By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 6.8
The 2014 Toyota 4Runner is among the last of its kind: a rugged, mid-size sport-utility vehicle that finds purpose where the pavement ends. While others such as the Nissan Pathfinder and Ford Explorer have transformed into car-based crossover SUVs that emphasize a refined ride and better fuel economy, the 4Runner is built with adventure in mind. This SUV is still adept as a daily driver, and with its outstanding reliability record and seating for up to seven, it's a tempting choice for lovers of the outdoors and families that would rather camp in the mountains than shop at the mall. The trade-offs for the 4Runner's off-road capabilities come at the expense of middling fuel economy and a rather truck-like ride.
If you want an SUV that's happy on the road on weekdays and even happier off it when the weekend arrives, the 2014 4Runner is ready to be your dual-natured friend. Other feathers in the Toyota's cap are exceptional resale value and an enviable reliability record.
If off-roading is not a priority, look to a car-based crossover SUV such as the Toyota Highlander and Nissan Pathfinder, which are more comfortable and fuel-efficient. If you want rough and rugged on a tighter budget, the Nissan Xterra and Toyota FJ Cruiser cost thousands less.
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Updates have been made to the front fascia, while interior upgrades include the addition of soft-touch material to the door trim and Entune Audio Plus multimedia on SR5 and Trail models. With the new audio system, the "party mode" rear liftgate-speaker audio setting feature has bid adieu.
Driving Impressions Though based on a truck chassis, the 4Runner is bearable on the road thanks to a compliant suspension that soaks up bumps. The SUV accelerates briskly thanks to...... its standard 270-horsepower V6 engine, and its 5-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. It shouldn't be a surprise that the 4Runner isn't at its best on twisty roads – it floats far more than it carves. The Toyota's steering can feel overly assisted in low-speed settings such as parking lots and is rather slow to respond, requiring constant corrections. The brakes also take getting used to, as they tend to be "grabby" after the initial, mushy depression of the pedal. At highway speeds, wind noise can interrupt conversations. Outward visibility is good even with the raised rear-seat headrests, which adds confidence on road and off. Concerning the latter, the 4Runner truly excels. It's a blast to drive on rutted trails that would make most crossover SUVs whimper.
POWER REAR LIFTGATE WINDOW
You can gain access to the 4Runner's rear cargo space without opening the rear liftgate – especially useful in a tight garage or when someone is parked close behind. As a bonus, you can carry long objects such as lumber out the back window without fuss.
OPTIONAL SLIDING REAR CARGO DECK
This convenient sliding deck lets you reach your gear in the back, supports 440 pounds and is handy for your next tailgate party.
Although still rather simple, the 2014 4Runner's cabin is roomy and versatile. The Toyota's large dials and buttons for everything from the radio to low-range gearing are a cinch to use. The large center console has an available 120V AC power outlet, helpful for charging accessories. The power-adjustable front seats are comfortable and supportive. In back, a 40/20/40 split seat offers numerous cargo/seating configurations and reclines. For larger families, 7-passenger seating is available in SR5 and Limited trims, though the small third row is best suited for children. Folding the rear seats yields a flat floor and nearly 90 cubic feet of cargo space.Exterior
Not much has changed on the outside for the 2014 4Runner, and that which has may not be seen as an improvement. In an effort to give the SUV a "more rugged and aggressive appearance," Toyota has endowed the front fascia with large, boomerang-shaped indentations below the slanted headlights. If that gaping design is a deterrent, know that it doesn't apply to the top-line Limited edition. The rest of the 4Runner successfully carries on the SUV's rugged, boxy shape. We dig the 4-wheel-drive Trail model's hood scoop and additional ground clearance that totals 9.6 inches. All trims now have a roof rack standard.
The 2014 Toyota 4Runner is available in three trims: SR5, Trail and Limited. The base SR5 has, the new, 8-speaker Entune Audio Plus system with AM/FM/CD/USB player and Bluetooth music streaming, HomeLink remote transceiver, rearview camera, fabric interior and 8-way-power driver's seat. Off-road aficionados will find much to like in Trail models, which include 4-wheel drive (4WD) instead of rear-wheel drive (RWD), water-resistant seat fabric, locking rear differential, and multi-terrain select with crawl control. Limited models add leather-trimmed seats (heated and ventilated in front), dual-zone climate control, a new 15-speaker JBL sound system with navigation, moonroof, X-REAS automatic-adjust suspension and 20-inch alloy wheels.
Depending on trim, extras for the Toyota SUV include a 3rd-row seat, 4-wheel drive, Entune premium audio with navigation, and the helpful sliding rear cargo deck. Trail models can be equipped with the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS), which can disconnect the stabilizer bars to allow more axle travel to help conquer tough terrain.
The sole powertrain combination in the 2014 Toyota 4Runner is a 270-horsepower V6 mated to a responsive 5-speed automatic transmission. There are three drivetrain choices: 2-wheel drive (2WD) in the SR5 and Limited, part-time 4WD (SR5, Trail), or full-time 4WD (Limited) with a limited-slip, locking center differential. Towing is a strong point for the 4Runner, with an SAE J2807-compliant rating of 4,700 pounds. A not-so-strong point is fuel economy, with 2WD models returning a combined 19 mpg and 4WD models rated at 18 mpg combined. Thankfully, the Toyota's V6 drinks regular unleaded.
4.0-liter V6 engine
270 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm
278 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 17/22 mpg (2WD), 17/21 mpg (4WD)
The 2014 Toyota 4Runner SUV has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $33,680 for a base SR5 model, a $1,330 increase over 2013 models. Trail models begin at $36,585, which is $1,430 below last year, and Limited models start at $42,225, a $2,370 increase. At its starting price, the 4Runner costs more than the Nissan Pathfinder, Ford Explorer and Kia Sorento, though those three are car-based crossover SUVs not meant for serious off-roading. The Nissan Xterra, Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and Toyota's own FJ Cruiser are more like-minded competitors, and all have starting prices several thousand dollars below that of the 4Runner. Before buying, check the Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their Toyota. In long-term value, the 4Runner is a Best Resale Value Award winner, with predicted residuals far above the Xterra and near those of the stellar Jeep Wrangler and FJ Cruiser.