It is impressive that a vehicle that is genuinely capable off-road is still such a strong seller. Toyota has done a good job of making sure its 4Runner, which has been on the market since 1984 (it started as a 1984 1/2 model), stay relevant and competitive without compromising its capabilities.

Toyota continues to do that to this day, as you can see with the 2014 4Runner. Thankfully, the SUV continues on as a body-on-frame midsize model, with the choice of rear drive, part-time four-wheel drive, or a multi-mode 4WD with a locking center differential. The 4Runner continues on with the choice of SR5, Limited, or the Trail grade. The vehicle stays unchanged mechanically. It is powered by a 4.0-liter, 270-hp V-6 with a five-speed automatic, and there's a choice of two- or three-row seating. The Toyota can tow up to 5000 pounds, and comes with a tow-hitch receiver and wiring harness standard. Fuel economy is an estimated 17 mpg city/23 highway for rear-drive models, and the highway number goes down 1 mpg with four-wheel drive to 22. That means both 2WD and 4WD models should benefit from a 1-mpg improvement on the highway over the 2013 model.

For 2014, the majority of the changes Toyota made were to the exterior styling and to the interior. On the outside, squared-off headlights have been replaced by restyled, smoked headlights with jeweled design elements. The new headlights are now projector beams as opposed to the previous halogen. Unlike the simple near-trapezoidal look of the 2013, the 2014's have more angles and an edgier shape. On the SR5 and Trail grade, there are black honeycomb vertical pieces that flank the foglights, and the grille and front bumper are color-matched to the vehicle. The Trail adds a hood scoop and painted silver accents on the front and rear bumpers, and the Limited uses a chrome grille insert, front bumper, and chrome side molding, roof rack, and rear bumper. The rear taillights have also been redesigned, and even though they are the same size and shape, they also are more angular with more attitude than before. Plus, the new 4Runner's taillights now use LEDs. All 4Runners now come standard with a roof rack. In addition to the front- and rear-end designs, the wheels have been changed as well. SR5 and Trail get redesigned 17-inch wheels, and the Limited's 20-inch wheels are now painted black. There are new colors, too: Super White, Attitude Black Metallic, Barcelona Red Metallic, and Nautical Blue Metallic.

On the inside, Toyota designers focused on improving refinement and multimedia. Now the cabins in the SR5 and the Trail come standard with soft-touch pieces on the doors, plus a shift knob and steering wheel wrapped in leather. The SR5's instrument panel is now brighter and easier to see. It houses the gauges you would expect, plus a multi-information display. There's also an Eco-Driving feedback system, which allows you to observe fuel consumption in real time. Also new for 2014, the SR5 comes standard with an eight-way-adjustable power driver seat. The Limited's front seats are now ventilated (as well as heated), and come standard with memory settings. The leather interior is now offered in a new color, called Redwood, in addition to Black and Sand Beige. Features like the fold-flat second row, optional third row, and pullout cargo deck return for 2014.

All 4Runners now come standard with a rear backup camera, which displays what's behind the SUV in the audio screen. Speaking of the audio screen, a new feature on the SR5 and Trail grade is Entune Audio Plus. This includes Entune, AM/FM/CD/MP3, USB port, eight speakers, SiriusXM (with included 90-day trial), and Bluetooth. The new standard system on Limited models is the new Entune Premium JBL Audio system, which includes Entune, JBL sound system with navigation (and 7-inch screen), SiriusXM, HD Radio, and 15 speakers. Entune is a group of mobile apps and data services, including things like Bing, Pandora, OpenTable, and a fuel price guide, traffic, weather, sports scores, and more. The final change: instead of a pole antenna, the 4Runner now has an in-glass unit. When it comes to safety, the 2014 models have active headrests in front, eight airbags, three-point seatbelts for all seats, and the Limited is offered with Safety Connect telematics.

Despite the increasing number of crossovers and car-based people movers that are on the market, we find it encouraging that Toyota has done such a good job of keeping the 4Runner fresh and relevant. We're also glad people still love off-road-capable vehicles like this one, and we're looking forward to the opportunity to take a 2014 on the trail. We hope it's soon -- and we already have a specific trail in mind.


2014 Toyota 4Runner
BASE PRICE $33,000-$42,000 (est)
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, RWD/4WD, 5-7-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 4.0L/270-hp/278-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 5-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT 4500-4800 lb (est)
WHEELBASE 109.8 in
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT 189.9 x 75.8 x 71.5 in (est)
0-60 MPH 7.6-7.8 sec (TT est)
EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON 17/22-23 mpg (est)
ON SALE IN U.S. Fall 2013