2014 Toyota 4Runner First Drive: Introduction
Toyota’s 4Runner mid-size SUV has come a long way since it was introduced as an option package for Toyota’s compact pickup truck back in 1984. In many ways, that model was little more than a modified version of the pickup with a fiberglass shell covering the bed and a removable rear seat.
Over the ensuing years, the 4Runner has evolved from an enhanced pickup truck into a genuine body-on-frame SUV. In fact, today’s 4Runner is one of the last of the mid-size SUVs to be constructed in this fashion. While most of its competitors have gone with a unibody crossover strategy, Toyota’s 4Runner is still a genuinely off road capable SUV. The exceptional rigidity afforded the model by the body on frame construction makes it an exceptionally robust candidate for this application.
However, along with all of this capability comes a brace of creature comforts designed to make the 4Runner appeal to both outdoor enthusiasts as well as suburbanites who just want to look like outdoor enthusiasts. In other words, this fifth generation 2014 Toyota 4Runner’s comfort and convenience quotient is also quite high.
2014 Toyota 4Runner First Drive: Trim Packages/Main Changes
Three 4Runner trim packages are offered for 2014. These are the SR5, Trail, and Limited. SR5 and Trail are configured more with outdoor adventure in mind—with the Trail package set up to be the most aggressive off road—while the Limited trim set tempers this attitude with decidedly luxurious touches both inside and out. Meanwhile, SR5 and Limited offer a third row of seats to maximize passenger carrying capability, raising the potential count to seven.
From the outside, onlookers will immediately note the 2014 Toyota 4Runner has a decidedly more upscale appearance—even while also appearing more brawny. The redesigned front fascia features a two-piece grille with color-keyed inserts and smoked headlights. Faired-in foglights reside at the bottom of deep inlays flanking the grille on both the Trail and the SR5 models. Yes, it looks a bit on the busy side, but it comes across as purposeful too.
The Limited’s façade softens this somewhat with the addition of chrome to the grille as well as the front bumper. The highly aggressive vertical fog light housings on the other two models are replaced with more conventional horizontal bezels for the 4Runner Limited.
LED taillights can now be found on all 4Runner models, as well as projector beam headlights. New wheel designs are fitted to all three grades too. The SR5 and Trail models ride on 17s, while the Limited gets black 20-inch alloys.
Inside, new soft-touch door trim gives the 2014 Trail and SR5 4Runner versions a more upscale appearance—in addition to more comfort. Further enhancing the ambiance are a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Upgrades to the instrument panel include a redesigned gauge-set incorporating Optitron technology for improved visibility. To help keep drivers conscious of fuel economy, the Eco-Driving feedback system enables real time fuel usage monitoring.
2014 Toyota 4Runner First Drive: Engine/Fuel Economy/Towing Capacity
The 2014 Toyota 4Runner is fitted with a 4.0-liter V6 engine capable of generating 270-horsepower and 278 ft-lbs of torque.
Two-wheel drive models are rated at 17 miles per gallon in the city, and 23 on the highway. When equipped with four-wheel drive, you can still expect the 4Runner to cover 17 miles per gallon in the city, but only 22 on the highway—according to the EPA.
Toyota’s five-speed automatic transmission is the only offering. However a genuine transfer case is added to four-wheel drive powertrain configurations.
Towing capacity is rated at 5,000 pounds and every 4Runner comes ready to tow—as a tow hitch receiver and wiring harness are included as standard equipment.
2014 Toyota 4Runner First Drive: Driving Impressions
Remarkably, for an automobile with the type of offroad capability displayed by the 2014 Toyota 4Runner, on pavement the sport utility vehicle is smooth, stable and corners with significant confidence. Much of this is attributable to the 4Runner’s double-wishbone independent front suspension system, along with rack and pinion steering.
Coil over gas shocks also contribute mightily, as does the four-link rear suspension configuration. In fact, going over the road, you’d be hard-pressed to peg the 4Runner as a body-on-frame SUV. But in the mud and ruts, the toughness designed into Toyota’s SUV shines through briliantly. Capable of slithering up muddy inclines, fording streams, crawling over rocks, and subduing sandy surfaces, the 4Runner is equipped to take on pretty much any thing terra firma can present.
Our Limited trimmed tester’s new X-REAS suspension system did much to inform our positive perception of the 4Runner’s capabilities in this regard. The X-REAS system is capable of automatically adjusting the response of the shocks to smooth the 4Runer’s ride and flatten its attitude. It can even co-ordinate the response of shocks on opposite sides of the 4Runner to counteract wallowing and smooth its ride over choppy surfaces.
The new cockpit design lays all controls readily to hand, and the look of it declares capability a priority. That said, creature comforts also abound, particularly in the infotainment space. Toyota has decided Entune should be a brand for the 2014 model year, so all of its entertainment systems have been affixed with the moniker. Our 4Runner Limited test car had the Entune JBL Premium sound system capable of interfacing with pretty much every popular mobile device out there. Naturally, it also offered support for the Entune suite of mobile apps including Bing, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, and Pandora.
It’s be said when you try to be something to everone, you rind the risk of being nothing at all. Happily, in the case of the 2014 Toyota 4Runner, this does not apply.