The Toyota 4Runner is one of the best-selling off-road capable SUVs in the world. It isn’t hard to see why that is. For over 40 years, Toyota has combined reliability, trail-tackling performance, and overall comfort into a single package. There aren’t many other options out there that can say the same.
At this point, the 5th Gen 4Runner has been on sale for 12 years and has only sold better and better as the years have passed. That says how much longevity and staying power the most recent 4Runner generation truly has. While the vast majority of 5th Gen 4Runners don’t see dirt often, others only see the pavement when on the way to a trail. While 5th Gen 4Runners are still mighty capable offroad with no modifications, some choice upgrades can turn your 4Runner into an absolute animal.
That is where 4Runner lift kits enter the picture. Other than some quality all-terrain tires, a few extra inches of clearance can make all the difference. That is especially true if light rock-crawling or obstacle-maneuvering is in your future. Due to the fact that the 5th Gen 4Runner is so widely loved for those antics, there are a ton of 4Runner lift kit options out there to choose from, each with their own benefits and shortcomings.
In this guide, we cover the basics of choosing a 5th Gen 4Runner lift kit, along with some of the pros and cons associated with the popular modification. As a final note, much of the information provided here can be applied to previous generation 4Runners and Toyota Tacomas as well.
What Are The Benefits of a 5th Gen 4Runner Lift Kit?
There are numerous reasons why you’d want to install a lift kit on your 4Runner, with most of them revolving around improving off-road performance. Aesthetic change is another popular reason for installing a lift kit, as those extra few inches of height do make a huge visual difference. Finally, some people choose to install a 4Runner lift kit to improve the on-road handling of their SUV. Regardless of your intentions, most of the same considerations still apply. The primary differentiator between all three options is price.
Off-Road Benefits of a 5th Gen 4Runner Lift Kit
If you are seriously considering a lift kit for your 4Runner, chances are that you find yourself off of the pavement somewhat frequently. Even stock 5th Gens are very capable all-terrain vehicles on light off-road excursions. However, more seasoned off-roaders know that there are some obstacles that can only be conquered with some additional height.
The most obvious reason to upgrade to a 4Runner lift kit is the additional ground clearance. A stock 5th Gen 4Runner has around 9.6” of clearance between the ground and the front and rear diffs. To put that in perspective, that is on par with even a Jeep Wrangler. While that is a substantial amount of clearance for most applications, some extreme off-road terrain calls for more than a stock 4Runner can handle. A quality 4Runner lift kit can increase ride height by an additional 3.5” (the recommended safe limit), which is more than enough to get over sizeable trail obstacles.
Approach angle is another important aspect of off-roading that a good 4Runner lift kit can increase. 4Runner lift kits can raise the front bumper and overhang over the front axle. As a result, a lifted 4Runner can approach and clear steep obstacles much easier than a 4Runner without a lift. To add even further to the offroad benefits that a 4Runner lift kit can provide, the additional height also allows for more suspension “flex,” meaning that there is more axle articulation.
Finally, as a point for both off-road and aesthetic purposes for a lift kit, the increased body clearance allows for lifted Toyota 4Runners to run larger tires. As most serious off-road tires require a substantial amount of clearance, a 4Runner lift kit can allow you to run larger tires than you could normally.
Aesthetic Benefits of a 4Runner Lift Kit
While some people are in the market for a 4Runner lift kit that has practical value, others simply want the aggressive and domineering appearance of a lift. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, due to the 5th Gen 4Runner’s body-on-frame construction, there are extremely inexpensive ways to get a visual lift on your 5th Gen. Perhaps the most popular option is a 4Runner body lift. Another option is a 4Runner spacer kit, which will allow you to gain some additional height while utilizing the stock 4Runner suspension components.
One benefit shared between cosmetic 4Runner lifts and functional 4Runner lifts is the ability to run larger tires due to additional wheel arch clearance. Depending on how extreme the lift is, it is possible to fit up to 33” tires on a lifted 4Runner. Of course, that is the absolute max which typically requires at least a 3” lift or more. Regardless, even 4Runner tires that are marginally larger than the stock tires can have serious advantages. For one, larger 4Runner tires have an easier time clearing larger obstacles and also provide better traction on different types of terrain.
Depending on how you look at it, larger tires can be a good or a bad thing when it comes to engine speed. Due to the fact that larger 4Runner tires have to rotate less to cover the same distance as larger ones, the engine doesn’t have to work quite as hard. That is a positive for engine health. However, larger 4Runner tires will also cause the odometer and speedometers to be inaccurate for the same reason.
When it comes to the aesthetic benefits of a Toyota 4Runner lift kit, the higher ride height and ability to run larger tires are the primary draws.
What Are The Downsides of a 4Runner Lift Kit?
While 4Runner lifts are magic for many reasons, they aren’t without their problems too. Most of the significant downsides of installing a lift kit involve physics. Any time you raise the center of gravity of a vehicle, it is bound to be less stable and more prone to rolling over. Those two issues certainly apply when it comes to lift kits.
While Toyota unquestionably knew that the 4Runner would be modified by many people, the 5th Gen wasn’t explicitly designed to handle the extra height. With a raised center of gravity, extreme cornering can become dangerous if you aren’t careful. On the subject of handling, some 4Runner lift kits have the unfortunate consequence of making handling worse on the road.
Installing a 4Runner lift kit can also alter the suspension geometry. That can have the unfortunate consequence of messing with the factory alignment and steering characteristics. The significance of these downsides truly depends on which type of 4Runner lift kit you choose. While 4Runner coilover lift kits can actually improve steering and handling, other types, like 4Runner spacers, can make the ride harsh and the steering unpredictable.
4Runner lift kits also affect fuel economy. Due to the fact that the vehicle’s chassis is raised, air resistance increases, leading to a less aerodynamic overall shape. That effect is compounded even further for those running larger and grippier tires, increasing frictional resistance with the road. In combination, you can expect to lose a few MPGs.
4Runner Lift Types and Considerations
While the overall purpose of a 4Runner lift kit is pretty consistent no matter the route that you choose, there are specific benefits to different types of lift kits. When 4Runner lift kits come up, a coilover lift kit is what comes to mind for most people. While coilover lifts are the most common and popular type of 4Runner lift kit, there are other kits available that provide both more and less off-road functionality.
5th Gen 4Runner Body Lift Kit / Budget Boost
The most budget-conscious way to gain a few inches of ride height in a Toyota 4Runner is by installing a body lift kit. A body lift set is not only the least expensive way to raise your Toyota 4Runner, but also the easiest to install of all of the lift kit options. A 4Runner body lift is different than all of the other kinds of kits listed here. The main difference is that a body lift doesn’t affect the suspension components at all. In essence, it is just putting additional space between the 4Runner’s body and its chassis. From an aesthetic standpoint, it will look the same as if you were to do a standard 4Runner coil lift.
Most 4Runner body lifts are incredibly affordable, ranging in price from $100-$200. In comparison to other lift styles, that is dirt cheap. That makes a body lift a good option for those that want the look of a lift without investing in a new suspension setup, which can be costly. As another plus, a body lift will allow you to fit larger tires on your 4Runner in much the same way that you could with a more expensive lift.
However, that is where the pros end, and the cons start to creep in. Due to the fact that a 4Runner body lift does not affect the suspension in any way, you won’t gain any additional ground clearance by installing one. For that reason, this isn’t the route to go if you intend on doing any substantial offroading. A body lift will give you a slight all-terrain advantage if you install larger tires, but that is about it. Also, the elevated center of gravity mixed with the less secure body/frame connection will likely lead to additional body roll.
Toyota 4Runner Spacers/Leveling Kit
A Toyota 4Runner spacer kit is the next step up beyond a body lift kit. Unlike a body lift, suspension spacers do affect the suspension itself, meaning that you’ll gain a bit of extra clearance. Since the 5th Gen 4Runner utilizes front struts and has rear springs in the back, suspension spacers work differently in the front than they do in the rear. Front 4Runner suspension spacers are attached to the front strut using securing bolts. The rear spacers work in a similar way but sit inside the rear springs as there are no rear struts.
You can achieve an impressive amount of lift from a 4Runner spacer kit. Overall, you can gain anywhere from 1” of height to 3” of height with spacers alone. That is comparable to the lift that you can get from 4Runner coilovers while being a fifth of the cost. You can generally get a good set of spacers for $150-$300, making them the perfect sweet spot for most people. A good spacer kit will add some additional clearance, but not nearly as much as you would gain from swapping out your suspension entirely. Of course, the same logic applies here in terms of fitting larger tires, which is certainly possible.
It is highly debated in the 4Runner offroading community whether or not spacer lift kits should be used for anything more than mild dirt trail drives. One of the main concerns with offroading on a spacer kit is that, at the end of the day, you are still driving on factory 4Runner suspension. While it is still capable, there is a higher chance of wearing out your suspension sooner. With that being said, there are plenty of 4Runner owners that run this setup offroad and claim to have never had issues.
Toyota 4Runner Coilover Kit
Coil lift kits are what most people think of when it comes to 4Runner lift kits. Unlike coil spring spacers, a 4Runner coil lift kit replaces the factory coil springs with a new set of longer and potentially stiffer springs. That applies to both the front and rear suspension of the 4Runner, with the entire front strut assemblies being replaced and the rear springs being swapped out. Overall, you can expect to gain anywhere between 2-3.5” of additional suspension lift from a Toyota 4Runner coilover lift kit.
There are quite a few benefits of going with a coil spring upgrade compared to spacers. A fresh set of 4Runner coilover springs will refresh the suspension to better-than-new while also allowing you to customize your spring rates to match your needs. In most cases, a 4Runner coilover kit will not only improve offroad ability, but will also significantly improve on-road handling as well.
A coil lift kit can also provide increased suspension articulation, providing additional off-road benefits. There is a very wide range of 4Runner coilovers out there from simple monotube designs all the way up to external reservoir coilovers. For that reason, pricing can range substantially between different kinds of 4Runner coilovers. Basic models run around $500-$600. For more capable examples, you’ll be looking at $1,500+.
While coil spring spacers are unquestionably the easiest lift solution to install, coil lifts are only slightly more difficult. Overall, if performance is of primary importance compared to aesthetics, a 4Runner coilover lift is the best and least expensive option.
5th Gen 4Runner Lift Kit Recommendations
Due to the fact that the Toyota 4Runner is such a popular vehicle to modify, the 5th Gen community has a pretty established list of lift suggestions that they generally stick to. There are certainly some 4Runner lift kit companies that are more established in the space than others. In the following section, we’ll give our picks for the best of each type of lift kit available for the 5th Gen 4Runner.
Rough Country 2” Spring Spacer 4Runner Lift/Leveling Kit
Purchase Here: roughcountry.com
We’ll start our list with the least expensive and least intensive 4Runner lift option. Rough Country is one of the leading brands when it comes to aftermarket 4Runner (and pretty much any other offroad capable vehicle) modifications. Specializing in lift kits, Rough Country will be making repeat appearances on this list, as they truly are one of the best. When it comes to 4Runner coil spring spacers, quality materials are of utmost importance. The Rough Country front strut extensions are made from high-quality aluminum while the rear coil spring spacers are made from durable rubber, guaranteed to have good longevity.
Since coil spring spacers are such a rudimentary part, it’s hard to say very much about them. It is important to note that these spacers are not compatible with 5th Gen 4Runners equipped with either KDSS or X-REAS systems. Installation is very easy. They don’t require you to disassemble either of the front struts. Most customers who purchased these spring spacers say that installation takes around an hour if you know your way around a basic set of tools.
Everyone seems unanimously satisfied with the spacers too, claiming that they raised their 4Runner to the stated amount. For the price, it is impossible to beat the value of the Rough Country Toyota 4Runner spring spacers. If you are looking for a cheap and easy way to raise your 4Runner by 2,” there is truly no better solution.
SRQ Fabrications 4Runner 1” Body Lift Kit
Purchase Here: SRQfabrications.com
To kick off the list, we’ll start with arguably the easiest and least expensive type of lift that you can get for a 5th Gen 4Runner. We’ve already covered the pros and cons, but as far as a 4Runner body lift is concerned, you aren’t likely to find a better option than the SRQ Fabrications 1” body lift kit. While an inch might not seem like a major difference in height, it is not only visually noticeable but it will also allow for up to 32” tires, which is a significant step up.
The SRQ kit comes complete with all of the ultra-high molecular weight polymer blocks that you need to replace the factory body mounts. This special type of polymer is built to last and is capable of withstanding far more weight and friction than is required. The kit also comes with all of the mounting hardware that you need to complete the installation. You can find install instructions on the SRQ website.
SRQ has a good reputation in the aftermarket Toyota world and provides suspension components for a number of other Toyota vehicles. The reviews for the 4Runner 1” body lift kit are glowing, with every reviewer claiming that the kit fits effortlessly. When it comes to an inexpensive, aesthetic-focused lift kit made from quality components, it is hard to argue with SRQ’s package.
Rough Country 3” 4Runner Coilover Lift Kit
Purchase Here: roughcountry.com
When it comes to 4Runner coilover kits, there is no shortage of options. As the most popular type of lift kit, the sheer amount of choices can be daunting. Of course, the right kit really boils down to the amount of lift that you’re looking for. Price is obviously an important consideration too. As we said previously, coil spring lift kits are typically good for around 3” without additional issues. We told you that Rough Country would be back. Of all of the 3” coil spring lift options out there, the Rough Country 3” 4Runner coilover lift kit seems to be the best blend of performance and price.
The Rough Country kit will unquestionably provide better offroad performance than the body lift kit or spacers listed above. In addition to providing more flex and suspension travel, Rough Country claims that the kit allows enough clearance for 33” tires. That really opens up some doors for some quality off-road tires. For $599.95, the Rough Country kit comes with everything that you need to get going. Included in the kit are two heavy-duty coil springs, rear springs, and all of the necessary hardware for installation.
4Runner owners who own the kit claim that the Rough Country kit is a solid option when it comes to off-road performance, while also providing better-than-stock road manners as well.
Toyota 4Runner Lift Kit Guide Summary
The 5th Gen Toyota 4Runner is unquestionably a legend. As the most recent iteration of one of the most popular offroad vehicles to come out in the past 40 years, the 5th Gen is just asking for additional modifications to make it an even more capable machine. A lift kit is a perfect upgrade to do just that.
While the overall principle of a 4Runner lift kit is pretty much the same across the board, some lift types are better at some things than others. A 4Runner body lift kit will give you aesthetic benefits and additional tire clearance, but won’t provide much extra ground clearance for offroading. The story is pretty similar for a 4Runner spacer lift/leveling kit, but they usually provide an additional couple of inches of height and do add a bit of usable ground clearance. A 4Runner coilover lift kit is the best of all, providing tons of height, fantastic ride quality, and the best offroading experience that you can get.
Overall, there are a ton of quality options of each type of these 4Runner lift kits on the market. From Rough Country to SRQ Fabrications, the options listed above are certified quality. Regardless of the direction you go, happy trailing!
If you enjoyed this article and are looking for more 4Runner content, check out our Best Toyota 4Runner Tires guide. As always, safe driving!