While many automakers have chosen to remove the frame from underneath their midsize SUVs lately, Toyota takes a different approach by delivering two medium-bodied sport utes – one with a frame and one without. We’ve already looked at the latest unibody Highlander, and now we’ll spend quality time with the 2014 Toyota 4Runner frame-based SUV we first saw last fall.
Toyota gives its fifth-generation 4Runner a mild refreshing for 2014 as it celebrates the 30th anniversary of the model. It is also delivering a birthday gift to consumers in the form of a $750 discount to celebrate the occasion.
As I mentioned, we got our first look at the new Toyota 4Runner last fall with Senior Editor Dan Cohen experiencing one in the scenic Pennsylvania countryside and my adventures with it and the new Tundra in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Terroir be damned, the 4Runner proved its mettle and then some.
My week with the 2014 Toyota 4Runner solidified my first impressions of the sport ute – that is, this is a very nice rig and handles itself well both on-road as well as off. It can tackle just about any chore, be it a run to the big box store for supplies and rations or quality time spent far, far away from civilization and pavement.
Toyota offers 4Runner in rear wheel 4×2 as well as part- or full-time 4WD with our test models all featuring the latter that includes a new multi-mode 4×4 system with locking center differential. All 4Runner models are powered by a 270hp 4.0-liter V-6 backed by five-speed automatic gearbox, and 4×4 models feature a two-speed transfer case.
A new package/trim grade offered for 2014 is the Trail model that features color-keyed bumpers and overfenders along with a decorative hood scoop and silver accents front and rear. All 2014 models feature new front fascia and standard roof rack.
The 2014 upgrades continue inside with new materials and technology, including a bright new Optitron instrument panel as well as my least favorite new feature in any new vehicle – Eco monitoring feedback system. We should all know by now, foot heavy on gas pedal is bad, foot light on gas pedal is good.
OK, rant off. I like the body proportions of the 2014 Toyota 4Runner, very trapezoidal, but then I was a geometry geek in school. Our test model arrived in the new Trail Premium 4×4 trim, and I was very surprised to discover just how quiet and smooth the vehicle rides on pavement. There is still a little bounce to let you know it has full off-road capabilities, but never was it undue or harsh, thanks in great part to the optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System that improves ride and handling both on-road and off.
I know, I know … get to the good stuff, like just how well does it handle itself in extreme conditions? Excellent.
During the launch program, Toyota literally dropped us into a giant mudpit and then had us crawl and claw our way out. No problem with the CRAWL Control system (standard on Trial models) that regulates engine speed and output to match your needs you’ve selected with the new Multi-Terrain Select system for the terrain underneath your tires. At times we were only making contact with mother earth via two tires and we never found ourselves lacking momentum or control.
As Mickey Dolenz used to sing, “Now I’m a believer.”
For those of you that require a vehicle to perform duties involving more pavement (and passengers), 4Runner is available with a third row of seats for a capacity of up to seven occupants.
The hard numbers for the 2014 Toyota 4Runner Trail Premium 4×4 is a base MSRP of $38,645 with this loaded tester coming in at $41,325 after that aforementioned 30th anniversary discount. Fuel economy is rated at 17 mpg city and 21 mpg highway.
So happy birthday, 4Runner! Here’s wishing you many, many more.