2014 Toyota 4Runner
Personality: A slick sedan meets a military grade Hummer for the open road.
Best Gizmo: The crawl control and easily adjustable 4WD system.
Most Annoying Feature: Do the window and lock buttons need to be at shoulder height on the door?
MPG (as tested): 17 City / 22 Highway. 18 mpg overall as tested.
How much will that cost per year in gas? $3,100 for 15,000 miles.
Cars Smoked Off the Line: an old Honda Accord and a Infinity GX.
0-60: 7.6 seconds.
How Fast Is That? About average for an SUV this size.
How many airbags? Eight. Proving Toyota is serious on safety.
Where Do I Get One? Toyota.com
How Much? The SR5 edition starts at $31,490. The Trail Edition comes in at $37,155 and the Limited at $38,955. Options can add thousands to the final price tag.
Serious Contenders? Nissan XTerra, Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Fifteen years ago the majority of SUV's were built on truck frames. This made them capable—but also uncomfortable. In the last decade, most SUV's have moved away from that "body-on-frame" construction. As a result, most newer SUV's and CUV's are more comfortable, but that comfort comes at a cost. These newer so-called SUV's wouldn't know their way around a dirt road, let alone perform with any confidence off of the road.
Here Toyota's storied 4Runner is an exceptional exception. The 4Runner is still built like a truck. It still boasts serious off-road capability, and it's no slouch on-road either, providing a ride, acceleration, braking and handling that surpass many of its car-based competitors. While most manufactures have ditched the truck frame and rugged tires for more pavement friendly rides, Toyota has built an off-road capable SUV with refined style and seriously capable utility.
Now in its fifth generation, the SUV that has shaped the market continues to lead in both style and sales. The narrow profile and giant 31-inch high tires make for an unmistakable figure on and off the road.
For 2014, the 4Runner changes only slightly. The basic SR5 and the tricked out Limited Edition are still offered, as well as the new Trail Edition. This new edition sports the KDSS (Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System), Crawl Control, and electronic locking rear differential—all goodies that increase both resale value and off-road capability.
A 4.0-liter V-6 engine is a nod to both power and efficiency. It produces 270 horsepower at 4,400 rpm. The engine achieves 22 miles for every gallon of gasoline on the highway and 17 mpg in the city—decent figures for a truck of this size. Acceleration is more than adequate, and the rugged notes produced at high RPMs will convince most drivers they are in command of a V-8. Towing capacity is rated at 4,700 lbs, and all editions can be setup with the hitch and wiring.
Handling on this 4,400 lb off-road machine is nimble. Light rack and pinion steering produces a near perfect experience both on and off the road. When departing from the paved road, four-wheel-drive junkies will rejoice at the turning radius of only 18.7 ft. Rugged mud and snow tires on 17-inch alloy rims evoke confidence that even the deepest sludge will be traversable.
Stability control, rollover sensors and traction control all come standard on every 4Runner. Also included are 8 airbags for a multitude of protections against the unknown.
Large dials, sturdy controls, and a host of electronic gadgetry greet the commander behind the steering wheel. The Toyota infotainment system is user friendly with an interface that requires almost no study of the instruction manual. During testing, the iPod interface, as well as the centrally placed 120V outlet was well used.
If you are looking for a Sport-Utility-Vehicle that can actually perform off-road or in deep snow, then look no further. As it has for decades now, the 4Runner can safely transport, you, your family and your cargo in comfort and capability. Whether for the ranch, the trailer hitch, or the occasional camping trip, the 4Runner remains a favorite for adventurers one and all. It remains our favorite mid-size SUV for most occasions, combining refinement, toughness, and safety.
© Copyright 2014, John Dickerson and John Kehlenbeck. Horsepower Auto Reviews