2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited
2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Jeff Wilson

Originally published December 13, 2013

In the olden days station wagons were for families and SUVs were rugged, go-anywhere trucks for outdoorsy-type folks. Going backwoods camping?  Need to hit that hidden-away beach for the best surfing?  Climbing that mountain just because it’s there?  You need an SUV.  A truck-based one dammit; one that can laugh in the face of any rocks and roots that litter the path ahead.

Over the past two decades, society has softened and a need for macho utes has all but seemingly disappeared.  Why actually go out into the woods when we can simply search the experience on our tablets.  So now, the once hairy-chested trucks like the Nissan Pathfinder and Jeep Cherokee are mere car-based shells of their former selves.

2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited
2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited. Click image to enlarge

There are still a few brave souls willing to go off the beaten path and for those rugged sorts Toyota continues to soldier on making a tough-as-nails body-on-frame mid-size SUV.  A real truck, not some jacked-up station wagon or re-bodied minivan.  Whatever you do, don’t call the 4Runner a cute ute, ‘cuz this ain’t no sissy rig, it’s still the real deal.

For 2014, Toyota has refreshed its venerable truck-ute with some new duds and a more modern interior.

The exterior styling updates range from Marlboro Man-in-a-tuxedo to Elephant Man-in-a-leisure-suit.  The latter refers to the base model (SR5) trim whose ghastly visage is so discordant and overwrought that it looks like a twisted caricature of what a macho truck would look like in a Tim Burton film.  I’m not sure if an anime sumo character or a catfish inspired its gaping maw.

Mercifully the Marlboro Man version – or Limited trim – is styled less offensively and is the model provided by Toyota as my tester. The body-coloured lower trim, deeper, more chiseled chin and meaty chrome accent bar break up the grille and help the Limited look tough but a bit posh.  That said, compared to the clean and modern styling of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee, the squared off fenders and series of horizontal lines running the body side make the all-new Toyota appear already dated.

Inside the 4Runner is more successful or at least sensible.  Like all Toyota trucks, the switches, knobs and buttons are large enough to be operated successfully even if your hands resemble catcher’s mitts.  And although the faux wood trim on the shifter knob and dash are a little phony, and the Softex “Leather” seating surfaces make the interior smell really funky, this does feel like a vehicle that has been well-built and carefully thought out.  The one minor hiccup is the volume control switch on the steering wheel, which would require a freakishly long left thumb to reach if your hands are properly placed on the wheel to drive.

Offered in a dark reddish-brown colour, the heated and cooled Softex seats are quite convincing, fairly comfortable and provide a commanding viewpoint.  The soft-touch materials and stitching on the door panels are nice touches but the many plastic knobs, buttons and surfaces are hard, silver-painted plastic that doesn’t exactly scream ‘Luxury!’ even if they are likely to be sensibly durable.

2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited
2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited. Click image to enlarge

One of the biggest upgrades for 2014 4Runners is the implementation of a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system.  This set up is quick to learn and easy to navigate, and the 15 speaker JBL audio system provides decent sound.

For when the adventurous driver arrives at his or her remote destination, Toyota offers a neat feature that sends the stereo’s power to just the up-swinging hatchback’s speakers facilitating a great tailgate party set up at the touch of a button.

Connect with Autos.ca