The perfect truck for a winter storm
Despite being an enthusiast with a bias towards small performance cars, the 2014 4Runner won me over.
Everybody and their neighbour these days seems to have an SUV or crossover of some sort. The vast majority of these vehicles are lucky to see a gravel road, and their drivers somehow believe that they are invincible in icy conditions even with subpar all-season tires. I’m not a SUV/truck guy in the slightest, but my week with the 2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited consisted of the biggest snowstorm of the season so far. Colour me swayed.
First things first – the 4Runner is not a cute-ute. If you’re looking for a relatively efficient hybrid for your wife to drive the kids to soccer practice, Toyota will gladly sell you a Highlander (or even the Hybrid model). This thing is the ultimate SUV for outdoorsy car guys. It’s a proper truck in every way possible, and it makes it blatantly obvious the second you push the engine start button. The 4.0L V6 fires up with a roar that freakishly resembles Scar from The Lion King. Horsepower is a modest 270, and the 4Runner puts out 278 lb-ft of torque. Power is delivered to the wheels via an aging 5-speed automatic transmission. No nonsense here.
Rather than work from home in the blizzard, I decided to continue on with my meetings. I mean I had the 4Runner; what could possibly stop me? My tester was equipped with 20” Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires. Combined with the advanced traction control systems (VSC, A-Trac, etc.) and four-wheel-drive, this big Toyota is literally unstoppable. We did some winter testing with the 4Runner, a 2014 Subaru Forester XT Limited, and a 2014 Buick Regal Turbo AWD. While all three vehicles fared pretty well, the 4Runner was affectionately dubbed the “tank”.
The only comparable vehicles that match Toyota’s 4Runner in pure badass appeal are the Toyota FJ Cruiser, the Jeep Wrangler, and to a slightly lesser extent, the Nissan Xterra. One huge advantage the 4Runner has to the others is the fact that it’s livable on a daily basis. My truck was the Limited trim level, which is a $9,000 option package. Along with the 20” wheels, this package adds toys like heated and ventilated leather seats, a 15-speaker JBL audio system with navigation, a power moonroof, parking sensors, and an intelligent key system. The Limited package also adds some aesthetic trim changes including a chrome grille, body side mouldings, and running boards.
I personally prefer the slightly less-gaudy looking trim on the lesser models, but apparently others strongly disagree with me. Regardless, this is one seriously cool truck. When I picked up the 4Runner Limited, I knew that my fuel consumption numbers would be less than stellar. In dry conditions, I managed to get it down to 13.5L/100km highway. Combined consumption over the course of my test week was 14.5L/100km, which included a significant amount of low-speed winter driving. Typically I’d moan and groan, but after the way this SUV behaved in the white stuff, it’d be an insult to complain about the mileage.
Going back to the winter storm; it actually forced me to spend a considerable amount of time in the cockpit of the “manly man’s Toyota”. The interior feels a bit dated, but the facelifts and new Redwood interior give the 4Runner a nice upscale touch. In temperatures dipping below -20 degrees Celsius with the windchill, I found the heater having trouble keeping up. The heated seats didn’t do much to keep me warm either, and the material of the steering wheel (not heated) made it get unbearably cold even with gloves on. The large climate control knobs also made it a breeze to crank up the heater without having to look away from the road. The 4Runner’s seats were pretty comfortable and it was easy to find a good driving position for long-distance driving.
I’m glad that Mother Earth gave me the opportunity to play with the 4WD systems that the 2014 Toyota 4Runner comes packed with. These are selectable via a knob located directly ahead of the shifter. Despite contrary belief, “H4F”, the recommended setting for everyday driving, is not 2WD. This setting means high-range 4WD with the differential free (not locked). This SUV was such a beast in these conditions that even after firing it up buried in snow, I had no need for low-range. Whether it’s snow or mud, the 4Runner can go places that newer Nissan Pathfinders can only dream of seeing.
Despite being an enthusiast with a bias towards small performance cars, the 2014 4Runner won me over. It may be a tad dated, but I wouldn’t go nearly as far as to call it obsolete. For those who live in climates where there is a significant amount of snowfall, this truck is truly perfect. Never before have I felt that a vehicle seems more at home than this Toyota 4Runner in this blizzard. For just under $50,000, it has more creature comforts and everyday livability than a Jeep Wrangler. With the available 7-seat option, it definitely has enough room for the whole family. The fact that this SUV will gobble up absolutely anything you throw at it makes it pretty unbeatable.
2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited Gallery