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I dreamed it was the 1990s…

Joe Loriowriter

I dreamed it was the 1990s. On the TV news, politicians debated what to do with the federal budget surplus. A neighbor who had quit his job to become a day trader gave me a stock tip: pets.com. And in my driveway was an awesome new SUV: a Toyota 4Runner.

The 4Runner is perfect in case I ever want to go off-road. The body-on-frame construction means it's seriously rugged. It has 9.6 inches of ground clearance and massive, 265/70R17 mud-and-snow tires. Next to the gearshift, there's a second lever for shifting into part-time 4-wheel drive, and for choosing high- or low range. Of course, there's a locking rear differential. And this SUV can tow 5000 pounds. Because the 4Runner is so tall, the ride is kind of bouncy and the handling isn't so great, but that's okay, because I like sitting up high.

I wanted to tap the equity in my house to pay bills, take a vacation, and just have some extra cash, so I was just about to head over to Countrywide Financial for a no-documentation home-equity loan—when I woke up. I could tell it was 2010 because the surplus was gone, as was pets.com, Countrywide Financial, and all the equity in my house. But there in my driveway was the very same SUV.

I looked more closely and I noticed a few more things about it. It has two dials above the rear-view mirror, one for the Crawl Control, which allows the vehicle to automatically maintain one of five ultra-low speeds when driving in low range; the other is for selecting the driving terrain, and the traction and stability control will be optimized accordingly. There's also satellite radio and a USB port for the stereo, Bluetooth phone and streaming audio connectivity, as well as a back-up camera. In the back is a slide-out cargo floor, to facilitate the loading of heavy objects or moderately heavy tailgaters (440 pounds, max); alternately, a third-row seat can be had. And under the hood, the 4.0-liter V-6 is rated at a stout 270 horsepower, yet still manages a respectable 17/22 mpg (with 4wd).

The 4Runner, it seems, has two tires set firmly in 2011, and the other two back in the 1990s. But, hey, can you blame it? Compared to today, the '90s are starting to seem like a golden age.