My family has had seven 4Runners over the years: a 1989 and a 1994 were the first ones, and the first was sold and the second was totalled in an accident. Currently, my family has a 1995, 1996, 1997, 2001 and 2002. I learned how to drive in a 4Runner, and since I live in the mountains I wouldn't have any other type of 4WD vehicle.
The 1996 4Runner has 225, 000 miles on it. Same engine, same transmission, just routine maintenance. It still runs great. Almost everything about these cars is wonderful. The seats are comfortable enough that long drives are easy but not too comfortable that you fall asleep. Handling is great: the 2nd generation models (1990-1995) had a higher probability of rollover due to their narrow wheelbase and higher profile, but the 3rd generation 4Runners (1996-2002) were a tremendous improvement in comfort and handling. Of course, it's still an SUV and drivers still need to realize that it won't drive like a traditional car.
These cars are so pretty. Definitely one of the more stylish SUVs ever made. They are easy to keep clean both inside and out, and the power rear window is so handy whether you're transporting something too long for the car or you just want to let the cool air blow in. The rear legroom is awesome in the 3rd generation 'Runners, and the rear seat is a 50/50 that folds flat with the rear cargo area.
I am a single female and I can't put a price on the security I feel if I go somewhere at night alone because I know my car will get me home safely. If I get stuck, I can put it in 4WD and get out. I have had so many friends with American cars that just don't last. I think that's a shame, but it is what it is.
I can't say enough good things about these cars. If you're in the market for a reliable used car and you truly have a need for a more rugged and capable vehicle the 4Runner should definitely be in your top 3. My family has owned seven of these cars so far, and I don't see anyone selling theirs anytime soon. They've all been bought used and it's such a good way to get a good, reliable Toyota without paying a new car price.