Toyota introduced the 2014 4Runner this week. While other once-rugged mid-size SUVs have been watered down into car-like crossovers – just look at the station wagon called the Nissan Pathfinder or the thing Jeep wants us to believe is a new Cherokee – the 4Runner stays true to its off-road roots, including body-on-frame construction. In fact, the 4Runner's new styling shows that Toyota is eager to let everyone know that the truck means business.
The 4Runner is a name that appears regularly on lists of "off-roaders that you'd actually want to go off-road with," lists that seem to grow smaller every year. Toyota clearly plans for the model to continue making such appearances next year. The 2014 4Runner isn't a complete redesign, so it wasn't really up for a changeover to a unitized frame. Still in its fifth generation, the new 4Runner maintains its body-on-frame construction and off-road-tweaked features.
What changes is the exterior design, led by a dramatic new front fascia. The new 4Runner face is all mouth, with a large, trapezoidal grille dominating the aesthetic. The smoked headlamps have been redesigned, making room for a set of fog lamp-grasping vertical slashes underneath. The new lighting arrangement gives the 2014 4Runner an angrier, "more forceful" look. The top-end Limited model gets a chrome-plated grille insert and a chrome bumper underneath. The Limited rides on 20-inch wheels, while the off-road-enhanced Trail and base-level SR5 ride on 17-inch wheels.
Inside, the SR5 and Trail 4Runner models get upgraded with an Entune multimedia system featuring an AM/FM/MP3/CD player and eight speakers, SiriusXM satellite radio (including a 90-day trial subscription), USB port with iPod connectivity, and Bluetooth hands-free phone capability and music streaming. The Limited trim has a 15-speaker Entune Premium JBL audio system. In both cases, the Entune connectivity allows for in-vehicle apps, such as Pandora, Bing, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com and OpenTable, when paired with a smartphone. All 4Runner models come standard with a back-up camera viewable on the display in the cabin.
The heart of the 4Runner continues to be Toyota's 270-hp 4.0-liter V6 engine, which gets help from a 5-speed ECT-i automatic transmission. The model comes in 4x2; 2-speed, part-time 4x4; and full-time 4x4 options. The off-road-hungry Trail version includes an electronic-locking rear differential; a CRAWL Control system, which helps maintain an appropriate speed to keep the vehicle under control while minimizing the load on drivetrain and suspension components; and a Multi-Terrain Select system for controlling wheel slip in different terrain and conditions. All 4Runner models come with Hill-start Assist Control, and all 4x4 models have A-TRAC traction control and Downhill Assist Control.
Toyota debuted the 4Runner at the Stagecoach Country Music Festival in California. It will hit dealerships in September. Toyota has yet to announce pricing for the new model.