Well, I had suspected it ever since we took our Teardrop up to the mountains back in March, but after getting back from a week long trip to the West Coast (Oregon and CA), it's official: As nice as my 3rd gen is for an all-around off-roader, its 183HP/217lb ft just doesn't cut it when pulling our heavy trailer over the mountains.
Although I had briefly considered going to an Xterra (for the simple reason of being able to obtain a manual transmission) I have come to the conclusion that the Xterra is too small and that it would be too much of a step down in terms of accomodations. For that reason, I'm looking at a 4th gen 4runner to replace the 3rd gen. Most likely I will be looking at a 2005 - 2007 V6 model.
I know lots of people would suggest the V8 for the additional power, but my preference is for the V6 for a few reasons: I prefer the multi-mode transfer case to the full-time 4wd of the V8 primarily because of MPG concerns (wife's Grand Vitara has full time 4wd and gets terrible mileage.) Also, as I understand it, the V8 has a timing belt whereas the V6 does not. True, the V8 has more power (270hp/320 tq vs 245/282 for the V6) but according to edmunds, it is also 200lbs heavier (4500 curb weight vs 4300 for the V6.) My thought is that for the additional weight and fuel consumption, the V8 just isn't worth it. Plus, I just like the idea of being able to have 4wd when I need it but 2wd when I don't.
Anyway, my question is for those who have made the switch from 3rd gen to 4th, particularly those that tow: Is the power increase noticeable? On paper its an impressive difference, but I was curious as to what extent the additional power of the 4th gen is eaten up by the additional weight. Also, for those who tow, how would you rate the 4th gen as a tow rig?
Honestly, if our teardrop was as light as some of the ones we saw in Oregon (circa 600# or so) this wouldn't be an issue but ours tips the scales around 1200lbs or so, with a heavy tongue weight (due to the wheels being so far back) and the 4runner was really struggling up those long ascents.
Final question: For those who have pondered the V6/V8 question, have you had reason to regret your choice? IOW, are you saying "I coulda had a V8?" Or on the flip side, are there those of you who opted for the V8 because you thought you needed the extra power and now wish you'd gotten the V6 instead?
My shopping has just begun but I can find a lot of 4runners in my price range (<$18k.) Quite a few are V8's which I've crossed off my list, at least for now.
Thanks in advance for any ideas or comments!