2014 Toyota 4Runner Trail SUV (4.0L V6 4x4 5-speed Automatic)
Driven On 3/24/2014
Look no further if you want a mid-sized 4x4 SUV with real off-road capability and rugged sensibility; the 4Runner is practically the last man standing in this traditional SUV segment. But if you don't spend time in the mountains and only have seasonal snow to deal with, you might be better off with a more comfortable and efficient crossover instead.
PerformanceThe off-road nature of the 4Runner Trail dominates the way it performs. Traditional body-on-frame construction gives it ruggedness and clearance, but also adds weight that results in modest cornering, braking and acceleration limits. Off-road performance, the payoff 4Runner buyers are looking for, is excellent.
The 4.0-liter V6 gets the 4Runner up to 60 mph in 8.1 seconds, which translates to easy freeway merging and decent climbing power up long grades. It's not the most powerful engine in the class, but it does the job.
The 4Runner's brakes have a goodly amount of stopping power, especially in terms of initial bite. But this brings with it a notable amount of nose dive. Panic stops require a few extra feet than crossovers at 132 feet.
A bit slow to respond but predictable. Offers reasonable feel in corners. Straight-ahead driving, on the other hand, feels murky and we sometimes found it necessary to make sizeable corrections in response to road crown and side winds.
Stable in corners but doesn't like to be rushed due to weight and high center-of-gravity that results from body-on-frame construction. Optional KDSS auto-disconnect stabilizer bars are larger and repel body lean better than standard setup.
Throttle response is smooth and progressive and the 5-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly and seamlessly. We felt it would be nice to have 6 speeds every once in a while, though.
There's 4,700 pounds of towing capacity here, a useful figure that covers most boats and many small camping trailers. And you can believe it because Toyota is one of the few automakers that has adopted the SAE standardized tow rating procedure.
This 4Runner Trail has part-time 4-wheel drive, crawl control, Active-trac and a rear locking differential. The real gem is the optional KDSS system that automatically disconnects both stabilizer bars when maximum articulation is needed.
ComfortOur 2014 Toyota 4Runner Trail provided a reasonable mix of comfort that isn't out of line with its overall mission or its truck-based roots. Not as comfy as the typical crossover, but no one looking for this kind of rugged capability should be surprised by that.
Seats have decent shape and range of adjustment, but the padding could stand to be more generous and seat bottoms are short. Overall comfort is good, but stops well short of what we'd call excellent.
The ride isn't necessarily firm, but there is a fair bit of shake and head toss. Instead of crashing over bumps our 4Runner tended to jostle about lazily in response to road imperfections.
Good road noise isolation most of the time, but the squarish shape isn't particularly adept at quelling wind noise. It's not unreasonable or out of place here, though.
InteriorNicely laid out dash and instrument panel, and the changes implemented for 2014 are functional and attractive. Large cargo hold is quite functional, and the seating area is sufficiently roomy. Easy to climb in and out if you can deal with the step-up height.
Driving position is more natural than previous generations of 4Runners. Switchgear is logical and easy to use but the EnTune navigation screen is rather small. Overhead off-road controls are a good use of space.
An extra three inches of step-up height relative to crossovers goes with the territory with an off-road biased 4x4 like this. Front and rear access is similar; optional side step covers both. Doors open nice and wide.
Plenty of front head- and legroom for tall folk, though we should note the Trail does not have a sunroof. Rear seats offer similar headroom. There a bit less legroom back there, but 6-footers still fit.
Easy to see over the hood and find the front corners. Rear visibility is surprisingly good straight out the back and is further enhanced by a backup camera, but the rear quarters have the usual SUV blind spots.
Rear seatbacks fold flat and it's easy to pack the sizeable cargo hold (88.8 cubic feet seats-down, 46.3 cubic feet seats-up) because of its squarish shape. One staffer actually tossed a sleeping bag back there and spent the night.
ValueThe 2014 4Runner Trail is a well-built SUV with a lot of off-road capability for the money. None of the players in this segment offers stellar fuel economy in the overall scheme of things, but the Toyota is near the top of its peer group.
Build Quality (vs. $)
The new 4Runner has tight gaps outside and an attractive new interior. The fabric seats are grippy, easy to clean and good looking.
Generally full of thoughtful features plus off-road goodies such as Crawl Control, A-trac and a locking rear differential. Odd omissions at this price include automatic climate control and heated seats, both available on the Limited.
The Trail's base price of $36,585 includes almost everything you need. That said, the $1,750 KDSS suspension is worth the money for off-roaders and $585 is a bargain to level-up the Entune audio system with navigation and the App Suite.
18 mpg Combined (17 City/21 Highway) is a solid performance within the context of a true off-road capable SUV; only the V6 Grand Cherokee (19 mpg Combined) beats it. We equalled the rated highway mpg twice in testing without trying hard.
Toyota's 6-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty is solid but doesn't match the class leaders. Their basic 3-year/36,000-mi basic warranty for the rest of the car, on the other hand, feels like the bare minimum.
Toyota provides free basic maintenance such as oil changes and tire rotations for the first 2 years/25,000 miles. Roadside assistance covers the same period, as well.
Fun To DriveA 4Runner can be a ton of fun if you're the sort of person that seeks out dirt and likes to explore the backcountry. If that's not you, well, you might look elsewhere.
Day-to-day commuting isn't the 4Runner's forte. It's thoughtfully designed and gets through just fine, but weekends are what this traditional 4x4 SUV does best.
The 2014 4Runner Trail has a strong rugged personality that spans from how it looks to how it drives to what it can do off-road when pushed. Its reputation is a well-deserved one.