SEATTLE, WA — March 27, 2014 — Reliable. Trust-worthy. Capable. Old dependable. These are some of the adjectives many of us have heard Toyota-owners use when talking about their vehicles and one of the most loyal of all of Toyota’s line-up is the 4Runner. The 4Runner has had a long-lasting cult-like following and for good reason. It has brought countless times of fun and utility to its owners in an attractive, reliable SUV that’s still priced in a reasonable fashion.
The 2014 model gets a facelift and a slight overhaul of the way it looks over the 2013 model and the changes are very welcomed by this reviewer. The current look of the 4Runner is bold, aggressive, assertive and unabashedly rugged as well.
While this review model is the Trail edition with the premium trim upgrades, there are also the baseline SR5 and more luxurious Limited models available as well.
Toyota really did a nice job on the exterior look with such design cues as a hood scoop. Its aggressive-looking front grille and headlights give it a similar look to some kind of creature you’d see in a Pixar animated film. The back of the 4Runner has some nice-looking “shoulders” to it as well, its varying lines and proper use of contrasting colors really give it a look. The only trim option that is out of place are the running boards. How is one supposed to believe it is “trail ready” with ground-clearance-inhibiting running boards? Seriously, they either need to lift the entire vehicle up another couple of inches are remove them. If you want running boards, go find a “pavement princess”.
There’s a standard 4.0-liter V6 engine that develops up to 270hp and 278 lb-ft. of torque, it’s mated to a 5-speed transmission. The overall power of the engine is good but not as good in other SUVs in this price range. Additionally, having only a 5-speed transmission as opposed to a 6-speed means a slight hit on fuel economy which is rated at 17 around town and 21 on the highway for a combined average of 18 miles per gallon – not exactly what we’d call “fuel friend” in this day and age. However, it isn’t too far off the mark for the average SUV of its weight and engine.
Inside this Trail premium edition, it is more function than it is form. Not to say that in a bad way but it still have an overall more utilitarian feel to it – exactly what a 4Runner should have. Sure it has nice seats, on-board navigation on a screen that’s too small, well-appointed trim etc. But it’s far from being “plus” and that’s a good thing for an SUV like this. It’d seem awfully out of place to have a luxurious interior on a SUV called a “Trail” edition. The premium package also offers up the Entune audio system with navigation and app suite. In addition, there’s the sunroof and SofTex trimmed heated front seats with an 8-way adjustable driver’s seat – sorry, passenger, no soup for you as you only get some 4-way action.
Audio quality of the entertainment system is good but not incredible, however, should suffice for most people in the market for an SUV like this. The screen is a bit small and for these old eyes, can be a bit of a strain to make out at times. Bluetooth connectivity worked great and there was not any noticeable sound quality issues. My daughter went with me on a trip and we can attest that it is very handy to have the AC-power outlet in the back as it allowed her to keep the laptop going on a four-hour trip.
Overall cargo space in the rear is very ample, with enough space to pack in the wine case by the dozen, assuming you stacked them. The actual cargo volume with this vehicles sliding deck 46.3 cu. ft. and expands to 88.8 cu. ft. with the back seats folded down. All that to say, you could have more than ample room to haul whatever you need.
Best of all, it doesn’t drive like a “pavement princess” – to the contrary, it’s as if it’s begging you, pleading with you to push it hard, preferably off-road. This test model did have the optional Kinectic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) which will disengage the stabilizer bars and optimally adjusts the front and rear stabilizers from a set of interconnected hydraulic cylinders.
All of this off-road tech should make it ride like a “cattle wagon” going down the road, right? Not at all, in fact, on long trips the 4Runner glides along well at freeway speeds and help keep the driver feeling in control the entire time. Even though its ride is a bit on the firm side, I didn’t find it punishing at all for those long-hauls. Toyota has done an admirable job of blending off-road prowess with civilized ride quality.
If you’re in the market for a rather capable off-road SUV that feels tough yet rides well enough to put the kids to sleep in the back seat, then check out the 2014 4Runner in all of its various trim levels.
Price as test: $42,175