Auto Review: 4Runner’s strength through tradition

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured - posted Wed., Feb. 5, 2014
Contributed
- Contributed Photo

In the last few years, we’ve seen a changed approach to the architecture of long-established SUVs, especially when it comes to something as basic as the frame. The reasons for why manufacturers decide to make these extensive alterations to successful platforms include a desire to increase fuel economy, as well as a recognition that most of these off-road-capable vehicles will never see any terrain more challenging than a mall parking lot. As a result, some well-known SUVs that were based on truck-style ladder frames (like the Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder) have moved over to unit body construction in an effort to save weight, increase fuel economy and add car-like refinement to the vehicle.

These new “Crossover” SUVs have some off-road ability, but overall aren’t designed to take the kind of punishment the older-style vehicles can handle. For those that still need the ruggedness a true truck-based machine can offer, the Toyota 4Runner is enjoying its fifth generation that combines the durable backbone and stout drivetrain of the previous versions with revised styling and a lot of the latest technology that enhances performance, as well as infotainment and safety features.

The 2014 4Runner comes in three basic trim levels (SR5, Trail and Limited) and both SR5 and Trail have their own Premium versions. The engine is a 4-liter V6 with 270 horsepower, and a five-speed automatic transmission is also standard. With the exception of the Trail version, all trim levels can be had with either rear-wheel or four-wheel-drive. With the SR5 and Trail versions, the system is a part-time 4WD type with a low range for rock crawling and the Limited 4WD is a full-time unit with a low range as well.

We tested a 4WD Limited, which comes with numerous creature comforts without sacrificing any of the ruggedness the nameplate is famous for. Acceleration is strong and the drivetrain is refined, with smooth, crisp shifts, and 60 mph arriving in an average of 8.6 seconds. The Limited comes with Toyota’s X-REAS Sport Enhanced Suspension, which Toyota explains as,  “a system that uses a center control absorber to cross-link shocks on opposite corners of the vehicle, substantially reducing pitch and yaw by offsetting opposing inputs.” This suspension helps the Limited avoid feeling top-heavy during cornering, even though it’s a tall vehicle with ample ground clearance. Off-road performance is excellent, with great suspension articulation and a full compliment of skid plates to protect drivetrain components (and the 23-gallon fuel tank). Towing capacity is an SAE-rated 4,700 pounds.

Inside, our Limited included optional third row seating that surprised us because the back row was actually habitable for two adults. The rest of the cabin is quite roomy and quiet at speed, with logical controls for the driver and a 6.1” hi-res touch screen with Toyota’s Entune suite of apps. Folding the second and third rows expands cargo space to 89 cubic feet. The 2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited 4X4 is EPA rated 17 city/21 highway and has a base price of $43,400. With options, our sticker came to $45,625. www.toyota.com


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