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#20

in Affordable Midsize SUVs

MSRP: $32,820 - $43,400
Invoice: $30,193 - $39,928
MPG: 17 City / 22 Hwy
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Toyota 4Runner Performance

Reviewers appreciate the 2014 4Runner’s off-road prowess, as well as its level of overall driving refinement given its truck-based platform. However, many also say that it simply can’t match the comfortable ride and composed on-road driving dynamics of the crossover SUVs it competes with. One critic says that by trying to appeal to both the crossover and the off-road segment, the 4Runner spreads itself a bit thin and excels at neither.

  • "It's not as refined or fuel-efficient as the average unibody crossover, especially when one throws the impressive Jeep Grand Cherokee into the mix, but it's the most capable for those who require a traditional body-on-frame truck to take daily abuse." -- Autoblog
  • "As one of the few remaining body-on-frame SUVs, the 4Runner's general goodness speaks to how refined that comparatively ancient architecture can be when properly conceived, sort of how some of the modern pushrod V-8 engines remind us that they were pretty solid technology, too." -- Car and Driver
  • "Toyota is trying hard to please two masters with the 2014 4Runner, but its split personality works against it. Buyers needn't look far to find more comfortable soft roaders or capable off-road machines." -- Road and Track

Acceleration and Power

The 2014 Toyota 4Runner is powered by a 4.0-liter V6 engine that produces 270 horsepower. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard. According to the EPA, a rear-wheel drive 4Runner achieves fuel economy estimates of 17/22 mpg city/highway, while four-wheel drive models achieve 17/21 mpg. These ratings are normal for the class, but not outstanding.

Some reviewers say that while the 4Runner’s engine is fairly refined, the five-speed automatic transmission falls short of their expectations. They note that rival SUVs have transmissions with at least six gears to make better use of their engines’ power.

See full 2014 Toyota 4Runner specs »

  • "Part of the powertrain noise can be blamed on the five-speed automatic. It might also take the blame for less-than-stellar fuel economy. The 270-hp, 4.0-liter V-6 isn't bad in terms of refinement, but feels a bit lazy." -- Motor Trend
  • "The powertrain has a slightly dated, industrial feel, but it does the job reasonably well and manages decent fuel economy on regular gas. The EPA estimates come in at 17/23 mpg city/highway for rear-drive models and 17/22 mpg for the 4x4." -- Car and Driver
  • "The difference lies in the gearbox. While the Toyota trundles along with a five-speed automatic, the Grand Cherokee gets eight gears to play with, giving both Jeeps the sensation of more power. The 4Runner is left stuck in each gear longer, and the engine feels like it needs to hustle to move the 4525-pound SUV." -- Road and Track
  • "The sport/utility feels heavy, but the engine never struggled and was quieter than you would think. We would like to see it get a six- or even eight-speed automatic, a move that would improve fuel economy and power delivery." -- Truck Trend
  • "Under the hood is Toyota's proven 4.0-liter V6, mated to an old-school five-speed automatic. Tasked to move the 4,400-pound SUV, the naturally aspirated engine has its work cut out for it. Even so, it doesn't balk at moving the truck on- or off-road - few will wish for additional power under normal driving situations - I never did. If you've still got a performance itch, TRD still offers a supercharger kit that adds nearly 70 horsepower." -- Autoblog

Handling and Braking

Test drivers say that the 4Runner delivers competent handling on pavement, but lacks the refinement of the crossovers that have come to dominate the midsize SUV segment. Some critics mention that the 4Runner’s body-on-frame construction results in a harsher ride than its car-based rivals offer. Still, one reviewer is pleased with the 4Runner’s steering response, and another says that the brakes offer fairly linear stopping power.

  • "The ride is surprisingly smooth and quiet, with a hint of chassis shake and shiver over big bumps and railroad crossings. The steering is more precise than you'd expect; the brakes are a tad touchy at the top of the pedal travel but offer linear response afterward. Without scrounging around underneath, you'd be hard pressed to testify that this is a body-on-frame vehicle from driving dynamics alone." -- Car and Driver
  • "The 4Runner is still constructed using body-on-frame architecture and it shows every minute of every mile on the road. Steering is ponderous at best, requiring constant correction. The ride and handling would be best described as outdated, and the truck isn't particularly quiet." -- Motor Trend
  • "On the road, it's clear that Toyota worked hard to take some harshness out of the 4Runner. In a straight line, it's comfortable, soaking up imperfections without any of the chassis chatter you'd expect from a body-on-frame rig. But that ride compliance means there's plenty of nose dive any time you get frisky with the brakes, and left-right maneuvers introduce abundant body roll." -- Road and Track
  • "If the last body-on-frame SUV you drove was back in the design's mid-1990s heyday, the 4Runner represents a giant leap forward. No, it isn't as nimble or, ultimately, as comfortable as the "tall wagon" crossovers with their unibody constructions." -- Left Lane News
  • "Steering feel and response is fine and probably the best of any vehicle in the class. With so many competitors in this segment having more car-like chassis, the 4Runner, which is built on a ladder-frame, is automatically saddled with an internal disadvantage. Still, for those looking for something a little more rugged and capable, the tradeoffs might be worth it." -- Cars.com

Off-Roading

The Toyota 4Runner is available with a number of features aimed at making it more capable off-road. Four-wheel drive SR5 and Trail models come with a part-time four-wheel drive system and a two-speed transfer case, while Limited models have a full-time four-wheel drive system with a locking, limited-slip center differential. The Trail model also gets a locking rear differential and Toyota’s Multi-terrain Select, which optimizes various powertrain settings for different off-road surfaces. Skid plates and hill-start assist are standard on all models, while all four-wheel drive models also get standard hill descent control. Reviewers find that the 4Runner shines on rough terrain. They say that Multi-terrain Select enables the 4Runner to move easily on nearly any surface. One reviewer says that the 4Runner’s only limiting factor on rough terrain is its tires, which could be changed for something more aggressive.

  • "The 4Runner is sure-footed off-road, and standard downhill assist control was helpful on muddy hills, and likely would be in the snow, too." -- Car and Driver
  • "Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to drive the 4Runner off-road, and that's were it would likely shine. The Trail models offer a terrain select system, a locking rear differential, Crawl Control, and the ability to disable stability control. While vehicles such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee are very capable off-road, Toyota insists body-on-frame construction gives it an advantage once the trail gets rough. The 4Runner occupies a very small, specialized space that slots between something like the Grand Cherokee and the all-out off-roading Wrangler." -- Motor Trend
  • "Even when cursed with street tires, the onboard wizardry can shimmy the 4Runner up slick inclines, through deep water, or across rutted terrain without any drama." -- Road and Track
  • "During my drive, I had the opportunity to dunk, slam and bash the sturdy SUV while meandering through a challenging off-road course, and the four-door plugged along as if I was toying with it. The multi-mode 4x4 system, with a locking center differential, seemed unfazed by mud, rocks and logs(even though I slipped and fell on the surfaces twice while taking photos). If really pushed, the stock Dunlop Grandtrek tires could use upgrading - I'd consider the new Michelin LTX AT2 tires, as fitted to the 2014 Tundra half-ton with the TRD off-road package." -- Autoblog
Review Last Updated: 5/12/14

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