Vital Stats

Engine:
4.0L V6
Power:
270 HP / 278 LB-FT
Transmission:
5-Speed Auto
0-60 Time:
7.5 Seconds (est.)
Drivetrain:
Four-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
4,805 LBS
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
46.3 CU-FT
MPG:
17 City / 22 HWY
Base Price:
$32,820
What would you say if we told you that outside of Jeep and Land Rover, the best brand for those who want to go off road is Toyota? Sounds remarkable, eh? But the truth is, Toyota's history of providing vehicles for the rougher bits of our blue marble dates back to 1950, barely a decade after Willys built the first Jeeps and only a few years after Land Rover made its big debut with the iconic Series I.

In fact, Toyota's start in off-roaders was with a small contract for providing the US Army with vehicles, during the Korean War. From that, the BJ was spawned. This Jeep-like vehicle evolved into the 20 Series and then into the iconic 40 Series Land Cruiser in the 1960s.

So yes, Toyota knows its way around the trails. While the Land Cruiser, deservedly, gets all the attention thanks to its impressive longevity, we're partial to the 4Runner, which is a far more affordable entry that serves as Toyota's challenger to the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

For 2014, Toyota issued a light refresh of the fifth-generation 4Runner, which originally arrived back in 2009. You'll recall that we already have a test of the off-road-oriented Trail trim level, thanks to our man Michael Harley. For this test, we're driving the top-of-the-line Limited model.
2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited

The 4Runner sort of charms you with its unattractiveness, like a mud-covered mutt.

The 4Runner is not a pretty car. It's not even an okay-looking car. Some might go so far as to call it ugly. It's got a snout. But it sort of charms you with its unattractiveness, like a mud-covered mutt. That blunt face, with its large, dominating stack of grilles, wears a pair of chrome strips, the bottom of which runs nearly the width of the vehicle. The headlights are narrow, angrily canted towards the center of the body, giving the impression that the Toyota always disapproves of whatever it casts its gaze on.

This is a slab-sided brute, with its biggest bit of flair running along the wheel arches and side sills. The C-pillar angles forward rather aggressively behind the quarter windows, while a rather substantial rear spoiler pokes out from the roof. The rear of the 4Runner is perhaps the most under-styled aspect, with nothing more than some glitzy, rectangular taillights and eye-catching "4Runner" badging. It's quite simple, in contrast to the front.

If you've looked at the images we've posted of the Trail model, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the 4Runner's cabin is a simple, plain place. In the top-end Limited trim, the high-quality leather of our tester's Sand Beige seats contrasts nicely with strips of (faux) wood and bright, painted plastics. Despite the artificiality of some of the materials, the cabin feels like a very solid, durable environment. The dash is largely plastic, with a soft-touch upper and a harder, more solid lower section.

2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited

A family hauler at its core, space needs to be ample, and it is. Kind of.

The large knobs for the HVAC and audio systems are delightfully easy to work with, like Toyota designed them specifically for drivers that enjoy wearing a heavy pair of gloves. It's a similar story with the HVAC buttons, located below the touchscreen display – they're large and difficult to mix up. The steering wheel, meanwhile, is plucked straight from the Tundra. That means it's a fairly large tiller, but it's finished in nice leather and isn't overly encumbered by buttons.

As this is a family hauler at its core, space in the second row and in the cargo area needs to be ample, and it is. Kind of. The back seat has plenty of legroom, although for your six-foot, one-inch author, headroom was far too limited. Considering that, the second row will work in a pinch for adults, but is far better suited to children or those of a shorter stature. Headroom may be in short supply, but cargo space isn't, with 46.3 cubic feet on offer in our two-row tester. That's ten cubic feet more than the 4Runner's main competitor, the Grand Cherokee. A foldable third-row is optional, although with the extra pair of seats up, cargo capacity diminishes to just nine cubic feet.

From behind the wheel, the 4Runner is a decent companion. The seats are wide and comfortable for the long haul, while there's enough lateral support that the driver feels pretty nicely cossetted. The tilt-telescopic steering and eight-way power seats provide a solid degree of adjustability, although those that don't enjoy a higher seating position might not be too fond of the 4Runner. Most everything seems to be in easy reach, aside from the very furthest knob on the infotainment system, which is a minor stretch.

2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited

Outside of Entune, tech is limited in the 4Runner..

Speaking of that infotainment system, it's Toyota's Entune setup, complete with a 6.1-inch touchscreen display. As touchscreens go, it's a solid mid-pack contender, held back largely by its relatively small size. Still, if you aren't bothered by screen real estate, it's a smooth operator, with the responsiveness, capability and graphical prowess to serve as an informative companion. Outside of Entune, tech is limited in the 4Runner. Although it offers parking sensors and a rear-view camera, it's lacking when it comes to some active safety features. It's quite unlike Toyota to refresh a car, but pass on offering items like blind-spot monitoring and the like. Still, the 4Runner boasts a roll-down liftgate window, which we suppose is cool enough in the world of SUVs for us to forgive its lack of safety technology.

The 4Runner gets around with the help of a 4.0-liter V6, with 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. It's a fairly simple engine, all things considered, lacking things like forced induction or direct injection. Suitably, then, it's mated up to an old fashioned transmission – a five-speed automatic. In our Limited trim, the standard 5AT distributes power to a full-time four-wheel-drive system, which is paired up with a Torsen limited-slip, locking center differential. Active Traction Control is standard, while the 4Runner's towing capacity lags behind its rival, the Grand Cherokee, at 4,700 pounds – with four-wheel drive and the Pentastar V6, the Jeep can manage 6,200 pounds (it should be noted, though, that Toyota adheres to SAE J2807, a towing standard that will be adopted by domestic manufacturers in 2015 and likely result in lower tow ratings).

Despite being saddled with 4,805 pounds of Japanese SUV, this engine felt largely adequate. The engine's torque peak may sit up at 4,400 rpm, but it feels reasonably quick off the line. Mid-range punch is lacking, although we'd place most of that blame on hesitation from the transmission, rather than any shortage of oomph from the engine. Throttle response is sharp when digging in quickly, but it's quite linear and easy to modulate when trying to make careful inputs (a must-have when off road).

2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited

Pairing this engine with this much weight and a mere five gears isn't exactly a recipe for refinement.

Pairing this engine with this much weight and a mere five gears isn't exactly a recipe for refinement. The 4Runner doesn't make a great noise at higher engine speeds, although we found it easy enough to keep the revs low. As we said, the five-speed auto is really the weakest link here. It changes up quickly enough, but it spends a fair amount of time sifting through gears before locking one in on downshifts. This gearbox has been in service since 2003, and has been sold in the four-wheel-drive variants of not just the 4Runner, but the Tacoma, Tundra, FJ Cruiser and even the Euro-spec Hilux – it's solid and reliable, but these vehicles, especially a passenger-minded off-roader like the 4Runner, would be better served by a newer transmission with at least one more gear for highway duty.

As for the four-wheel-drive system, you'll be happiest reading Mike Harley's brief test on the trails. Southeastern Michigan was a relative paradise during our week with the 4Runner, offering bone-dry weather and the warmest temperatures we'd seen in all of 2014. We simply weren't left with much chance to really put the full-time four-wheel-drive through its paces. The one niggle we can comment on, though, is that the Limited trim ditches the old, manually-shifted transfer case that's still sold in the Trail model (which retains a part-time system), in favor of a dial. We know this is a bit of an analog-versus-digital argument, but we can't help but prefer the satisfying sensation of working that notchy shifter, rather than turning a knob.

With a large-displacement V6, a five-speed automatic, the aerodynamics of a barn and a 4,800-pound curb weight, one might think the 4Runner isn't hugely fuel efficient. Well, at 17 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg on the highway, it isn't. But – and this is a pretty big "but" – the 4Runner is able to match the city fuel economy rating of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, which boasts three more gears, 20 more horsepower and a smaller-displacement six-cylinder engine. The Jeep does offer a two-mpg advantage on the freeway (it's three mpg better on the 2WD model), which we can likely chalk up to the transmission's extra gears. Our mileage fit in well enough with the projections – an extended, 130-mile freeway run saw us return just under 20 mpg, while our week-long average sat closer to 17.

2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited

Riding on a double-wishbone front suspension and four-link rear, the handling experience in the 4Runner is what we'd expect in an off-road-minded SUV. It's not a sound dancer, with a hefty degree of body roll through bends (it is a high-riding vehicle, after all) and plenty of squat and dive during hard acceleration and braking. Feedback is limited through the seat of the pants, although none of this should come as even a remote shock.

The handling experience is what we'd expect in an off-road-minded SUV.

The 4Runner's ride is decidedly average, despite its X-REAS adaptive damper system, offering up a mix of good and bad manners. It's soft, but it avoids feeling floaty over crests or on undulating roads. Impacts are well smothered, although side-to-side motion from bumps and imperfections is noticeable. There are some body shudders when traveling over particularly pockmarked or washboard roads, but this behavior doesn't strike us as a deal-breaker.

This average ride is, surprisingly, pretty quiet. Impacts are audible, though not disruptive, while road noise from the Yokohama Geolander G96 tires and the 20-inch alloys isn't pervasive, considering this vehicle's off-road nature. The 4Runner's upright, slab-sided design means that wind noise was certainly noticeable, although we had little issue drowning it out with the help of the 15-speaker JBL stereo.

Although there's an old-school hydraulic power-steering setup in the 4Runner, overall feedback is still rather limited. That said, the wheel does weight up quite nicely through bends, offering a linear increase in effort from on-center to lock.

2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited

Our as-tested price was $46,380, nearly $5,000 cheaper than a comparable Grand Cherokee.

Braking, meanwhile, is handled by vented discs at each corner, with 13.2-inch rotors in front and 12.3-inches in back. We had little issue with the brakes, although the pedal wasn't particularly easy to modulate smoothly, with a rather hard initial bite. This sharpness is less noticeable at lower speeds.

Prices for the 2014 4Runner start at $32,820, excluding an $860 destination charge. Of course, that's for the base SR5 with two-wheel drive. (Rhetorical questions: why does a 2WD 4Runner even exist, and shouldn't it be called the 2Runner?) That's a bit pricier than a competitive Grand Cherokee, which starts at $29,395. For our loaded Limited and its four-wheel-drive system, the price jumps to $43,400. The options sheet is pretty small at this level, with just the Blizzard Pearl paint ($395), a foldable third row ($365) and automatic running boards ($1,500) to choose from (along with the traditional batch of dealer-installed accessories). Our tester had only two of those, lacking the extra pair of seats. It should be noted, though, that picking up the running boards on the Toyota consumer website requires adding the third row of seats. We aren't totally certain what the deal is with this inconsistency. Our as-tested price, including the $860 destination charge and a $225 accessory charge for floormats, was $46,380. Now, that's cheaper than the top-of-the-line Grand Cherokee Summit, which starts at $51,195 for a four-wheel-drive model, but the Jeep does trump the Toyota on tech. Still, the GC isn't so well equipped that we'd happily spend the extra $5K.

This all seems rather dour, we'll admit. The 4Runner is an aging vehicle to be sure, but we're growing to accept that trait in most true SUVs. It seems like these vehicles either go the way of the dinosaurs, transform into crossovers like the Nissan Pathfinder or end up finding that rare middle ground that allows them to flourish without compromise, like the Grand Cherokee. The 4Runner's single-minded focus on off-road ability, at the expense of everyday livability, will appeal to consumers that can appreciate its simple assets in spite if its modern-day flaws.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 114 Comments
      John
      • 7 Months Ago
      Even though the giant plasti-chrome bar on the front looks cheap, it definitely improves the look over what this monstrosity was like before. The giant gaping mouth and running mascara is now somewhat tamed, or more accurately, muzzled.
      L1011
      • 7 Months Ago
      Although I *really* liked the previous generation (let's face it, it looked a LOT better), this one is quite nice. When it comes time to replace my '06 4R, I will definitely be looking at this one.
      The Friendly Grizzly
      • 7 Months Ago
      I see those headlights and the song "She's got Marty Feldman Eyes" comes to mind. I had one of these things tailgating me in traffic two days ago. They are every bit as ugly in person as in pictures. It will sell like crazy. It's a Toyota.
      DS
      • 7 Months Ago
      Gas mileage of a Suburban, space of a Subaru. For the 90% that never take it off road, my Father-in-Law included, this vehicle makes no sense. I also noticed that most of the newer ones seem to have white men over the age of 50 driving them.
      John
      • 7 Months Ago
      There was a time when the 4runner was absolutely gorgeous, in a Bear Grylls kind of way. Now it is still capable -more capable, probably, but butt ugly. Why, Toyota, why?
      GR
      • 7 Months Ago
      Am I the only person who likes this thing? I actually think it looks good and I crawled all over a Limited at an auto show. I liked it a lot. Also, a lot of people compare it to the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Sure, the Jeep is better looking, more refined, and has newer technology, but "better" is relative. Jeeps have dismal reliability and the GC is among the worst in its class. Oh and about that 8 speed transmission: you guys might want to do some research on the reliability of that. Seems like Chrysler can't escape tranny issues even when they have others like ZF designing it. On the contrary, the 4Runner is ancient, but it's proven and reliable, much like a Colt 1911. Toyota is very conservative on things that can risk reliability, especially with their halo products. Jeeps like the GC are rarely found outside of North America and are suburban mall crawlers for the most part (aside from the Wrangler, but we all know many Wranglers, including the Rubicon, never see dirt). On the other hand, the 4Runner and Hilux are trusted in the most remote and hostile regions on Earth. You'll find Toyota trucks like the 4Runner/Hilux everywhere from Antarctica to Africa. Heck, the Middle East uses them as military vehicles and even had a war nicknamed the "Toyota War" because the vehicles used were all Toyota trucks. If one wants refinement, the Jeep GC is better. If one wants uncompromising reliability and durability, it's the Toyota, hands down. Hate on the 4Runner all you want. At least it will be running in 20 years.
      Tone
      • 7 Months Ago
      Gentlemen, I present to you the 21st century version of the Toyota Queen Wagon Family Truckster !!
      Ez-Car
      • 7 Months Ago
      Um, I don't care if Autoblog thinks this is competition for the Grand Cherokee because it simply isn't. It's ancient, by automotive standards, and I'm sure it doesn't posess even half the technology of a Grand Cherokee. It's also missing a diesel and V-8 engine option, among many other things. I used to really like the 4runner, but I stopped when Toyota stopped caring about it.
        dinobot666
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Ez-Car
        The 4Runner used to have the 4.7 V8 as an option, but Toyota phased it out for C.A.F.E. Performance difference between the 4.0 V6 and the 4.7 V8 wasn't that significant really. Even if you don't think Autoblog is right about this "ancient" 4Runner competing with the Grand Cherokee, because of its older (some say proven) drivetrain, then you're forgetting that some folks will consider both vehicles as something they'd use off-road. It's worth noting that Toyota just put out a TRD Pro (stupid name I think) version of the 4Runner with a factory lift and high performance shocks.
          Ez-Car
          • 7 Months Ago
          @dinobot666
          Naw, I don't forget. I know what you mean and agree. I just look at numbers because that's what drives the automotive industry these days, at least at the level of Toyota/Jeep. The Grand Cherokee outsold the 4 runner last year at a ratio of nearly 4 to 1, in the United States. If Toyota doesn't drastically improve almost every aspect of the 4 runner, it's likely that ratio will only increase, in favour of the Grand Cherokee. As for off-roading, I agree with you. However, those people are few, and better served by the Wrangler or FJ, which is evidenced by the massive increase in sales for the Wrangler. Even in this comparison Jeep stomps Toyota; over 10 to 1 sales for Wrangler. Don't misunderstand, I do like Toyota as a car maker, they know who they are and what their buyers expect of them, it just so happens (and is rather sad) that it seems to have little to do with the 4runner/FJ. A friend had a 2001 4runner sr5. I still miss it but he now owns a Wrangler, and it hasn't gone wrong once.
        JaredN
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Ez-Car
        If you want a midsize, offroad capable SUV, the Grand Cherokee and the 4Runner are pretty much the only ones left. Yes, the Grand Cherokee has more technology and better drivetrain options. But Jeep reliability still isn't where it needs to be. I've put 145,000 miles on my '03 4Runner, with few problems other than frequent brake pads and rotors. While I prefer the styling (inside and out) of the Grand Cherokee, I'm simply not comfortable that it would have similar reliability. In addition, the 4Runner has a bit more cargo room and my 4th gen is just a bit smaller than I would like.
          JaredN
          • 7 Months Ago
          @JaredN
          Ez-Car, choose whichever imperfect metric you want -- JD Power, Consumer Reports, etc. Toyota's reliability is still high. Jeep's still sucks. Ford and GM are somewhere in between.
          Ez-Car
          • 7 Months Ago
          @JaredN
          As a whole, I don't believe Toyota to be more reliable than the other car brands sold in North America. It has its fair share of recalls now, and that's mostly due to the technically advance nature of many components in a vehicle, as opposed to manufacturing processes. I firmly believe that it's not easy to find a true lemon these days, not when it's new off the lot. Every car and brand will have it's issues. I replied above to dinobot666 that a friend of mine owned a 2001 4runner SR5. He got rid of it shortly after the transmission completely disintegrated its internal components. Of course, this isn't something that happens to every 4 runner, in fact it probably has happened to very few, but it does happen regardless of brand and model.
          Ez-Car
          • 7 Months Ago
          @JaredN
          @JaredN - Note that in 2013 and 2012 Toyota recalled more vehicles than any other manufacturer. That's raw data that is verifiable. -If I’m to base my opinion of a brand solely on publications, opinion, and figures it would be very easy to conclude that Toyota's products are of a poor quality on the whole, and not worth spending money on, and this would be wrong. - If a metric is imperfect, as you mention, it obviously cannot be trusted as fact, and it should not be taken as such. When it comes to things we buy I trust the vote people place with their wallets, and to me that means the following: 1) Toyota sells an enormous amount of cars, which means people trust their product. I never argue with that. 2) The Grand Cherokee sells at nearly 4 times the rate of the 4runner. Actually, the Grand Cherokee has been outselling the 4runner, in the United States at a fairly wide margin since the year 2000, at least. To go even further, the Wrangler has handily outsold the FJ Cruiser since the FJ was sent to market, in 2006. Regarding Consumer Reports, KBB, JD Power, et al: journalists are employees and they need to sell their publication to a targeted demographic, so they'll design their pieces to attract said people. On the other hand, the economy is about as indifferent a source for data as you can get. In it, people talk with their money, and that's what I look for. By all means, feel free to state and believe that Jeep builds vehicles with reliability that “sucks”, I wouldn't bother to try changing your mind on that as you’re fairly steadfast with it. The End.
      David MacGillis
      • 7 Months Ago
      This thing is like some kind of reverse bizarro-world vehicle. I thought it was GM that made uncompetitive garbage that was literally based on two decade old hardware but of late that mantle seems to have been grabbed by Toyota.
        zepeda1
        • 7 Months Ago
        @David MacGillis
        Totally agree. Toyota reminds me alot of GM in the 80/90's. Their all new models are just a refresh and tweak to the previous version, with very little innovation. And their styling is trying to be edgy but they don't want to turn off traditonal Toyota customers so it comes out as a jumbled mess. Lexus included. Sure they have innovation with the Pruis, but how come they don't share it with their other nameplates?
      willied
      • 7 Months Ago
      Toyota 4Runner: Official Car of Sorority Girls Who Have No Need For an SUV
        Rob
        • 7 Months Ago
        @willied
        BMW X1 would be the Sorority girls SUV
        hboi18
        • 7 Months Ago
        @willied
        This is one of the Few SUV's out there that still looks like a SUV....Nothing about this Giant thing screams "girl"
      avanti
      • 7 Months Ago
      You're definitely getting more than your 46 thousand dollars worth of ugly with this vehicle. I guess that makes it a great value!
        LunarSnowStorm
        • 7 Months Ago
        @avanti
        I would take the ugly Toyota over the sub par quality of the Cherokee. The 2014 Cherokee has so many electrical problems it's a shame. Go to You Tube or goggle problems with the 2014 Cherokee and do the same for the 4 Runner. Then tell me which one you would buy.
          • 7 Months Ago
          @LunarSnowStorm
          [blocked]
          avanti
          • 7 Months Ago
          @LunarSnowStorm
          First the Grand Cherokee is the competitor here NOT the Cherokee. Jeep has issued a recall to fix the issue in a computer module. Let's not be blind to Toyota's numerous recalls over the past few years as well. That said I'd still buy the Grand Cherokee over this eyesore. I'd hate to see this disgusting mess in my driveway every morning. Let alone have to be seen driving it. I prefer a beautifully styled and designed automobile. With a more refined and luxurious interior in this class. Some people value aesthetics, some don't. Some people view a vehicle as a appliance, that's fine. It's just not what I look for when dropping +46K in this class.
      Cameron Huntsucker
      • 7 Months Ago
      I really actually want to know the process that caused this styling to be green-lit. Because clearly I, with no talent or skills as an artist, could have a career at Toyota. This thing is hideous. -Former 4Runner owner, and current Previa owner.
        foxtrot685
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Cameron Huntsucker
        Says the man who owns a Previa...
          carguy1701
          • 7 Months Ago
          @foxtrot685
          The Previa wasn't a bad vehicle for what it was. Kind of a cult car now, actually.
          ...
          • 7 Months Ago
          @foxtrot685
          The Previa was actually mid-engined RWD/AWD. But yeah, it was quite ugly.
          superchan7
          • 7 Months Ago
          @foxtrot685
          I highly suggest looking up the current Previa which soldiers on in its 3rd generation in the RHD world. It's actually a very good-looking van.
        jtav2002
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Cameron Huntsucker
        Probably a similar process to what got the Cherokees styling green lit. That vehicle seems to be doing just fine despite it's unappealing front end. Like the Cherokee, the overall design of the 4Runner isn't bad. Just has an....interesting front.
        Jesus!
        • 7 Months Ago
        @Cameron Huntsucker
        Previa...thats a name I havent heard in awhile. Dont see many of those anymore. In fact I cannot remember the last time I saw one.
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