2014 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Premium Review
It's a dinosaur, but it still has plenty of reason to live.
Web2Carz Contributing Writer
Published: October 17th, 2014
Let's be honest here - body-on-frame SUVs are a dying breed. Unibody variants are far more comfortable, and thus, far better equipped for the average suburbanite that will be hauling four people around, each represented by a stupid vinyl stick figure on the back window. Nobody wants the bone-shaking, cabin-swaying experience that comes with living on an Arctic fishing vessel ... erm, we mean, driving a body-on-frame SUV.
But what about the old-school folks that want to get a little adventurous - the folks that aren't afraid to drive over some rocks, dip the front grille in some water? Sure, there are more than a few unibody crossovers that will accomplish this for you. However, like microwaving two-day-old leftovers, you know you're not getting the full experience. You're missing something. What you're missing is the damn frame.
You could jump into the fray and buy a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, but what if you don't want an SUV that requires you to give some weird little half-wave to every other person on the road with the same car? What if you want an SUV that feels like it was designed much closer to the 21st century?
Then, my friend, you buy a Toyota 4Runner. And you won't be let down. You also won't have to wave at any other 4Runner owners.
If you have an SUV in its natural environment (no, we don't mean sitting at the gas pump), you're going to be paying attention to the road. You won't have time to be looking for random controls, manhandling tiny knobs with indiscernible script. You won't have time to be scanning a densely packed instrument cluster, looking for one specific readout surrounded by 13 others. You need controls that are big and burly, things you can shove your entire ham-fist at without more than a nanosecond spent paying attention to the periphery.
Lucky for you, the 2014 4Runner has all of that. The knobs on the center stack were made from Duplos rather than Legos. The button text is in sizes borrowed from the local large-print church bulletin. The instrument cluster's dials - only four of them, with a small screen in the middle - have massive hash marks and bright numbers. The surfaces look like they're supremely easy to clean, which lends to the occasional flat expanse of cheap-feeling plastic. The seats look equally cleanable, and our tester's leatherette seating surfaces were always comfortable, to boot.
Basically, it looks like a truck. Because it more or less is a truck. These are good things, don't forget.
Again, the 4Runner looks like a truck, because it's built off the frame of one. It's a massively chunky block of how-does-it-even-get-21-mpg-highway aerodynamic quandary. It looks like a child's toy come to life, with its squared-off fenders, squared-off grille ... okay, the entire car is a menagerie of straight lines with a few curves thrown in the mix to get adventurous. It's also very tall, taller than it looks in pictures. Make no mistake; you're one step from buying a truck when you buy a 4Runner. It's some old-school shit made to conform to new-school crash and fuel-economy standards.
And it looks lovely for what it is.
On the Road
Do you get the theme thus far? Would you like to guess how it drives? If you said it drives "like a truck," congratulations; you, too, can become an auto writer. We have terrifically low standards. Some of the journos even wear Hawaiian shirts on media drives.
When you want to turn the 4Runner, you start by turning the steering wheel. This turns the actual wheels that are connected to the frame, which turns the frame. Eventually, the body also goes in that direction. It takes about as long to do all that as it did for you to read all that. Life is different when you're not in a unibody vehicle. There's a lot of swaying and floating going on. You can get the nose to dip up and down like the car is on 1990s-era-Compton-sourced hydraulics when sitting at a stop light.
That said, the ride is soft, and the frame will eat up whatever you throw at it. That probably includes things like animals and small children, but we chose not to test that. We suggest that you don't, either.
The 4Runner's V-6, while torquey enough to supply ample thrust for highway merging and the like, isn't a stand-out engine. It doesn't have the immediacy of its V-8 powered brethren, the Lexus GX 460. The transmission will also take plenty of time to ponder the meaning of its existence before downshifting, despite the fact that your foot has been pushed so far into the firewall that it's chemically melted with it. It feels, frankly, a little old.
There's a lot to like about the 4Runner. It feels old-school, but not so old that it needs to be put out to pasture. It has plenty of space for five adults, enough cargo space to accommodate a full cabin of folks on a weekend trip, and it will get everybody there in one piece. If you need to wade through a creek to get to your destination, even better. The 4Runner will do all that, all the while returning average gas mileage.
You have to give Toyota a fair bit of respect for sticking with winning formulas, even if it is for obscene lengths of time. From the Tacoma, to this 4Runner, to the Corolla and Camry, Toyota will beat the everloving hell out of a horse until it's so far past dead that you can't even really tell it's a horse anymore. Yet, somehow, Toyota ends every year as King of Money-Pile Mountain. Whatever they're doing, it's working, not only for them, but for the hundreds of thousands of buyers that choose this brand.
Specs & Price
Engine: 4.0-liter, naturally-aspirated V-6
Transmission: Five-speed automatic
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, part-time four-wheel drive
Power Output: 270 horsepower / 278 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (mpg): 17 city / 21 highway
Base Price: $37,615
As Tested: $39,045 (incl. $860 destination)
Available Features: Rigid running boards, fold-flat third-row seat with sliding second-row seats
• For more information such as specs, prices, and photos of the 2014 Toyota 4Runner, click here: 2014 Toyota 4Runner.