The front end and lower bumper trim on front and back look like an MDX! Is it a ground up re-build? Suspension on 4-Runners has always been very truck-like. Appearance is much better and less pick-up truck like.
I have a serious question that I feel you might have some insight into...
Is there a DISADVANTAGE to having "no user intervention" type four wheel power distribution? I know the CR-V and MDX implement it very differently than say a Subu... But is the reason to avoid such a system?
My reason for asking it here is the very obvious 4Runner "4WD H/L" KNOB. Obviously user intervention is REQUIRED to get into 4wd LOW. Is it otherwise ALWAYS in 4wd high? Is there a 2wd drive mode? (where my old s10 Jimmy spends 98% of its life...) Is it just for "tradition" or "image" OR is there some thing that the 4Runner would actually give up by moving to the "it just happens" (which I belive is the siutation in all the Lexus models...)???
Well, it may be that the Limited 2003 models will get FULL-TIME 4wd, similar to GX, Land Cruiser, and LX. If the pic is right, the 4Runner LTD is ALWAYS in 4-HI. My 2002 4Runner can be in 2wd or 4-HI on any surface...thus, need user interface. Both '02 and '03 4Runners can lock the center diff...which can only be used on slippery surfaces.
MDX/CRV systems are REactive. Advantage is FUEL ECONOMY! That is the big advantage...something that many customers look for. In addition, there MAY be less drivetrain wear. Disadvantage is that it is reactive...you need wheelspin BEFORE the system kicks in. (We are talking about highway speed, NOT stoplight acceleration.) How much wheelspin do you need?? Will the system react quick enough to allow the vehicle to regain traction...say, when hydroplaning or in heavy rain??
In a full-time 4wd system, you get bad fuel economy. Drivetrain wear/noise (ex: Jeep Grand Cherokee Quadradrive) may be more if the system is not well-designed. However, the advantage is that you get a system that is ALWAYS on...no reaction needed...it is "pro-active" in a sense. In addition, some claim to get better tire wear patterns in a full-time system.
In off-roading, you want a full-time system because you may be stuck before your AWD system is activated. I have seen this a few times with CRVs. That is why the MDX has the VTM-4 LOCK feature (which acts as both a pseudo-center diff lock AND a rear locker).
However, after reading that the 2003 MDX has VSA, i think the MDX is just fine. At highway speed, stability control is the NUMBER ONE feature (in my opinion) that can save your life. Therefore, with VSA, the need for full-time 4wd in an average (non-off-roading) customer is much diminished.
Unless you do some moderate off-roading, the MDX should be fine...and a very safe vehicle, especially now with VSA and great crash tests. (BTW, i am a BIG believer in stability control.)