2014 Toyota 4Runner

Reviewed by Susan Frissell

Every state has its beauty, just as every new automobile stirs those who are partial to them. Such is the case with Toyota’s 2014 Tundra and 2014 4Runner, introduced to the media in a gorgeous setting of mountains, forests and some of the greatest roads in America.

downloadpixsep2013 342Toyota hosted a group of journalists at the Blackberry Farms resort in Walland, right outside Knoxville, in the heart of the Smokey Mountains and Foothills of Tennessee. A more appropriate setting couldn’t have been chosen to put the 2014 Tundra and 4Runner through their paces. Challenges were had by all, especially this writer as she struggled to find her way back out of the maze that is Rte 129. Traveling the infamous Tail of the Dragon (complete with 318 turns) highway, which winds through the Foothills is an experience all enthusiasts must have; particularly in a pickup truck!

A fellow blogger and I headed for the Smokies early Wednesday morning in a 2014 Toyota 4Runner prototype. Designed for a different buyer, the 4Runner was launched back in 1984; a –wheel drive body-on-frame truck, 4Runner remains the last of its kind on the market. Filling a special niche, 4Runner rides less like a truck and more like a large SUV these days (which of course, it is).

While the 4Runner’s mechanical pieces remain much the same, Toyota has updated and refined the interior and exterior design; giving it a more “muscular” appearance. New for 2014 are redesigned headlights, grille and hood scoop. A roof rack is standard. Adding comfort and conveniences not to be rivaled, Toyota has managed to keep its hallmark performance capability for those who still desire a ‘real truck.’ Available in three trim levels: SR5, Trail, Limited, 4Runner offers enough to choose from. Buyers will get fabric upholstery (or optional Softex) in the SR5 and Trail versions, while if you move into the Limited edition, genuine leather is standard faire; as well as Toyota’s own standard X-REAS (X-Relative Absorber System) automatic suspension system.

downloadpixsep2013 338downloadpixsep2013 339New features also include redesigned taillights (LED) and wheels,  and upgraded radio. The redesigned 2014 4Runner made its global debut in California earlier this year.

The 4Runner comfortably seats 7 passengers with its optional third-row seating. If you forgo the third row of seats, Toyota provides a nice slide-out floor that is useful and flat. Hauling stuff is much easier with this configuration.

A more civilized off-road vehicle than let’s say the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, the redesigned 4Runner has managed to stay true to its roots. A more practical hauler and daily driver, 4Runner is as comfortable as it gets in a body-on-frame vehicle. Those who have owned and driven the 4Runner over the years are a loyal bunch. Justifiably, they are very proud of their ‘truck,’ off-road and on. The multi-mode 4×4 system, with a locking center differential is not disturbed when navigating mud and rocks. But let’s face it many of us don’t drive in those conditions on a daily basis.

Our test vehicle was a 4×2 prototype 4Runner, in ‘Attitude Black Metallic,’ and sporting Toyota’s hearty 4.0-liter V6 engine. Optional equipment on our test car included automatic running boards, 20-inch standard alloy wheels, full-size spare tire, and tow hitch. Although one might think the automatic running board is a great idea, my co-driver and I found it cumbersome and potentially unsafe. Unless one exiting the vehicle is aware of the running board moving, and waits for it to be in position, we envisioned a passenger-or driver getting their foot caught up in it.

The 4Runner is equipped with the Smart Key system with push-button start, offers leather-trimmed tilt/telescopic steering wheel with cruise control, audio, Bluetooth hands-free telephone controls, and Toyota’s Entune Premium JBL audio system with navigation.  AM/FM single CD with CD MP3 playback stereo is standard, with 3 months Satellite and eight speakers.

The 2014 4Runner is quiet and offers a smooth, even ride. However, we found the steering to be somewhat loose and the brakes a tad spongy. In all fairness, our test vehicle was a Prototype. The steering wheel also seemed large.   

On sale the early part of September, 4Runner holds its own in a shrinking market.

SPECS:

MSRP:

Engine: 4.6-liter, V6, DOHC, 24-valve, 270 hp., 278 ft. lbs. torque

Transmission: 4×2 drivetrain, 5-speed shiftable automatic

Wheelbase:109.8 in.

Length: 189.9 in.

Width: 75.8 in.

Height: 71/5 in.

Fuel Economy: 20.6 mpg.

Weight: some 4,400 lbs.

Tires: P25/70R17

Wheels: 17×7.5-inch

 

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