are amongst the most reliable vehicles Toyota has made. Finding a really cherry one for your budget will be easy. The GX470 is a rebodied 4Runner, but does not have its siblings the LX470 or Land Cruiser's sofisticated 4wd system. No locking front or center diffs. The LX and Land Cruiser are also full time 4wd, with the gas mileage to back that up. Can you find an LX or LC for $8-10k? Sure, but it'll have over 200,000 miles if it has maintenance records. Lower mileage examples are less likely to have those or be priced higher, but an independent study of car auctioneers found those two vehicles to have the best reliability of any vehicles sold in the USA. Having said that, unless you think you're going to try to tackle the Rubicon trail, you won't need all that AWD wizardry. Buy a used 4Runner or GX470 (then buy the rear seat covers that Carhart makes to save your leather) and buy a decent winch for $800-1200. You get stuck at Yellowstone, that winch will pull you free a lot faster than some slick AWD system that you won't use more than a couple times in your truck's lifetime. You'll save on gas over the permanent AWD, and get a larger more useful interior to boot.

              Good thing you hate Jeep Wranglers, you couldn't find one that you could rely on in your price range. $8-10000 will get you into a 1988-89 YJ, which while nice, ain't going to get you where you want to be. I'd hate to see you throw your money at a Grand Cherokee, even with a warranty. It's hard to buy a faster depreciating vehicle. I can't get my wife out of her RX350, but those are just part time AWD Camry's on stilts.
              Red '91, MSM longblock/BEGI-FM hybrid turbo w/2871r/3"Enthuza/Hydra2.7/700cc/Ohlins/
              RacingBrake11"BBK/SS HDDD/Nakamae everything/KGWorks/Zoom/We're done!


              • #8
                Thanks OGF!

                The mileage doesn't scare me, the fuel econ a little. You're right, I don't need 3 locking diffs. I still lean towards the 4R and GX, going to have to do some more research into the foibles each has.

                Interesting note, some of you may know this: when shopping for a used Lexus, if you sign up to you can plug in the VIN of the model you are looking at as your own to look up dealer repair history. In my searches going back a few years, I find the Lexus models generally have a more loyal customer relationship with their dealer for repairs. Some do not. A lot of Toyotas lose their histories once the factory warranty is over. Just wanted to share.

                I hate Chrysler products with a passion. HATE. Those are strong words, but maybe more searing from a Detroit native like myself.

                I would not take a Jeep, even if someone gave it to me, I dislike their products so much.
                Last edited by kung fu jesus; 04-26-2017, 01:56 PM.


                • #9
                  love me some jap suv's. my main camping vehicle is still my old 93 rodeo, got it around 150k in 2005, now its at around 270k. biggest issue I ever had out of it was putting a new alternator in and its never met a hill it couldn't climb or a mud hole it couldn't get out of yet.
                  1997 mx-5


                  • #10
                    Anyone have the time or links to school me on the Sequoia? Gen 1, 4x4. Thanks!


                    • #11
                      I'm a little late to the conversation, but I have an 05 Tundra double cab 4x2 with the towing package and I actually can't recommend it enough. It's hardy, reliable, tows like a dream, and the passenger cabin is huge, plus it has a full bed. I think the Sequoia is the same platform, as is the LX Nick has.
                      Chris and Lola


                      • #12
                        I have had a standing agreement with friends for years, that they should punch me as hard as possible in the face should I ever buy another Chrysler product. I had an 05' Ram 1500 that I bought new. Got $10,000 off sticker, which was a good thing when I got rid of it after six months. That car was constantly in the shop.

                        Im afraid I did it again when I bought a leftover 2016 Rubicon in January. So I'm bracing for impact. So far it's been great, but the damn thing is so primitive, I'm not surprised much. Even Chrysler can make an engine hold together 90 days. I got a six year, 100k bumper to bumper warranty and free maintenance thrown in, so I'm safe for the moment. But ask me what I'd drive cross country in and it's gonna be either my 460LS or the RX350.

                        Lexus service is a bit pricey ($800 for new brakes, not including new rotors!), but needs are few and far between. The only issue I think you'll find with the 4Runner and GX470 is they hold their value too well. On the other hand, both the 3.4 six cylinder in early 4Runners and the 4.7 they put in the GX are known for going four and five hundred thousand miles.

                        I'm pretty enormous, but I rode in the second row of Nick's old Sequoia once and was just stunned at the legroom, shoulder room, head room! The Sequoia is pretty much an SUV based off the gargantuan Toyota full sized pickup. Parts are plentiful and cheap. The 4WD is lever actuated via two levers. It DOES HAVE HI/LOW RANGE, which most 4wd don't come with. It's a simple but effective system. If you suddenly decided to get off road crazy, there are air locker kits available to lock front and rear axles, making it true 4wd. Those kits are in the sub $800 bracket. You don't need super skills to install them either, but I seriously doubt you'd ever need them. If you decided to start climbing boulders, you don't really want a twenty two foot long, seven foot wide SUV in the first place. On the other hand, if you want to do a lot of towing, that big 4.7 v8 is what you'll really want. The six cylinder gets decent mpg, but you'd be miserable trying to climb the Rockies in a v6 based 4Runner.
                        Red '91, MSM longblock/BEGI-FM hybrid turbo w/2871r/3"Enthuza/Hydra2.7/700cc/Ohlins/
                        RacingBrake11"BBK/SS HDDD/Nakamae everything/KGWorks/Zoom/We're done!


                        • #13
                          Much appreciated.

                          I am really trying to drill down and put priorities on what I want versus what I need. I still have reservations about the Sequoia. I think it's too big for what I plan to use it for. I'm still looking at the gen 3 and gen 4 4runners. I've been thinking how often I would really tow with this thing and while it's nice to have, I don't know if the juice is worth the squeeze. I have been trying to to think of our use, comfort, and priorities. Only the gen4 V8 4runner would I feel confident towing the Miata.

                          I had previously considered a 4 door truck, but security of items in the bed, even with a shell, is a concern. The wife squashed the idea of letting the dogs stay in a similar configuration, separate and in the bed under a shell.

                          I like older stuff, especially when buying used. It gives me more reference to go from when I need to buy or make repairs. I usually think older vehicles are easier to work on. OBD2 doesn't really scare me. I have shown the wife pictures and ads of LX470s, TLCs, 3rd and 4th gen 4runners. She like the TLC and the LX Nick linked to. Surprisingly, she liked the gen3 4R over the gen4.

                          I understand Lexus stuff can get pricey. Our IS300 was maintained by me or independent Lex/Toyota shops. I dislike dealerships. I'm no spring chicken on auto repairs. ;)

                          I definitely don't need a spit-polished example, and she agreed here, that one with sun-faded paint would be fine. I just want to be sure it has been well-maintained and mechanically strong. Bryan and I have been trading messages about this, he still thinks the TLC/LX is the way to go. I don't disagree 100%, but fortunately his TLC-builder friend will be in town this week, so he has agreed to ask him some of my questions. I think the FJ100/LX470 or 4Runner is the narrowed-down list to this point.

                          03-05 V8 4runner
                          05-06 V6 4runner
                          98-03 FJ100/LX
                          99-00 4runner with considerations of 01-02
                          Last edited by kung fu jesus; 04-27-2017, 02:39 PM.


                          • #14
                            That's a great list. I know the GX didn't make the short list, but given it's mechanical similarities to the V8 4Runner I think this one is worth a look - well priced and relatively clean. Bonus: shift knob


                            [?] Posted about 17 hours ago
                            printfavorite this post 2004 Lexus GX470 - $8500 (Kennesaw) hide this posting

                            image 1 of 23

                            2004 Lexus GX470

                            fuel: gas
                            title status: clean
                            transmission: automatic

                            This is a super luxurious vehicle. Up for sale, 2004 Lexus GX 470 with 144K Miles. It is running perfect. Looks nice, insides and outside. Please see all pictures. Everything is working properly. Air Conditioning, Power Locks, Power Windows, Cruise Control, Driver Air Bag, Passenger Air Bag. ASKING PRICE $8500. FOR MORE INFO PLEASE CALL
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                            • do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers


                            • #15
                              I personally like the GX, but what is the advantage vs a V8 4runner? The drivetrain is different, can it do 2wd Hi for day to day stuff or is it full time 4wd? I had been watching them for a while, some where real bargains, similar to the one you posted.

                              I wonder if that side hinge door would make towing difficult, opening it with the trailer still attached?