I had always wondered what the difference was between the Toyota Highlander and the Toyota 4Runner. Now I know. The Highlander is a comfortable but modern SUV for the modern family, while the 4Runner is a rugged off-road truck-like vehicle for the outdoorsy clan that braves all sorts of terrain and weather.
One-week vehicle loan was provided for review purposes. All opinions are my own.
2014 Toyota 4Runner Review
The 2014 Toyota 4Runner screams, “Look at me!” It’s a beautiful car with bold features and striking angles. Plus, it’s huge! It sits high and wide and has the overall feel of a small truck. The 20″ rims prop this baby up high and gives it a polished look. This is great for those that love the feel of a truck but will be transporting people rather than lumber most of the time.
Power is one of the 4Runner’s better features. Whether you need to tow your family boat or camper, this can handle it. Need to triumph over mud and snow? This can get you through easily. There were various settings to choose on how you needed to allocate that power, but that was a bit beyond my off-roading expertise (which is like zero). It also tells you what goes where.
The 4Runner is easy to drive and pretty comfortable as well. It does take some getting used to the dimensions but you can get around just fine. I just had my daughter and her friends stand at the corners so I could get a better idea of where the car edges were from the driver’s seat. Parking assist sensors only seem to go off when you’re within millimeters of something so I didn’t want to rely on those.
Steering is a bit on the light side and suspension leans toward the tighter side. Turning radius is not good at all and feels top-heavy on corners. However, you do feel like you have a good amount of control. The back area has a very heavy door and might be challenging to close (it’s not automatic) for those vertically challenged. I’d also suggest getting some kind of net or something as things tend to fall out of the raise cargo area.
One fun feature is the additional step that is automatically lowered and raised on each side when the door is opened or closed. You have the ease of getting or out of the car without dealing with the wider sides to accidentally scrape. This feature can be turned off if you don’t like it though.
Missing the Modern Touch
In this day of age of current technology, time somehow skipped the 4Runner. The middle panel looks dated in design and material. All the buttons and dials are chunky and “just there”. Despite the size, it still seems hard to find everything as they’re all scattered about. This area really, really needs the update other Toyota models have already gotten! On the other hand, it all looks very solid and will likely last for years.
Many menu options are hidden in the “apps” option, including navigation. Speaking of which, the navigation is difficult to follow as the screen is very small and low resolution. That also make it hard to touch tiny icons in the corners.
The third row of seats have some issues. I love that they have a nice, raised cushion so your knees don’t touch your nose. They actually feel pretty good to sit in. However, there’s almost no headroom. It’s quite easy to feel claustrophobic there. I found out that the window rolling down in the back isn’t just for the dogs, it’s for your extra passengers. Otherwise, there’s practically no air circulation there.
You also have to do some contortionist work to get in and out of the third row. Unlike the Toyota Sienna which had a smooth one-handed operation, putting these seats up and down required several steps, took some muscle, and elicited many grunts in the process. Let’s just say that there’s no ladylike way of working with these seats. Oh, and raising the bottom portion of the seat will likely break some nails so be warned…
Great Choice For Certain Families
The 2014 Toyota 4Runner seems like a dependable SUV that can take a lot of abuse from an active owner. It will get you where you need to go, even in the least ideal road conditions. Yet, it lacks any finesse. Everything has to be slammed or pushed or some similar movement. That also means you don’t have to feel like you have to be so careful using it.
So if you’re a lover of all outdoor activities and don’t want to worry about “getting things dirty” or breaking fragile pieces, than this just might be what you’re looking for. However, if you like the luxury features of other SUVS and are just attracted to the size alone, this might not be in your top five.