by Tony West and Daryl Payne
The Toyota 4Runner remains one of the top selling mid-size SUVs on the market, with dependable performance for everyday driving and for off-road. For 2014 the classic SUV adds a curvaceous brawny exterior design and spacious tech-advanced interior. Also new is a more efficient V6 engine that collaborates with dynamic driving settings and Start Stop technology to deliver lower emissions and a combined EPA of 18 mpg.
Available models for 2014 include the 4Runner SR5, SR5 Premium, Trail, Trail Premium grade, Limited, and TRD Pro Series – with 4×2 and 4×4 models available for each. The Trail grade is equipped with advanced off-road technology and more standard safety features. While the Limited model has a chromed out front fascia and additional interior and dynamic driving perks. We reviewed the 4Runner SR5 Premium 4×4 with 20 inch alloy wheels, an efficient V6, and new interior infotainment tech.
Revamped Design Combines Brains and Brawn
The new 4Runner exterior design perfectly blends the SUV’s classic ruggedness with a new curvaceous muscular body. The 2014 4Runner has a new front and rear fascia that includes a burly color keyed grille with smoked projector beam headlamps. All models have projector beam headlights and LED rear combination lamps. The Trail model features a color-keyed bumper and overfenders and silver painted front and rear bumper accents. The Limited model adds chrome plated grille inserts and a chrome front bumper trim that extends to the fog lamp bezels. The 4Runner has standard 17 inch alloy wheels with available 20 inch machine-finished wheels.
The 2014 4Runner got a lot of compliments- many from Toyota truck owners who liked the new design inside and out. Toyota designers did a good job of retaining notable features like the rigid body-on-frame construction and power retractable rear window while adding upgrades like chrome swag with LED tech and a pull-out cargo deck. Not to mention the Trail and Limited models offer high-tech suspension upgrades. And the TRD Pro Series adds 17 inch black TRD alloy wheels with Nitto Terra Grappler tires along with its TRD Bilstein performance shock absorbers and TRD front springs. All 4Runner models have a standard roof rack and a full-size spare.
Dynamic All-Road Performance with Efficient V6
All 4Runner models have a 4 liter V6 engine with dual independent variable valve timing with intelligence. The 24-valve V6 is equipped with highly efficient Start Stop technology that shuts off the engine with the truck is idle for an extended time. The V6 has 270 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 278 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm which provides a commanding acceleration growl. The V6 is mated to a 6 speed automatic transmission. Thanks to new aerodynamic design cues, the 4Runner has an athletic performance that falls short of Turbo, but still overtakes compact cars, crossovers, and pick-ups.
Double wishbone independent front suspension and 4-link rear suspension provided a smooth ride in every terrain. I felt no bumps. I never lost controls of the wheels or the steering wheel thanks to A-Trac traction control and speed sensing power steering. The Limited 4Runner features a standard X-REAS system that auto adjusts damping force on bumps and tight corners. With the X-REAS system, the 4Runner handles choppy pavement easily. The available Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) allows for a greater off-road performance and nimble cornering.
Braking was weak in the 4Runner with front and rear disc brakes. It took too much pressure to stop this big-body truck. The 4Runner has a 4,700 lb towing capacity with a 470 lb tongue weight. A tow hitch receiver and wiring harness is standard.
Four-wheel drive was awesome in the 4Runner SR5 with outstanding handling in every situation. The SR5 and the Trail 4×4 models have a two speed part time 4wd system with neutral position that maximizes efficiency when 4wd is not needed. And the driver selector allows the driver to switch between H2 mode – high speed 2wd for efficient everyday city driving, H4 – high speed 4wd for icy or snow covered roads, or L4 – low speed 4wd mode for maximum power and traction on hills, mud, sand, and especially off-road. The 4Runner Limited is equipped with a full time 4wd system with a Torsen locking center differential controlled with a 3-mode switch.
Crawl Control, standard on the Trail Grade, helps maintain a steady engine speed and braking force to propel the 4Runner forward or backwards at one of the five driver-selectable low speed settings. The Trail models also features a Multi Terrain Select system that allows drivers to adjust wheel slip to match the terrain and road conditions – from mud and sand, to ditches and mini mountains.
The 4Runner SR5 2wd comes with an Automatic Limited Slip Differential that helps the vehicle dig itself out of deep mud or snow.
Dynamic Safety Features
The Toyota 4Runner offers high-tech safety features across all grades that allow for confident driving. All models come with standard Hill Start Assist Control and Downhill Assist Control. A-TRAC is standard on all 4×4 models. The A-TRAC traction control system can distribute driving force to any one wheel. The 4Runner also features Toyota’s standard Star Safety System that includes Vehicle Stability Control with ABS, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Brake Assist, and Sway Control. Absent is the Blind Spot Monitor. The 4Runner Limited offers the Safety Connect telematics system that offers subscription services to Automatic Collision Notification, Stolen Vehicle Location, Roadside Assistance, and an SOS button.
Tech-Functional Spacious Interior
Inside the 4Runner is a spacious tech savvy cabin. The 4Runner has 47 cu. ft. of cargo area and 89 cu. ft. with the 2nd and 3rd rows folded. The interior of the SR5 features SofTex trimmed seats with heated front seats and a leather wrapped heated steering wheel. The 40/20/40 fold flat second row can recline 16 degrees. Third row seats are available on the SR5 and Limited grade. The seats can be folded from the side or from the rear using separate one-touch levers. The Limited grade also features leather trimmed heated and ventilated driver’s seat along with dual zone climate control. The SR5 also features a power moonroof, rear pollen filter, sliding liftgate window and a back-up camera. The Limited gets a standard front and rear sonar system that aids safety features. An available pull out cargo deck with its 440 lb. capacity is a cool tailgating tool.
Drivers use the Optitron instrument panel that has tachometer, speedometer, odometer, and fuel and coolant temperature gauge along with a Multi Info Display (MID). The MID displays info like the eco monitor, compass, ice indicator, outside temperature, front tire angle, cruise control settings, and warnings.
Comfort and convenience is one the 2014 4Runner interior’s best attributes. Driver and passengers experience superior comfort. And the driver sits up comfortably with 8-way power seat adjustments, and high visibility thanks to slim A-pillars. Along with the Optitron driver information center, drivers utilize a 6.1 inch hi-res touch screen for navigation, backup camera, and audio. The touchscreen is nice, but too small for such a wide area in the center stack. Especially since there aren’t that many buttons. The small screen makes the navigation display hard to read.
The interior could’ve used a boost of interior ambient lighting to go with its abundant storage space. Many buttons weren’t illuminated at night, and even the terrain controls and window buttons were impossible to see without turning on the dome lights. The vent design needs to have smaller vents, instead of two larger ones in the center. It’s not easy to for those large vents to warm the big truck quickly.
The SR5 and Trail grade models feature Entune Audio Plus which includes Toyota’s Entune multimedia system with 8 speakers and Sirius XM Satellite radio. The 4Runner also features two 12 volt outlets and one 120 volt plug. The Limited 4Runner has a 7 inch touchscreen with an Entune Premium JBL Audio System with premium speaker system, Sirius XM Satellite radio and HD radio. Entune audio also offers Bluetooth and mobile apps like Pandora, iHeartRadio, OpenTable, and MovieTickets as well helpful info like traffic, weather, fuel prices, sports, and stock information real time.
The 4Runner exceeds expectations as an efficient fully capable off-road and everyday SUV with comfort and convenience technology. With an MSRP of $37, 615, the mid-size stacks up against competitors from Mazda, Acura, and gives the Ford Edge a run for its money.