2014 Toyota 4Runner SR5 First Test
Staying True to Off-Road Heritage
The 2014 Toyota 4Runner celebrated its 30th birthday this year. For most people, turning 30 is a time of deep reflection. It’s time to either freak out about unmet dreams or pat yourself on the back for checking things off your list of goals. It’s also a time of birthday cards filled with uplifting life-affirmations – “Stay true to yourself” seems to be a popular one. Cliché? Definitely, but totally fitting for the 4Runner.
Most 4Runner fans know the SUV started life as what was essentially a pickup truck with a fiberglass enclosure over the bed. Today the 4Runner is much more refined, though its purpose as a capable off-roader riding on a truck-based, body-on-frame chassis has not changed.
Our 4Runner SR5 tester represents the SUV’s base model. A top-spec 4Runner Limited can be had with leather and other niceties, while a mid-level Trail model is optimized for off-roading, thanks to higher ground clearance and an optional system that disconnects the stabilizer bars at the push of a button. Better yet, Toyota recently unveiled a 4Runner TRD Pro Series model that sits even higher off the ground and sports beefier suspensions and wheels. That said, the base SR5 should be plenty for those who traverse snow and moderate off-road trails, thanks to its part-time four-wheel-drive system, skidplates, active traction control system, and a Downhill Assist Control system.
On the road, the 4Runner handles relatively well, but there are plenty of reminders it’s a true SUV. It’ll lean through fast turns, dip and dive while braking and accelerating, and at times there is a noticeable amount of wind noise coming from the A-pillar. At highway speeds, however, the 4Runner is surprisingly smooth, making it an OK choice for extended road trips. The sole powertrain is a 4.0-liter V-6 that makes 270 hp and 278 lb-ft of torque and is mated to a five-speed automatic. Getting to 60 mph took 7.5 seconds in our testing, while coming back to a full stop from that speed required 121 feet.
The 4Runner’s interior was refreshed for this model year. The redesigned instrument panel is simple and clear, while the center stack is attractive, thanks to beefy knobs and fairly convincing faux-metallic accents that are also used on the dashboard and door panels. The infotainment system, however, could benefit from a larger screen and improved responsiveness. Additionally, the cloth seats feature a ruffle-like pattern that could be a pain to rid of mud and dirt after a day on the trails. On the upside, both front and rear passengers rarely complained about lack of space, and the cargo area is huge, providing 46.3 cubic feet of space. That number increase to 47.2 cubic feet if you skip the optional sliding cargo deck that our tester had. (Neat feature, but we’d probably skip it.) Opt for the available third-row seats and that number goes down to a miniscule 9 cubic feet.
Through the first half of 2014 Toyota has sold 35,293 4Runners, which is about 40 percent better than the same period last year. That said, the 4Runner is far from the sales superstar it was during its early years, when the only other SUV in Toyota’s lineup was the mighty Land Cruiser. Now the 4Runner competes with six other crossovers and SUVs, including the Highlander and RAV4. It does, however, outsell its platform-mate, the FJ Cruiser.
Speaking of which, Toyota is discontinuing the FJ, making us curious what that means for the 4Runner’s future. We assume it’ll maintain its body-on-frame construction, and we hope the Trail and TRD Pro edition continue, perhaps with increased focus on off-road capabilities. Losing some weight and a new, more efficient powertrain wouldn’t hurt, either. For now, the 4Runner has plenty to celebrate on its 30th birthday, including the fact that it’s retained its heritage as a true off-roading SUV.
|2014 Toyota 4Runner SR5|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$37,304|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||4.0L/270-hp/278-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4633 lb (53/47%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||190.2 x 75.8 x 70.1 in|
|0-60 MPH||7.5 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||15.7 sec @ 87.5 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||121 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.72 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.9 sec @ 0.58 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||17/21/18 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY||198/160 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||1.04 lb/mile|