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2014 Toyota 4Runner Road Test Review by Bob Plunkett

2014 Toyota 4Runner Road Test Review

by Bob Plunkett

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On the dusty and graveled Elm Creek Road in Texas Hill Country, we're trucking at a slow-go pace but applying serious torque from a 6-pack engine to turn every nubby 265/70R17 off-road tire on Toyota's mid-size 4Runner sport utility vehicle in Trail grade trim.

The revamped 4Runner of 2014 wears a new chiseled exterior shell and gains more cabin refinements for comfort and convenience.

Toyota constructs the 2014 4Runner SUV in three grades -- entry-level SR5, off-road Trail and cushy Limited -- with choices of rear-wheel 2-wheel-drive (2WD) or 4-wheel-drive (4WD) traction.

The 4WD SR5 and Trail editions employ a 2-speed part-time 4WD mechanism with neutral position, while on the 4WD Limited there's a full-time 4WD system with Torsen limited-slip locking center differential controlled from a switch on the center console.

All grades stock Toyota's dual-cam 4.0-liter aluminum-block V6 engine with VVT-i (variable valve timing with intelligence) to optimize torque across the engine's operating range.

The plant links to a 5-speed automatic ECT-i (electronically controlled transmission with intelligence) and produces 270 hp at 5600 rpm and 278 lb-ft at 4400 rpm.

Fuel-burn estimates by the EPA tally to 17/23 mpg (city/highway) for 2WD and 17/22 mpg (city/highway) for 4WD.

Toyota's classic body-on-frame scheme for 4Runner sets up a serious off-road warrior, when properly equipped.

Standard on each 4Runner is Toyota's Star Safety System, which includes an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and electronic brake assist (EBA), plus vehicle stability control (VSC).

4Runner in 2WD format stocks automatic LSD (limited slip differential) tied to a sophisticated traction control system (TRAC) to manage the grip of both rear wheels on slippery surfaces.

The 4WD editions also carry electronic 4-wheel traction control, labeled A-TRAC (active traction control). The system can distribute driving force to any one wheel in contact with the ground.

4Runner Trail grade adds Toyota's Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System (KDSS) which disconnects stabilizer bars to allow for more vertical travel of the axle and better suspension articulation when rolling over dicey terrain.

Toyota's Crawl Control (CRAWL) device -- standard on Trail grade -- is an electro-mechanical system that works with the transfer case set in low range regulating engine speed and output as well as brakes to send the vehicle forward or backward at a low speed. It incorporates downhill assist control (DAC), which aids in a steep descent without driver intervention.

Further, a Multi-Terrain Select system allows the driver to dial in the amount of wheel slip permitted to match the terrain.

Large diameter wheels and tires improve off-road performance and also enhance 4Runner's truck-based characteristics. A standard set of wheels on 4Runner measures to 17 inches in diameter (20 inches for Limited), which positions the chassis ground clearance at 9.6 inches for 4WD or 9.0 inches for 2WD.

And with wheels positioned near corners of the structure, the SUV measures to 33 degrees/24 degrees for approach/departure angles on 4WD models.

Every 2014 4Runner wears a redesigned front fascia with muscular grille, smoked projector-beam headlamps and rear LED lamps. The Trail grade carries a hood scoop, new color-keyed bumpers and overfenders with silver painted front and rear bumper accents.

The passenger compartment in 4Runner uses fabric seats for SR5, water-resistant fabric-trimmed seat material for Trail grade and plush leather in the Limited with power controls plus internal heaters for front bolstered buckets. A second-row bench divides 40/20/40 and seatbacks fold flat. Optional third-row seats split 50/50 and fold flat with separate 1-touch levers.

Toyota nails price points for 2014 4Runner models to $32,820 for SR5 2WD and $35,725 for 4Runner Trail 4WD.

For more information on Toyota vehicles, click here.