By on August 21, 2013

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I grew up as a city kid, but my parents made sure I had every opportunity to experience the great outdoors. Most of the time I elected to skip those opportunities. Although I enjoyed attending a rustic summer camp where we slept in tents and warded off raccoon and skunks each night, I did not take well to camping, coming back with over 300 mosquito bites. Fishing was too slow of an activity to capture my attention, but sport shooting was the opposite. After that, I never once picked up an Xbox controller, finding Halo and Call of Duty to be unsatisfying facsimiles for sending rounds downrange. A pity that it took me nearly 25 years to actually go off-roading; I may have never bothered with sports cars in the first place.

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For my father, off-roading involved sliding his Inline 6-powered right-hand drive Chevrolet Nova around the unpaved country roads of his native Barbados. Insofar as the Nova was sufficient to all real-world tasks, the purchase of an SUV seemed an unnecessary and useless extravagance. That didn’t stop many people we knew from buying SUVs, and the Toyota 4Runner was especially popular. As car-based crossovers became more popular, however, sales of the body-on-frame old soldier dried up. From the peak of 114,212 in 2004. sales declined sharply, failing to break the 50,000 unit mark in 2012.

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It’s not hard to see why after a few minutes behind the wheel of the current model. The notion of an authentic body-on-frame SUV may be romantic to some, but consumers have voted with their wallets and chosen crossovers for a reason. They feel very similar to unibody cars, but with the higher driving position that comes with an SUV. The 4Runner is a stark reminder of what consumers have decided to leave behind.

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The 270 horsepower/278 lb-ft 4.0L V6, shared with the FJ Cruiser and Tundra, is matched with an outdated 5-speed gearbox that feels inadequate for motivating the 4500-lb 4Runner. In a straight line, the 4Runner feels solid enough, but touch the brakes and there’s enough nose-diving to perturb anyone unfamiliar with the dynamics of an old-school BOF SUV (*ahem*). Wind noise at speed made itself noticeable. The cabin is newish but it already looks dated. The Entune infotainment system on the SR5 (base) trim level being tested was slower to respond than an anemic DMV employee. Despite EPA estimates of 17/22 mpg, fuel economy ranged between 13-15 mpg on my test loops covering Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia.

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Pulling in to the staging area, I turned to my drive partner, Road & Track’s Zach Bowman, and asked him why anyone would consider buying this thing when there are so many better choices on the market. My query was answered as soon as we got to the off-road course Toyota had set up for us.

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Zach is a frequent visitor to the off-road parks near his hometown of Knoxville, Tennesse, while I had never set foot (or tire) on anything more rugged than a gravel driveway. With Zach in the passenger seat, I was quickly brought up to speed on the finer points of driving off-road, namely, that you can never go too slowly.

The first stage of the off-road course involved traversing a series of logs – a task that seemed simple enough, if taken at a slow deliberate pace. I decided that the proceeding at a virtual crawl wasn’t exciting enough, and decided to speed things up a little bit. As a result, I was met with one of the most gut-twisting *BANGS* I’ve ever heard while behind the wheel of anything, while my face flushed a deeper crimson than the paint that adorned our tester.

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“And that,” Zach said between laughs, “is why you want a body-on-frame off-roader.” I started blankly. “If this was anything else, you would have creased the unibody.” Needless to say, I approached the rest of the course as if my own newborn child was perched on the roof of the car. And it was still great fun.It turns out that driving at 3-5 mph can be a blast, as long as there’s no pavement involved. Zach was kind enough to act as a spotter and photographer along the way, and encouraged me to do the course in 2WD mode (the reason being that getting stuck in 2WD can be solved by switching to 4WD. Getting stuck in 4WD involves being towed out) just for kicks. Somehow, I survived.

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Knowing only slightly more about off-road driving as a result of my adventure, I would like to say that the 4Runner is about as capable as anything else you can buy once the pavement turns to mud (or deep water, which we traversed, Africa-style, but without a snorkel). But my opinion is worth about as much as my opinion on automotive design or PRS guitars, which is to say, not much at all.

I can tell you that for everything else, the 4Runner may not be the best tool for the job. It’s not very comfortable, it won’t meet most buyers expectations for interior quality or creature comforts and its on pavement-performance leaves quite a bit to be desired. But for better or worse, it does everything that a Highlander cannot or will not do – namely, go off-road and perform to a reasonable standard on-road. Evidently, there are tens of thousands of buyers looking for just that kind of capability. And now that the FJ Cruiser is apparently disappearing for 2014 (per Toyota’s fleet website), the list of choices facing those people just got a little shorter.

Thanks to Zach Bowman of Road & Track for the photos. Toyota provided flight, meals and accommodations for this event. Your author provided the unnecessary wear and tear on the vehicles. 

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77 Comments on “Capsule Review: 2014 Toyota 4Runner – Derek Goes Off-Roading, Eats Dirt, Learns About The Value Of Body-On-Frame Construction...”


  • avatar
    ash78

    Great tone and angle — namely, that vehicles like this seem almost quaint and esoteric today. Which makes it all the more hilarious that throughout the 90s and early 00s, so many people drove BOF SUVs. I still regard the 4Runner as a sorority girl’s car, thanks to more than a decade of memories that were 90%+ aligned with that stereotype. I almost can’t even see a black 4Runner without imaging 3 feminine greek letters on the rear glass.

    Further, if anyone remembers when the first modern minivans were coming about in the 1980s, the big selling point was “drives like a car” — something we take for granted from most larger vehicles today. It’s a mental relic to drive something (outside of a pickup) that actually “drives like a truck.” Most people don’t even know what that means.

    On the other hand, it’s nice to see a few of these cars staying true to their roots. I’ve seen enough of the new Nissan Pathfinders lately to know how many manufacturers are losing the plot. Nissan, please retire the Pathfinder name before you embarass yourselves further. The name is obviously now just a marketing tool to create a false sense of continuity among customers.

    Ford, do the same with the Explorer. This is just getting silly.

    • 0 avatar
      racer193

      Oddly enough that is how I viewed the 4 runner after seeing one of the more well to do girls in my graduating class recieve a brand new 2000 model(yes I did graduate at 20 years of age and from a regular high school non the less) adourned already with the name of the university that she would be going off too.

    • 0 avatar
      justgregit

      I have a 1987 Toyota 4runner SR5 on a lift kit. I bought it for $2000. It is anything but a sorority girl car. It will drive over anything you throw at it though.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Sounds like Quentin’s drive to work!

    Toyota didn’t provide another manufacturer’s vehicles to compare?

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    The good news is that no skunk, coon, bear, deer, tiger, elephant and large farm animals will dare to approach something as hideous as this thing, so you are assured to be left alone foraging their forests and pastures.

  • avatar
    daiheadjai

    Too bad about the FJ disappearing.
    I love the way that thing looks.
    There’s at least one puttering around Toronto with matte black paint/vinyl wrap, and it does look mean (even with the buggish-eyes)

  • avatar
    jco

    and just simply switching to a slightly more aggressive tire makes it that much better.

    why, though, have you given the 4runner a mustache? i guess that’s just the Limited trim, which makes no sense at all. the trim level or the mustache.

    I hope the BOF SUV doesn’t go away. I think there’s value in it. they’re a little shorter than a crew-cab pickup, and can be just as useful 95% of the time while having the cargo area enclosed. the roll-down rear window continues to be a feature only available on the 4runner (the sequoia might still have it, not sure), and one that makes it not being a pickup even less of an issue.

    and, honestly, for someone who’s done as much towing as I have with a 4runner, i am not interested in any way with towing anything with a unibody. yes, it’s possible. but I don’t trust 4500lbs of whatever pushing around something without a real frame. and let’s not even get into towing with a fwd-based CVT drivetrain.

    if Jeep is finally listening and running a diesel in the JGC… is there hope Toyota can finally get around to selling the US a diesel BOF SUV they sell to almost everyone else? it’s not even like they don’t already make the damn thing. just put the 4runner body on the diesel 120 chassis, dammit!

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Ahh, the joys of offroading, the underrated Motorsport, people get the idea that its just drunk teens going through mud. Trailing, going through streams, traversing obstacles, all things I enjoy.
    Derek, you did a beautiful job on this piece…. but maybe that’s just because you piqued my interest…. ..nah you just did an awesome job!

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      I’m a card carrying Prius driver, but grew up on a small farm and learned to drive on a compact 4wd tractor. I also grew up camping and backpacking.

      What I don’t get is why 4×4 drivers go over obstacles, rather than going around. That seems like drunk teenager behavior to me.

      When I go off road, John Deere makes my ride.

      One thing that would get me into the 4×4 scene is going to natural wonders that are otherwise inaccessible. The problem is that it’s hard to find information about those destinations. I would be happy to own a 4×4 if I would use it to go to cool places(and use a Prius or minivan for the rest), but I refuse to embrace the “off road” image. I’ll embrace actually going places, though. Just give me a list of pristine awesome natural places that I can’t get to any other way, and I’ll snap up a 4×4 beater truck and be on my way!

      • 0 avatar
        justgregit

        I also am a fuel efficient car driver (Golf TDI), and avid outdoorsman. Most of the time I take the Golf to access most trailheads for biking/camping/backpacking, and it does fine on plenty of back roads, as long as the ground clearance is sufficient (its rare 4wd is necessary, but SUV ground clearance is helpful).

        I do also have an 87 4runner though because it is sometimes fun to go 4×4 camping. Its not the most comfortable drive, but sometimes its nice to get somewhere remote with a car, and there is something that’s ‘Murica about driving over a road full of boulders just because you can. It can also be nice when the trailhead is 5 miles up a road that isn’t normally passable for hiking or biking, if only because walking that section of road is usually not fun.

        I’m probably trading the 4runner for a beater truck instead, but generally speaking I’m with you. 4×4 can be fun, but 99.9 percent of the time its unnecessary. I don’t know why people ever drive them anywhere but offroad, and if its for offroad, why spend more than $2k-$3k for the car?

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          I’ve never had trouble getting to a trailhead in a normal car.

          Convincing my wife to go, on the other hand, is another matter. That would be easier if we could “drive” to a back country natural wonder and set up camp somewhere genuinely secluded and amazing. Alas, I don’t know of any places like this that haven’t been developed into popular parks. Hopefully its just because I don’t know where these places are.

          I’d drop $2k on an old 4runner/pathfinder/xterra in an instant, if I could actually do this.

          Until then, though, a 4wd tractor with a front-end loader and a 3 point hitch is just a better tool for the offroad work I’ve needed to do so far.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        Sounds like you’ve continued with the sub-100 horsepower lifestyle?

        • 0 avatar
          justgregit

          To be fair I’m pretty sure the 22RE put out 108 hp at peak. With 250k miles maybe less, but the engine was rebuilt at 240k, so running pretty strong. It can do 85-90 on the highway, and offroad you never drive more than 5 mph anyway. Even in 4-Lo I rarely go out of second gear.

          The TDI puts out 140. It was an amazing step up from the 4runner. Nothing like driving an underpowered overweight SUV on I-70 to make you appreciate being able to pass people in 6th gear going up hill.

      • 0 avatar
        noreaster

        Regarding “cool places”: Well, there’s nothing good there now, but sometimes The Weather Channel website, http://www.weather.com, has some pretty interesting lists of scenic places under their Lifestyle/Travel menu. Some of those places are out of the country, of course, but you would probably still 4×4 to them. You’d just have to rent your 4×4 there.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    Sadly, I don’t get to go off pavement as often as I like. I even missed a big offroading trip this past weekend due to work, sadly.

    Anyway, I have a 2010 4Runner. It is practically the same vehicle that you’ve reviewed. I daily drove it for 2 years before we got our family hauler and the 4Runner gets hauled out when necessary. Necessary being when I need more cargo volume than the Prius v provides, when I’m going camping up in the mountains and a stream crossing or extremely rutted logging road is a possibility, or when we are driving through the mountains to visit my parents and snow/ice is likely. For everything else, our Prius is better. It is easier to get the carseat in and out (no lifting upward), it rides better, mileage is better, it is quieter – especially now that the 4Runner is on A/T tires.

    Your review is pretty much spot on. I have a few nitpicks. I have *averaged* 21.95mpg over the past 32,966 miles. Max tank was 24.99, min tank was 19.27. All of this is tracked via gas cubby. True, I have put most of the mileage on between 55mph and 70mph with very little city driving. All told, it isn’t breaking the bank in fuel cost, though. I spend more on property taxes than fuel on this thing! My second nitpick is with your note of the acceleration. For whatever reason, Toyota has tuned the gas pedal to be non-linear. It must be to help people get better gas mileage, but if you put your foot in it, it will hit 60mph in under 8 seconds. Use sportshift to get down to 4th or 3rd gear when passing and it is rather absurd how quickly this thing will move. Consumer reports puts it at 7.7sec to 60 and a 16.1 1/4 mile which are spot on with what they tested their Ecoboost F-150. Braking beats the Ecoboost by 10 feet in both the wet and dry. I agree, there is a lot of nose dive, but I do like how the suspension soaks up an old dirt road at speed. It is a tradeoff, but a correct one, IMO.

    Basically, the 4Runner is definitely the wrong vehicle for someone that just wants to haul Suzy and Scott to soccer practice. If you occasionally see lots of snow, dirt, rocks, streams, etc, the 4Runner is a great vehicle. I can’t tell you how many times I do something in this thing and grin to myself at how darn capable this thing is.

  • avatar
    Quentin

    I just noticed the interior pic you have is of a 2WD Limited. Seems like an odd choice to trot out to this event. The Trail Edition w/ KDSS is the pick of the litter. It gets an all black interior (instead of black/gray or tan two tone), better looking instrument panel, and the auto-disconnecting swaybars are slick. Nice fat swaybars for onroad, practically no swaybars for offroad. Now that they offer the TE in white, I’ve been tempted to upgrade from my ’10 SR5. That is too much money to part with when I only do 3k miles a year on my 4Runner now.

    With the death of the FJ, hopefully we start seeing some Trail Team and TRD edition 4Runners fill the void.

  • avatar
    dswilly

    Yeah, that about sums it up. We have a 012 SR5 bought to be a family/mtb bike race/camping rig. As a daily driver it leaves a lot to be desired, doesn’t help that our other dd is an X5. If I could get off-road more it would maybe be a keeper but it’s not happening enough to justify owning this thing. The mpg for these is actually quite good considering what it is, ours has now settled on a 19.5 mpg average for commuting and goes up to 22 on the highway, if you keep it under 75 with no headwinds. I agree the transmission doesn’t really act like it knows what to do half the time, either mash it to the floor for a downshift, late or maybe, or it acts sluggish to any other throttle input. Likely this is intentional to preserve fuel economy.

    Other observations:

    The sheet metal on this thing seems to be very thin the hood shimmies on the highway and the doors are hyper-light, again, probably for weight savings but I fear the first door ding.
    The paint job (clear coat) scratches if look at it.
    The driver’s seat is awful over the two hour mark – also a common complaint on the forums, so it’s not just me, ours has all the goodies, leather, lumbar, heat, and I still can’t get it comfortable on a road trip.
    3rd row seat are a joke but most are, but in this you lose 100% of your cargo space, all of it, not even a small cooler will fit.
    And the most maddening feature? The cargo floor slopes to the rear hatch so when you open it half your crap rolls out on to the ground, this is only a feature of the 3rd row models I think.
    Brake dive is unreal, any type of quick stop is best avoided, drive accordingly.

    Other than that, it’s probably bullet proof and has that cool rear window that rolls down old school style.

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      I’m glad I went without the 3rd row. BOF midsize + 3rd row just isn’t going to be a good system. I much prefer the lower load floor that results in a taller cargo area of my 2 row model. Then again, I have 1 kid, so I probably couldn’t appreciate a 3rd row in a pinch, either.

      • 0 avatar
        dswilly

        We have two kids, the 3rd was to add an extra adult to the mix when needed. Problem is nobody wants to ride back there, not even the kids, everyone who has, including me, gets car sick. I hate to say it but I think it’s going to get swapped for…a Sienna. I rented one recently and its was fast, quiet, good mpg and my entire 29” MTB fit in the back with wheels on. I might have to wait and build my Land Rover Disco camp rig later.

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          Before we got the 4Runner, I mentioned to my wife that a minivan would easily house my 4 bicycles. lol I do love my Scalpel 29er and my backup Caffiene 29er.

          • 0 avatar
            dswilly

            AIR 9 Carbon here, set-up SS, simple and sick light.

          • 0 avatar
            jdowmiller

            2005 Prophet here. I’d still be riding my 1996 hardtail F500 had someone not stolen it. I hope they enjoyed it. Bastards.

            That said, when our third child was coming along we decided to replace an Accord with something bigger. I suggested a minivan. The wife scoffed. We got a used XC90 which promptly fell to pieces….*and* the kids have already outgrown it.

            Don’t make this same mistake. Got more than one child? Buy a minivan.

        • 0 avatar
          dash riprock

          A few weeks ago we tested the Sienna and was really not impressed. The noise was significant and the engine sounded crude. Perhaps try the grand Caravan before buying the Sienna. We did not try the GC as the Sienna was my one crack at getting sweetie into a minivan, ended up with a Prius V……much to my, and hers surprise

          • 0 avatar
            dswilly

            I’ve heard a few others that didn’t like it. The one I had which was a LE was pretty decent considering it wasn’t very well equipped. We would probably go with a XLE. I’m kind of partial to Toyota’s in this category, although the Chrysler gets high marks I doubt I could go there.

  • avatar
    morbo

    I have to ask the off-topic question. Your father’s from Barbados and your last name is Kreindler. How’d that happen? (asks the yellow skinned American mutt).

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I’m waiting for some unibody person to show up and defend them while downplaying the merits of BOF.

    Good article though, I have to say that both the interior and exterior of that thing are a bit dated with the exterior borrowing a bit from Mitsubishi from a few years back.

    • 0 avatar
      dswilly

      I’m not that uni-body guy you speak of but to spark the discussion, I think modern uni-body construction can be stronger and more rigid than BOF. One main advantage to BOF off-road is they flex more allowing the truck to articulate with the landscape, I believe this is also advantageous for pick up trucks that carry weight in the back. Cue engineer to correct or endorse this.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually the whole frame-flex thing ended a long time ago. Suspensions are soft enough and frames (uni- or ladder) are stiff enough.

        BOF tends to be more tolerant to modification and abuse, as well as adaptable to multiple configurations.

        If you’re Ford/Chevy/Dodge/Toyota, you can mix and match body parts, beds, springs, engines, etc much more easily when you just bolt it in a different set of holes.

        If you’re me, it’s easier to attach different bumpers, rock guards, skidplates and suspension systems.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      Grand Cherokee’s and Cherokee’s would like to have a word with you.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        +1

        Though to be honest, both the Cherokee and the Grand Cherokee have MOST of a frame, it’s just welded into and part of the unibody. But the difference in interior room between the Grand Cherokee and an equivalent Explorer is pretty large. And they are every bit as good if not better at all the same things. Towing, off-road, etc.

        My GJC is a GREAT “3rd car” and I mostly use it as it is intended. Towing, bad weather, driving in Boston… I can’t imagine driving one of these tanks as a daily driver, or just to schlep the kids around, but women sure love them.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Speaking of Mitsu Pajero…this Toyota looks like last Axiom.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    It looks like the refreshed Toyota 4Runner got some of the nicer interior treatments from its structural sister, the Lexus GX 460. Note that there are now very few midsized body-on-frame SUVs these days.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I’m really surprised they still sell the GX – because how can it possibly be comfortable and compliant enough to align with Lexus portfolio specifications?

      • 0 avatar
        hgrunt

        I wondered the same thing while looking at my friend’s landlord’s GX470 in the garage the other day. I haven’t ridden in it, or the 4-runner, but I think the reason why Lexus bothers to sell it despite the existence of the RX, is because they can still make money off of relatively low volume sales, and there’s enough of a market to make it worth their time. They use a similar strategy for the LX470 where they import just enough of them that every single one sells

        Edit: Found a thread on a Lexus forum discussing GX vs 4Runner, a few people who’ve owned both say the GX comes with better dealership experience, more luxurious, and a lot more equipment (air suspension, etc)

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        While the old GX 470 was appropriate and desired because luxury 4x4s were all the rage, the newer GX 460 is irrelevant in a world of unibody SUVs that serve every purpose. The current GX can’t possibly be very significant to Lexus’ bottom-line, since it hasn’t even been updated with the new spindle grille. I’m guessing that they only keep the current version around because it’s just a rebadged Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, but I think that they should go ahead and turn it into a rugged crossover that seats seven, like the Audi Q7, or maybe even the Mercedes-Benz GL-Class…

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I agree, use it as a GL competitor. Not many are buying the new version of the GX, and I was annoyed they kept the old one for so long. It was looking pretty outdated outside and VERY outdated inside by the time it ended a couple years ago.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    Glad you got a taste of off-roading Derek. You never forget the first time you smack the bottom of your truck hard on something. Good to hear that the 4Runner can still take a beating.

    On a side note it would be great to see more coverage of off-road topics and vehicles in the future.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Ah! Some proper off roading in the right vehicle. Many good points here. I like that speed came up. It’s all about momentum, fast enough to not get stuck but not to fast that you break something. I like that the sacrifices you make for on-road performance are to the benefit of off road ability was mentioned to. I now want this car…
    Side note and off topic: As a bit of an environmentalist I believe, contrary to most, that firstly driving off road correctly does minimal damage to the environment. Second, getting out in to the country leads to awareness of the environment and that is a good thing.

  • avatar
    xturboexpress

    The 8th pic in that set is of the new Tundra’s radio and AC controls. It says Tundra right across the middle.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    “And that,” says FC, “is why you want a torque tube and portal axle off-roader.” There is another way, and it offers fully independent suspension plus superior ground clearance. 185/75-13s translates into a full foot of ground clearance, which shames most of today’s factory off-roaders running on much bigger rubber. Remember to measure from the bottom of the pumpkin; no cheating!

    • 0 avatar
      dswilly

      What car are you talking about?

      • 0 avatar
        Felis Concolor

        That would be the Haflinger and Pinzgauer pair, the latter of which is still in production. The Haflinger is also the grandfather of the later HMMWV, as its design was scaled up to become the Pinzgauer, which then inspired the US military’s general purpose transport design project in the 80s. My Pinz runs on 265/75-15s, which impress nobody in the general off-roading community, but which result in a greater than 15″ ground clearance, and that extends from wheel to wheel with no limiting downward projections between them.

        The Haflinger is the one which sees more use, as its high load capacity and small size make it an excellent parts chaser, especially when those parts are such items as replacement engines and transmissions for various automobiles driven by careless friends.

        Some information pages are below, along with a parts supplier.

        http://members.westnet.com.au/profpinz/
        http://www.haflinger-4wd.com
        http://www.haflingertechnik.com/html/index.php

  • avatar
    zenofchaos

    Things I have done in my 4Runner:

    Driven through 24 inches of drifted snow
    Forded 2 rivers that were about 3 feet deep (Had to replace the diff oil)
    Towed my dad’s full size Chevy truck over Snoqualmie Pass
    Driven off-road with a group of Jeep guys, and had no issues keeping up, until we came upon a hard path around some trees I didn’t quite have the wheelbase for
    Gotten completely airborn offroad numerous times

    Also…
    Replaced all 4 calipers (4th gen 4Runners love to eat brake systems)
    Had the rear wiper broken off by about 50 lbs of ice accumulation
    Replaced Idler Pulley twice
    Had my washer fluid hose crack open on me
    Completely tore off the skid plate near the tranny

    I’ve had this vehicle for about 45,000 miles (138K total). Besides the things I mentioned, nothing else repair wise has been necessary (aside from normal maintenance)

    Looks like any other grocery-getter SUV, but drives like a truck.
    I can personally attest to a 16.48 quarter-mile, and mine is an ’03, which only has the VVTI on the intake cam. You should have seen the disappointed look on the kids face I was racing against on Test and Tune night. He really thought his Chevy Cavalier with a fart-can muffler was going to win the race.

    I will definitely keep this vehicle until it dies… and then who knows, LT-1 swap???

  • avatar
    crtfour

    I still really like off road capable BOF SUV’s and I’m glad that Toyota is still making them. I don’t have a 4-runner, but an LR3. It’s big, heavy, thirsty, and cumbersome to drive, but getting off the road and on to the trails makes it all worthwhile!

  • avatar
    kojoteblau

    I had an ’84 S-10 Blazer for about 7 years. Wouldn’t have tackled the Rubicon in it, but it traversed many abandoned logging roads, desert ATV trails, and ORV parks from Washington to Nebraska to California. There is something insanely satisfying about that 3-5 mph crawl. Going mudding and then parking in the mall parking lot, everyone knows you had a good time. I abused the hell out of that truck, but I never worried it would break.
    This is where that whole size thing comes up for me though. People pan compact and midsize trucks because for being less useful and not efficient enough for the price difference to a full-size. I want a smaller truck *because* it’s more useful to me. I don’t need to carry 4×8 sheets of plywood or 7 passengers in the back of my SUV. I do, however, want to be able to fit between those two trees without ripping my mirrors off. Or be able to make a 3-point turn on a one-lane mountain road that’s washed out ahead of me. This 4Runner clocks in at almost a foot wider and 20in longer than that old S10. Even the slightly smaller RAV4 doesn’t come close.
    Small cars are coming back in the car world, lets bring back some (capable) small trucks, as well. They didn’t really seem so tiny, when we had them before.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Yup the old school BOF design – good reminder lest we forget why BOF held out over unibody for so many years. Around here the old BOF are still popular because of our very poor roads once you get out of town. County and Navajo Nation road crews are not well known for keeping the dirt roads smooth.

  • avatar
    cartunez

    I had a 2003 that I loved fully loaded with the Xreas and the V8 option that they don’t offer anymore – I put 130K on it with ease and only had to change the oil. Only problem spot was the sunroof was not aligned properly and had horrible wind noise at speed. I sold it to my uncle who now has 297K on it still trouble free but yes the paint is very thin.

  • avatar
    Dan

    I really wanted to like the 10-13 model, I’d convinced myself I was going to buy one before I even drove it, but I couldn’t get past the weak engine and dumb options bundling.

    Toyota has three very different suspension systems. The soggy standard springs are wholly unsuited to pavement, so Toyota for some reason decided they should go on every model except the Limited. The cross linked X-Reas is relatively simple mechanically and much better suited to pavement, the automatic variable swaybars on KDSS are even better offroad and good on pavement too, but getting either of them means $8-10,000 of other options leaving you at $40-42,000 OTD in a truck that’s still too lazy to even chirp its tires.

    In fact, adding any options at all – never mind the trick suspensions, so much as a simple power driver’s seat on a $35,000 vehicle – required the one option I could barely even sit in the truck with, the sunroof. With marginal headroom to begin with, why Toyota, why?

    You can’t expect a refresh on a slow seller to amount to much mechanically and this doesn’t but the options bundling still sucks and what little they did do here is going backwards to me. Entune is junk and you can’t get away from it on any trim, the new front end is horrific.

    I suppose Toyota decided that most of the people who want a SUV to be more like a truck will end up buying the truck instead. They’re probably right. I did. But if they put the V8, headroom, and TRD springs from my truck in here instead of trying to make it a heavier duty highlander I would have bought a 4R instead. Or I would have with the old front end.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    That refresh looks awful, those fat plastic bumpers looks awfully fragile as well. The ‘cheap and chunky = tough’ interior is not to my liking either. In general, excepting the mega $$$ trail edition, it seems like 4runners are getting softer and less off-road capable with each iteration. This makes a lot of sense business wise of course, they have the FJ for the hardcore offroader, the 4runner is perhaps targeting people that like Toyota SUVs and want to tow, but don’t want a supersized Sequoia.

    As we speak I’m waiting in anticipation to pick up my mechanically refreshed 1996 4Runner Limited from my mechanic brother’s (new suspension, brakes, filters, plugs/wires, fluids, timing belt, etc). It’s got chromed steel bumpers, exceptional ground clearance, fat 265/70R16 tires, and best of all, the optional rear locking differential. The interior is fairly cramped, with a high floor and somewhat narrow cabin. The materials and build quality are strictly “Golden Age Toyota.” Soft touch everything, nice little cubbies and perfect feeling switchgear. The ride is trucklike. It is also damn near unstoppable. After the tune up, my brother took it to a local shale pit where 4×4 enthusiasts test their rigs’ mettle. Last time he was there, a lifted Mazda B series was stuck on a breakover. The 4runner just non nonchalantly idled its way up, without so much as a scrape of the frame rails. This is on a stock truck with road-biased General Grabber HTS tires! I’d be curious to put my 96 head to head with a 5th gen 4runner.

    • 0 avatar
      zenofchaos

      Everything I have seen in the different gens of 4Runners confirms what gtemnykh say. The 3rd gen has better ground clearance, better breakaway angles, and an option for a locker (4th Gen and up has the ATRAC system, which is very capable, but it’s not a locker. I don’t think the locker was reintroduced until the 5th gen Trail Edition). I went 4th gen because this was going to be my daily driver. I loved the 4.0 motor over the old 3.4, and the 3rd gens hold their value pretty much the same or better then most of the 4th gens I’ve seen, so it wasn’t much of a cost difference when depreciation is taken into account.

      I will say that the aluminum block and heads on the 4.0 make me a little nervous over the rock-solid reliability of the iron 3.4, but I’m confident that as long as it doesn’t overheat, I should be good to go.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Toyota has a distinguished history of building very capable BOF off-road vehicles. My dad had a ’78 FJ Landcruiser that we used to get around on the farm and was as tough as it was capable.

    However, for total off-road domination you need a Unimog.

  • avatar

    Derek, you and I are like inverses of each other. I grew up in the suburbs with a large family that spent winters skiing and summers waterskiing. That meant Suburban. I spent my early driving enthusiast times in the dirt in that or my Wrangler.

    Driving the 5th Gen 4Runner felt like coming home to my parents’ house from college. Slow, bad-handling, simply laid out and easy to beat on down a trail: it was 1999 all over again and I loved it.

    Bringing it full circle, (now) my empty-nester parents downsized from a Tahoe to a 2011 4Runner, but it was woefully inadequate for towing the wakeboard boat. It’s rated at 5,000lbs, and the boat plus trailer is right at, to over that by the time everyone and everything’s loaded.

    An SUV this big needs more power, a tougher transmission and stiffer rear springs (or air suspension).

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    And is still only rated at 5000 /bs towing.

  • avatar
    Onus

    I think Body of Frame suvs will become more a niche market. Much like they were in the past.

    Heck suv’s of old didn’t get updated for maybe 15 years sometimes but they were proven and that’s what people wanted.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Jeep is selling every BOF Wrangler they can make, so as far as they are concerned, BOF isn’t on the decline.

    Back to the Toyota…that interior is nothing short of hideous. Cheap and poorly styled. People carped on the Charger interior the other day, but the Charger looks like a Bentley inside compared to this disaster. Heck, even the current Wrangler interior is 10 times nicer looking than the 4-Runner interior.

  • avatar
    amccaulx

    I bought a 2013 SR5 4runner as my daily driver. I specifically bought it because it was a BOF SUV. I don’t do much off roading, but personally, I like the way a BOF vehicle feels on the road. I don’t think “Riding like a truck” is a bad thing. Yea, I can’t take corners super fast, and there is some nose dive, but if you learn how to drive/control your vehicle, these can be mitigated. I love that I don’t have to slow down for speed bumps or pot holes, and if I need to pass someone to the right that stopped on the road, I can’t even tell I am taking it off the road to do so.

    It amazes me that this 4.0L 4500lb SUV gets such good MPGs. I average about 20mpg on my daily commute, and get about 24-26mpg highway (100%) stock.

    Personally I think Uni-body SUVs (or CUVs) are a joke. They are basically minivans without sliding doors, or lifted wagons.

  • avatar
    White Shadow

    Sadly, Toyota smacked the 4Runner with an ugly stick starting with the 5th generation. They were always good-looking SUVs up until the 5th generation. On the plus side, they are still among the most capable offroad vehicles you can buy. Especially when you factor in the price. Still though, I can’t get past the hideous looks and this new refresh actually makes the 5th generation look worse than the pre-facelifted 5th generation models.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    “With Zach in the passenger seat, I was quickly brought up to speed on the finer points of driving off-road, namely, that you can never go too slowly.”

    I don’t know about that. On many occasions I wouldn’t have made it through patches of either deep snow or mud without a good run and all four wheels spinning hard the whole time. I’m not sure I’d have made it if I had the street-oriented tires that are in any of the pics either.


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