With competitors bringing an end to body-on-frame SUVs in an effort to offer increased comfort and reduce fuel consumption, Toyota’s challenge is to disguise the rugged truck as a desirable daily driver and family vehicle. Toyota did a superb job of achieving a smooth and quiet ride. Acceleration is powerful enough to jockey past minivans. Cornering is deceptively well executed. The 4Runner is tall, so the expectation is heavy body lean when cornering aggressively, yet the 4Runner maintains a sporty feel in turns. Throttle response is immediate and deliberate. Engine noise at full throttle isn’t annoying. Quick braking is solid and secure. Gear changes are easy to anticipate and performed as quick as one expects in a modern truck.
Seat comfort is ideal for long trips. Armrests are strategically placed. Visibility is excellent. Window control buttons are at the top of the door sill, which means they are positioned at a higher point than traditional placement. Despite the nontraditional location for the reach of the hand, they are easier to view, allowing the driver to keep eyes on the road.
The attractive gauge layout is illuminated by the impressive Optitron instrument panel. An information display for multiple functions resides between the speedometer and tachometer. Automatic dual-zone climate-control is standard on the Limited, leaving the SR5 and Trail with manually controlled air conditioning system.
Ergonomically, the large button controls are easy to access with large enough backlit fonts for most people to read. Temperature control buttons are small, but airflow modes are on separate buttons, providing for instant direction response. Readouts are displayed in a bright bluish-green font against a black background. Thus, the digital LED display for temperature, airflow mode, and fan speed is much easier to read than previous generations of black font against an orange background.
Toyota deems the new face-lift as more aggressive, but of course opinions vary. It’s as if Toyota was hoping the look may increase the chances of the 4Runner getting into a movie where large combat robots transform into vehicles. Despite the new face-lift geometry not having an approval consensus, there are pleasing aesthetics on the Trail Edition. The Trail/Sport Edition hood scoop tradition continues as one of the distinctive features. The front and rear bumpers are adorned with a new contrasting silver panel, and smoked optics are placed over the headlights, which are now projector beam. New for 2014 are four exterior colors: Super White; Attitude Black Metallic; Barcelona Red Metallic; and Nautical Blue Metallic.
The Trail Edition comes with off-road features that make it truly unique, such as the overhead console for the off-road controls--a welcome convenience as it eliminates the need to glance behind the steering wheel in search of a button. Crawl Control handles acceleration and braking, leaving the driver to focus on steering. Hill Start Assist Control (HAC) prevents the truck from rolling backwards on a steep incline. Available for the Trail Edition is the optional KDSS suspension with ability to disconnect the stabilizer bars for improved suspension flex. Electronic rear locker is standard on the Trail Edition, as well as a direct transfer case shifter, providing assurance to enabling 4WD. An optional rear cargo slide provides convenient accessibility.
SR5 and Trail models come with soft door trim, a cushy leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a leather covered shifter. New for 2014 is the standard eight-way adjustable driver’s seat for both the SR5 and the Trail (passenger gets 4-way). Go with the Trail Premium Package and the seats are upgraded to SofTex®-trimmed heated front seats. Premium grade includes Entune™ Premium Audio with Navigation and App Suite, power tilt/slide moonroof, power passenger seats, electrochromatic mirror, Homelink®Garage Door Opener, and 120V AC in the cargo area
The Entune™ Audio Plus system features an Apps Suite containing travel and entertainment apps, as well as a search engine. All are visible on the 6.1-inch, which is adequate in size and also displays the backup camera. The data services come with three years of complimentary access. Bluetooth and voice recognition allow for smooth integration with smartphones.
Toyota claims that 90% of 4Runners sold in the last 10 years are still on the road. With previous generations of the 4Runner, trail ability, reliability, and ruggedness were top priorities. Interior features, however, seemed to be less important. Obtaining feature-rich interiors and dash componentry was exclusive to Lexus SUVs. For 2014, it is evident that Toyota elevated the importance of the interior. If you are in need of an off-road SUV with the latest mobile and online conveniences, comforts for long distance travel, and an enjoyable daily driver that will outlast other SUVs on the road—this SUV will not only meet those needs, but it will be an absolute joy to drive.
Thanks to TRDParts4U at Toyota of Dallas for providing TCT Magazine with a 2014 Trail Edition 4Runner for this test drive.
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