This truck is a dog. The 3.0 V6 (150 hp) matched with the auto trans on a 3900lb 4x4 is simply ridiculous! I imagine the 5 speed would be a little better, but I have not driven one yet.
I have owned over 30 cars, most of them old beaters, and even my 1982 Subaru GL 4 spd wagon had more pull on a grade. You have to shift to drive on even the slightest hill, then you are turning 4000+ rpm @ 65-70 mph just so you are not holding up traffic. I cannot believe they sold so many of these rigs if they all perform like this.
I did my research, and it looks like there is very little I can do to improve the situation. K & N intake, aftermarket exhaust, Nology plug wires (all pricey, btw) etc. might get me 5-10% more power, but it is still a dog... the absolute worst I have ever owned!
In its favor is its off-road prowess. Very solid and composed on a desert trail, feels like it will never let me down and can climb some frightening grades. Excellent ground clearance and low-range transfer case. Relaxed and certainly in it's element when it leaves the highway. Drove 100 miles off-road in December through Saline Valley, and had an absolute blast!
I didn't expect the truck to be an economical commuter, but I was hoping for around 18 mpg. With the tires that were on it, I managed that much a few times on long hwy stretches. But then I put the tires I really wanted on the truck (BFG's), and my mpg went into the tank. I'm now getting 14 mpg in mixed driving, 15.3 being my best tank on these tires, and even getting under 12 mpg with about 50% city driving. I CANNOT BELIEVE my eyes whenever I fill up. What a joke!
The next gen (1996-1999) 4Runner has more power, is 300 lbs lighter, is just as capable off-road and gets 3 mpg better. Do whatever it takes to avoid the 2nd gen 4Runners with the 3.0 and auto trans, they are a complete waste of time and money! You will be holding up traffic everywhere you go. Might as well be driving a motorhome! Go with a 1st gen 22RE 5 Spd or save up for a 3rd Gen (3.4 V6 DOHC, 183 hp, 217 lb/ft torque) with any tranny (they have the power to pull the auto).
The truck does look great, and I prefer the styling to any other 4Runner, but I feel I'm stuck with one of the biggest dogs on the road. A true gutless wonder, but hey, at least it gets hideous mpg, right?