The 2014 Toyota 4Runner SUV is among the last of a dying breed. Now in its fifth generation, the Toyota 4Runner has been around for three decades, and since its introduction back in 1984, more than 2 million units have been sold. To this day, 75 percent of all 4Runners sold remain on the roads. So how is it a dying breed? Well, technically the 4Runner is stronger than ever (we'll get into that below), but the compact SUV segment is giving way to full-size SUVs, crossovers, and five-door hatchbacks. As North American customers require more space, the SUV has grown along with them, sacrificing off-road capabilities along the way. That's not the case for the 2014 Toyota 4Runner though, as we just experienced it both on and off road, but is it enough to save the compact SUV segment? Read on to find out.

Model and Price

Toyota hasn't announced pricing for the 2014 4Runner yet, but as is the case with all late model year vehicles, you can expect a price bump. Going off of 2013 pricing, a 4Runner Limited (like the 2014 model we just drove) would set you back $38,995, so you can expect 2014 pricing to be at or above the $40,000 mark. As for the 2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited we drove, it came equipped with 20-inch alloy wheels and a full-size alloy spare, Toyota's smart key system with push button start, a telescoping and tilting steering wheel trimmed with leather, and cruise control. Other standard features include dual zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth with hands free controls, Toyota's Entune infotainment system (navigation, XM, radio, etc), and a 15-speaker JBL audio system. Automatic running boards and a tow hitch were the only optional equipment.

Safety and Key Features

Standard safety features on the 2014 Toyota 4Runner include vehicle stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, and smart stop technology. Other standard safety features include driver and front passenger seat-mounted and side airbags, all-row airbags (including ones for the optional third-row of seating), and roll-sensing side curtain airbags. Both the driver and front passenger are also protected with knee airbags, active headrests, and seatbelt pretensioners with force limiters.

A few key features on the 2014 Toyota 4Runner include a front and rear parking sonar, LATCH points, child locks on the rear doors, side-impact door beams, and a one-year trial of Safety Connect. This includes Emergency Assistance, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Roadside Assistance, and Automatic Collision Notification.

Family Friendliness and Utility

The 4Runner cut its teeth on hauling family and cargo around, so you can expect the latest variant to continue on with this tradition. For 2014, the 4Runner Limited is available with a leather-trimmed 50/50 split third row seat that folds completely flat. If you do decide to opt for the third row of seating, the 2014 Toyota 4Runner's passenger capacity jumps to seven. The second rows slides as well, making access into the 4Runner a breeze. If you have small children or are vertically challenged yourself, automatic running boards are an optional feature, and one that we'd actually recommend springing for. Perhaps the most helpful feature on the 4Runner Limited is the sliding rear cargo deck with under-floor storage. This is good for a wide variety of things that those leading an active lifestyle will find thoughtful.

Comfort and Quality

Unlike some other vehicles debuting for Toyota this year, the 4Runner didn't include crazy styling tweaks inside. Outside, however, is a whole different ball game. As for where you're going to spend the majority of your time (inside), that has received minor refinements and additions. These include Toyota's Entune infotainment system with Bluetooth audio and phone pairing as well as navigation. We were able to pair both an Android and iPhone to the 2014 Toyota 4Runner on the first attempt, which is a good sign, especially since Toyota is targeting a younger, more active demographic with the 4Runner.

Speaking of the younger demographic, the 2014 Toyota 4Runner includes a feature called Party mode. What this does is it raises the bass and shifts the sound balance towards the rear of the vehicle, making for a better atmosphere when you're out tailgating with friends. The 2014 Toyota 4Runner did make its official debut at this year's Stagecoach music festival, after all.

How it Drives

The 2014 Toyota 4Runner Limited's 4.0-liter V-6 engine is whisper quiet. In fact, it's so quiet that we had to turn the music off on a few separate occasions to make sure it was still running. This engine is good for 270 horsepower and is mated to a five-speed ECT-i automatic transmission. This combination makes for a solid drivetrain no matter if you're cruising to the mountains to ride bikes or just feel like driving up the mountain instead. We did notice that this V-6 was a little slow to the draw as we wound through the hilly Pennsylvania countryside. However, this wasn't a deal-breaker as we averaged 22.1 mpg during our drive, which included mixed driving conditions. Toyota hasn't announced official fuel economy figures for the 2014 4Runner, but it's estimated that 17 mpg city and 22 mpg highway will surface once the EPA is done with its testing.

Off-road, the 2014 Toyota 4Runner really comes into its own. The off-road course we had to navigate was saturated from a violent storm the night before, so there was no shortage of mud and slop. Depending on what you have planned for your 4Runner, you can choose from an array of drivetrain options including rear wheel 4x2, part-time 4x4, or a full-time multi-mode 4x4 system with a locking rear differential. The 2014 4Runner we hoped into for the off-road course was equipped with four-wheel drive, so we just put it into four-wheel low and conquered every obstacle, including a deep trench that was carved out from rushing rain water from the night before. A steep approach and departure angle paired with ample ground clearance makes forging streams or climbing up rocky trails possible, and easier than expected.

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