Everyone knows that Toyota 4runners are pretty cool vehicles. The funny thing is, there are a few 4th Gen 4runner hidden features that many people aren’t aware of – even though they’ve owned one for years. Some of these are obvious, and some aren’t. Today we’re going to break down the top 11 interesting features that you might not already know about.
I’ve previously mentioned some of these in my 4th Gen 4runner Buyers Guide but decided to make a separate post explaining them further.
1. The Secret Compartment
Let’s start off with one that surprises a lot of people. At first glance, the 4th Gen 4runner’s glove box opens up like any other vehicle. Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice a little tab at the top of the very back wall inside the box. Pull down on this and a secret compartment will be revealed.
While this might not be the safest place to keep valuables, it’s certainly a much better hiding spot than leaving them out in the open. There’s also the chance that a thief who happens to be rummaging through your glove box won’t notice it and move on. I would still recommend a hidden safe if you plan to keep important items in your 4runner unattended though.
2. The Center Console Tray
There is an obvious crack that hints towards this tray being able to open, yet some people still miss it. Grabbing onto the gap at the front of the center console and pulling forward will reveal a flip-out work tray. This comes in handy for writing notes or holding things like snacks, your wallet, or your phone. If you ever need a flat surface (which can be hard to find in a car sometimes), keep this one in mind.
3.The 115V Power Plug
If you dig down to the bottom inside the center console, you’ll find a plastic cover. Flip this cap up and it will reveal a 115V power plug. The button to turn it on is on the dashboard to the left of the steering wheel (in the same row as the center diff lock button). You can use this to charge devices or run small household appliances.
This plug’s max is 100W and anything above that will automatically trigger it to shut off. Some people use this to run a laptop for navigation, or even a small TV for the kids in the back. From what I understand, this was an option and didn’t come on every model of 4runner.
4. The Burger Tray
Next, hop into the back seat of your 4runner. Fold down the center armrest and push directly on the front of it. A piece will pop out and if you pull it out all the way, it’ll stretch out to form what has been nicknamed “The Burger Tray”. As you enjoy your burger, you’ll likely get thirsty as well. Toyota has you covered – there are 2 cupholders that bounce up from the middle of the tray so you can enjoy your entire meal.
No need for limousines anymore. We’re eating burgers in the back of our 4runners. That’s living.
5. The Trash Bag Holder
Now that you’ve enjoyed your lunch, it’s time to throw away the trash. As an outdoor adventurer, the last thing you want to do is litter. So what do you do with it? Pull out the plastic frame from the back of the center console. This is meant to hold a kitchen garbage bag. No excuses now.
6. The Passenger Seat Bed
So you’ve enjoyed your Big Mac combo and got rid of your garbage appropriately. With your belly full and your mind full of happy thoughts of saving the environment from yet another burger wrapper, you might be ready for a nap. Once again, Toyota has you covered (unless you’re tall).
Sliding the passenger seat all the way forward, then tilting it back will form a flat bed. You’ll need to remove the headrest to do this. Technically you can do this on the driver’s side as well, but the steering wheel will be in the way. I can’t imagine this being comfortable for anyone over 5’5, but it’s there. Sleep tight.
On a related note, I’m told that a medium size pizza box fits perfectly under the passenger seat. I haven’t tried it myself. Just make sure you don’t eat pizza on the burger tray – it’s for burgers only.
7. No Hold Start
The 4th Gen 4runner was sold from 2003-2009. Push button starting was nowhere near as common then as it is now. Toyota had clearly been working on that technology though and this no hold start feature sort of bridged the gap.
Unlike most vehicles where you have to hold the key while it cranks over, the 4runner will do that on its own. Simply tap it all the way to the right and it will continue to crank until the engine fires. This is a nice feature to have until you try starting a regular car after getting used to it. I’m sure you know what happens then.
8. Programmable Auto Door Locks
You have 2 choices for how your automatic door locks function. You can set them to lock as soon as you shift out of Park (and unlock when you shift back to park), or you can have them lock automatically when you reach 13 MPH.
To switch between these 2 settings, close all the doors and make sure it’s in Park. Turn the key to the “ON” position and hold the unlock button for 5 seconds, then release. The doors should lock and unlock to indicate the function has been set. You’ll need to do this within 10 seconds of shifting the ignition to “ON”.
9. You can run regular 87 octane gas safely
I’ve been told that some 4runner owner’s manuals already mention that you can do this. Mine (and many others) says that the 4.7L V8 requires premium fuel. While running premium is the only way to ensure that you’re getting all the horsepower available, it isn’t required for the safety of the engine.
Just like most other modern engines, Toyota’s 4.7 will pull timing if the knock sensor picks up any knock from lower grade fuel. This function is designed specifically to keep the engine safe.
There’s nothing wrong with running premium fuel, but unless you’re drag racing or towing something heavy, it isn’t a must. I’ve been running 87 octane for the past 4 years without so much as a hiccup.
10. The Soft Close Rear Hatch
Your instinct might be to slam the rear hatch closed, but you don’t need to. Gently clicking it shut will allow the electric motor to pull it closed the rest of the way.
I’m assuming this has something to do with the rear window being able to roll down. This keeps it from shattering if you slam it. It also comes in handy if you have a large object in the trunk and you’re not sure if it’ll close. So save your Hercules strength for something else.
11. The Rear Window Remote Control
Rolling the rear window down is one of the best parts of owning a Toyota 4runner. But did you know there’s another way to control it, besides the switch in the dash? You can roll the window down from outside the vehicle by holding the button on your key fob. To put it back up, insert your key in the hole and hold it to the right. Up she goes.
As you can see, Toyota clearly had hungry Americans on their mind when they designed the 4th Gen 4runner. Whether you actually have a use for some of these features or not is up to you, but they’re entertaining to talk about nonetheless. Now go have a burger and take a nap.
Tim is the creator of Canadian Gearhead. His experience with auto detailing and working for Toyota shows through all of the articles posted here. He runs the Canadian Gearhead site and YouTube channel full-time now and currently owns a 2007 4runner, 2006 Tacoma, and 1991 MR2. Read more about Tim: