Full 2014 Toyota 4Runner Review
What's New for 2014
The 2014 Toyota 4Runner has revised exterior styling, new headlights and a revamped interior. A touchscreen-based audio system and Toyota's Entune suite of smartphone-connected apps are standard for all trim levels, as is a rearview camera. There are also minor changes in standard equipment.
If your lifestyle necessitates a vehicle with genuine off-road capability (or heck, you just prefer your daily ride to be ready for anything), Toyota's got you covered with the 2014 4Runner. It's one of the few remaining midsize SUVs on the market that embodies the term "sport-utility vehicle" to the fullest extent as opposed to just looking the part.
You can still bang around off-road with the 2014 Toyota 4Runner because it employs the same rugged body-on-frame architecture that underpins pickup trucks. And that, along with plenty of suspension travel and protective underbody plates, helps keep things from breaking when used as intended. The 4Runner's four-wheel-drive system also has low-range gearing and an available locking rear differential to help see you through rough terrain, deep snow or whatever else you want to throw its way.
Of course, there are plenty of consumers who enjoy the Toyota 4Runner's traditionalist image, but mainly use it for commuting to work and running errands with the kids. In a nod to that reality, Toyota has made some changes to the 4Runner this year. The SR5 and Trail models feature upgraded interior materials and all models get a new instrument panel and a touchscreen audio interface with smartphone integration via the automaker's Entune system (although we've found Entune to be a mixed bag when it's actually time to use it). A rearview camera -- an invaluable safety feature on any SUV -- is standard across the board for 2014, while Limited models now allow you to bask in the comforts of heated and ventilated front seats. And although the optional third-row seat is not very roomy, the 4Runner continues to offer it, providing seven-passenger capacity in a pinch.
That third-row seat, along with high cargo capacity, is one of the 2014 4Runner's few advantages over its closest rival, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which seats only five. Otherwise, though, we think the Jeep offers a better compromise between off-road capability and on-road comfort. Plus, it's available with a fuel-efficient diesel engine (not to mention a couple of V8s) -- whereas the Toyota is V6 only -- and comes with a great deal more high-end tech and safety features.
Meanwhile, buyers wanting a true SUV with a third row they can use every day will likely find the somewhat larger Dodge Durango more spacious and comfortable. For those who can spend a bit more, the Volkswagen Touareg offers premium interior accommodations, along with a strong lineup of engines (including a diesel) and a high tow rating for a midsize SUV. And if you don't require much off-pavement ability at all, there are numerous car-based crossover SUVs like the 2014 Chevrolet Traverse and the 2014 Toyota Highlander that will meet your needs. They'll also provide a softer, more carlike ride, lower step-in height and better fuel economy.
All that said, the choices for a modestly sized and (relatively) modestly priced genuine SUV seem to be narrowing every year, and the 2014 Toyota 4Runner remains a likable option in this cadre.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Toyota 4Runner is a midsize SUV offered in three trim levels: SR5, Trail and Limited. The SR5 and Trail are subdivided into base and Premium versions. Five-passenger seating is standard, but an optional 50/50-split third-row seat on the SR5 and Limited models raises capacity to seven.
The SR5 comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, skid plates, a tow hitch, hill start assist and hill descent control, a rearview camera, foglights, heated exterior mirrors, rear privacy glass, a power-lowering liftgate window, a windshield wiper de-icer, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning with second-row vents, cloth upholstery, a six-way power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with tilt/telescope adjustment, and 40/20/40-split-folding and reclining rear seats. On the electronics side, it comes with Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and an eight-speaker audio system with a touchscreen interface, the Entune suite of smartphone-connected apps, a CD player, satellite radio, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB audio interface.
The SR5 Premium model adds a sunroof and outside mirrors with integrated turn signals and puddle lamps. Inside, you get Toyota's SofTex premium vinyl upholstery, heated front seats, a four-way power front passenger seat, a navigation system and an upgraded version of Entune with voice control, phonebook-download capability and text-to-speech messaging for enabled phones.
The 4Runner Trail model includes all of the base SR5's standard features and adds off-road-oriented all-season tires, mudguards, body-color exterior trim, special components and electronic aids for off-road capability and an eight-way power driver seat. The Trail Premium model adds the sunroof and all of the interior amenities and electronics you get on the SR5 Premium. Either 4Runner Trail model can be equipped with the optional Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS). This option is aimed at serious outdoor enthusiasts, as KDSS automatically disconnects the SUV's stabilizer bars in low-speed off-road situations to improve suspension articulation over deep ruts and boulders.
The 2014 4Runner Limited includes all of the Trail Premium's standard content, except for the off-road-related equipment. It also comes standard with 20-inch alloy wheels, adaptive shock absorbers for the suspension, automatic headlights, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, perforated leather upholstery, heated front seats and ventilation for the driver seat, and an upgraded JBL sound system with 15 speakers and HD radio.
Many of the features found on the 4Runner Trail and Limited models are available as options on the lower trim levels, though specifics will vary based on the region of the United States in which you live. Other options include fixed running boards for the SR5 and Trail, automatically deploying/retracting running boards for the Limited, a sliding rear cargo floor and roof-rack crossbars.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Toyota 4Runner comes standard with a 4.0-liter V6 engine that produces 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is also standard. The SR5 and Limited models are available with either rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, while the Trail is 4WD only.
Four-wheel-drive SR5 models have a part-time four-wheel-drive system with a low-range transfer case, while the Limited uses a full-time 4WD system with low-range gearing and an independently lockable center differential. The Trail model comes standard with the part-time 4WD system and also includes a locking rear differential, crawl control (for use in low range) and selectable electronic terrain-sensitive systems. Properly equipped, the 4Runner is rated to tow up to 4,700 pounds.
In Edmunds testing, a rear-drive 4Runner SR5 accelerated from a standstill to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds (7.8 seconds for a four-wheel-drive Trail model), which is about average among competing SUVs. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 19 mpg combined (17 mpg city/22 mpg highway) for rear-wheel-drive models and 18 mpg combined (17 city/21 highway) for four-wheel-drive 4Runners (regardless of which 4WD your vehicle has) -- slightly below average for a midsize, off-road-oriented SUV with a gas-powered six-cylinder engine.
Standard safety features on the 2014 Toyota 4Runner include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front seat side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, front knee airbags and active front head restraints. All 4WD models feature an off-road traction control system known as A-TRAC that helps keep you moving on slippery terrain by redirecting engine torque to the wheel(s) that have traction. A rearview camera is standard across the board. The Limited comes with the Safety Connect emergency communications system, which includes automatic collision notification, a stolen-vehicle locator and roadside assistance.
In Edmunds brake testing, a rear-wheel-drive 4Runner SR5 came to a stop from 60 mph in 122 feet, which is average among SUVs in its class. A Trail model with its off-road-oriented tires needed a longer 132 feet to come to a standstill.
In government crash tests, the 4Runner earned an overall rating of four stars (out of a possible five) along with four stars in frontal crash protection and five stars in side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the 4Runner its top rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength crash tests. Its seat/head restraint design also rates "Good" for whiplash protection in rear-impact crashes.
Interior Design and Special Features
One of the changes you'll notice immediately in the 2014 Toyota 4Runner interior is the new instrument panel. In place of the old individual gauge binnacles, the new design locates an oversized speedometer and tachometer on either side of a multifunction screen trip computer. The new gauges are attractive and easy to read, and a welcome upgrade over the previous design.
In addition, all 2014 4Runners come with a touchscreen audio interface placed high on the center stack. Depending on which trim level you've selected, it brings various degrees of functionality from Toyota's Entune suite of smartphone-enabled services and apps (among them, Pandora Internet radio, the Bing search engine and sports/stock info updates). The SR5/Trail Premium models and the Limited integrate a navigation system into this interface. Getting started with Entune can be a hassle, though, since you have to install an app on your phone and register for an account; plus, you always need an active data connection to use it. The touchscreen interface has straightforward menus, but it's sometimes unresponsive to touch.
Most owners will be satisfied with the quality of the 4Runner's cabin materials, which are oriented more toward durability than aesthetics. Although you won't be afraid to get the Toyota's interior dirty, there's no denying that it has a more workaday ambience than, say, the interior of the Jeep Grand Cherokee.
As for passenger accommodations, the standard five-person seating arrangement includes a reclining 40/20/40-split-folding second-row seat. The optional third-row seat is bound to be a tempting option for carpoolers (as it provides seating for seven), but you'll want to make sure your elementary schoolers will actually fit, as this is one of the smallest, tightest third rows of any midsize SUV.
Most buyers will find that this space is better used for cargo. There's a healthy 47 cubic feet of cargo room behind the second-row seats, a number that jumps to an even healthier 89.7 cubic feet with all the rear seats folded down. This is far more space than the Grand Cherokee offers and more than many large crossovers (such as the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot) as well.
Unlike most of today's midsize SUVs, the 2014 Toyota 4Runner is designed to provide real utility when the pavement ends. This Toyota is at its best when you're plugging along on off-road trails -- the Trail with optional KDSS is the version you'll want for these adventures. At the same time, the 4Runner has enough refinement that you can simply drive it to work every day, if that's your preference. This is still a SUV in the traditional mold, however, and compared to modern crossover SUVs you'll feel a lot more of the bumps and ruts in the road. Toyota's steering feels a little too light and overboosted in normal driving situations, but this calibration turns out to be ideal for off-roading, as it results in reduced kickback on gnarly trails.
The Toyota 4Runner's smooth V6 engine is strong enough that only consumers planning to tow a trailer will lament the lack of a V8 option. Still, there's no denying that you'd get more pulling power and better fuel economy with the optional diesel engines on rivals like the Grand Cherokee and Touareg. The 4Runner's five-speed automatic transmission provides well-timed shifts, but we certainly wouldn't mind another gear to calm the engine on the highway and eke out another mpg or two.