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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    2014 Review Wrap-Up: SUVs

    We take a look at three stalwart SUVs; the Toyota 4Runner, the Lexus GX 460, and the Chevrolet Suburban.

    While crossovers haven taken the space that SUVs occupied only a few years ago, a number of automakers are still producing them as there is still an audience for them. One that wants the off-road and towing ability SUVs offer. So come along as we take a look at three specimens in our latest 2014 review wrap-up.

    First Up: 2014 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Premium

    It is hard to believe that 30 years ago, Toyota introduced the 4Runner. The sister vehicle to the all-mighty Land Cruiser was to give Toyota a true competitor to the likes of the Jeep Cherokee and Ford Bronco. Since that time, the 4Runner has grown up somewhat in terms of size and position, but it never lost its mission; a vehicle that can get you anywhere. But with the recent 4Runner, does it still hold true to that mission?

    2014 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Premium 13

    The 4Runner’s exterior has a look of being able to get you anywhere with no problem. This is firmly expressed in the front end as it looks like it’s wearing a muzzle. There’s a large grille to allow the standard V6 engine to breath, along with C-Shaped faux air vents above the front bumper. The rest of the 4Runner’s design is the same as the model shown in 2010 with the folded angle design, flared wheel arches, and rear tailgate with a power window. A set of seventeen-inch wheels finish off the look of the 4Runner. Inside, the rugged attitude continues with chunky controls for the climate control, infotainment system, and transfer case. A large instrument cluster provides all of the key details needed to go off the beaten path. Despite its rugged attitude, the 4Runner is a nice place to sit in. Seats are comfortable and come with heat as part of the Premium package. Rear seat passengers will find a decent amount of legroom, though I found headroom is a little bit tight due to the optional sunroof.

    Power comes from a 4.0L V6 engine with 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. This comes paired up to a five-speed automatic and a part-time four-wheel drive system. The V6 is a workhorse for Toyota’s pickups and SUVs, and its easy to see why. Power comes on immediately and the engine roars with glee. The five-speed automatic doesn’t quite fully mesh with the V6 as first-gear takes a bit longer to kick down than I was expecting. Thankfully, all other gears did not have this same experience. Fuel economy is rated at 17 City/21 Highway/18 Combined. I got 17.4 MPG during my week of testing.

    2014 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Premium 7

    As for ride and handling, the 4Runner exhibits a mostly comfortable ride with the suspension able to smooth out potholes and road imperfections. Wind and road noise were kept at decent level. On the curves, the 4Runner does exhibit a bit of body roll and lean due to its off-road suspension. Steering was perfectly weighted and provided excellent response for an SUV. Off the beaten path is where the 4Runner truly shines with impressive ground clearance and ability to go over some of the roughest terrain with no problem. This is an SUV that dreams of going on the trail.

    The 4Runner is built for those who seek adventure and their travels take them off the beaten path more often than not. If your travels are limited to payment, then you’ll be better off with a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

    Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the 4Runner, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2014

    Make: Toyota

    Model: 4Runner

    Trim: SR5 Premium

    Engine: 4.0L DOHC VVT-i 24-Valve V6

    Driveline: Five-Speed Automatic, Part-Time Four-Wheel Drive

    Horsepower @ RPM: 270 @ 5,600

    Torque @ RPM: 278 @ 4,400

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/21/18

    Curb Weight: 4,675 lbs

    Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan

    Base Price: $37,615

    As Tested Price: $39,045 (Includes $860.00 Destination Charge)


    Rigid Running Boards - $345.00

    Carpet Floor Mats & Floor Mat - $225.00

    Next: 2014 Lexus GX 460 Luxury

    Did you know that there two variations of the Toyota Land Cruiser sold in the U.S.? No, I’m not referring to the Lexus LX 570 which is a dressed up Land Cruiser. I’m referring to another model in the Land Cruiser family, the Land Cruiser Prado. This model sold in certain parts of the world is a direct competitor to the Land Rover LR4 with a body-on-frame SUV with all of the four-wheel drive tech to get through some of the worst conditions that mother nature has on offer. So you might be wondering where is this smaller Land Cruiser is in the U.S.? Well you only need to head down to your local Lexus dealer and check out the GX 460. But in this age where crossovers are taking the place of SUVs, does the GX 460 have a place anymore?

    2014 Lexus GX 460 Luxury 1

    You can’t miss the GX 460 at all, especially in the front. The model now features the gaping maw that is known as the spindle grille. I really don’t think the spindle grille works on the GX as it looks like an afterthought to make it fit in with the rest of the Lexus lineup. But the rest of the GX’s design is mostly the same as the first-generation model introduced back in 2002. That means a high-stance, a side-hinged tailgate, and large headlights with LEDs. Moving inside, the GX 460 feels slightly old when compared to competitors as the basic dashboard layout hasn’t changed a lot since it was introduced back in 2002. You also won’t find the remote touch infotainment system or a configurable gauge package in the GX either. At least Lexus has gotten the luxuries part right in the GX with leather, soft touch plastic, and wood trim along the door panels and dash. Seats in my GX tester were wrapped in semi-aniline leather and came equipped with heat for the first two rows, while cooled seats were standard for the front passengers. There is a third-row in the GX, but it really is only usable for small kids. Also with the third row up, cargo space is non-existent.

    Power comes from a 4.6L V8 engine with 301 horsepower and 329 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up to a six-speed automatic and a full-time four-wheel drive system. Despite the high power numbers, the 4.6L feels like its struggling to move the GX. Tipping the scales at 5,340 pounds explains some of struggle, as does a lazy throttle. Plus points on the V8 is not much noise when idling or accelerating in the lower rpms. The six-speed automatic delivered smooth shifts and seemed to be in a good rhythm with the engine.

    The GX comes with a full-suite of off-road technologies such as a central differential lock, adjustable suspension, and hill descent control which means you’ll be able to go anywhere you want. But in reality, many GXs will be in the urban jungle. During my week of testing, the only real off-roading I did in the GX was driving down a gravel road which really didn’t challenge the four-wheel drive system at all.

    2014 Lexus GX 460 Luxury 10

    As for fuel economy, the EPA rates the 2014 GX 460 at 15 City/20 Highway/17 Combined. You’ll be lucky if you can get 15 if you decide to drive like your grandmother. Drive normally and you’ll likely see numbers of around 12 to 13 MPG. Ouch.

    I was bit worried on how the GX would handle day to day driving duties as it has all of those four-wheel drive technologies, along with a tall ride height. But the GX surprised me as it provided a very comfortable and smooth ride. Bumps and road imperfections didn’t upset the GX ride, while road and wind noise were kept down.

    The only way I could recommend the Lexus GX 460 is that you want something luxurious to take on your adventure to death valley or the wilderness. If your main driving takes to on the mean streets, then a crossover such as the Acura MDX or Buick Enclave would be a better choice.

    Disclaimer: Lexus Provided the GX 460, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2014

    Make: Lexus

    Model: GX 460

    Trim: Luxury

    Engine: 4.6L DOHC VVT-i 32-Valve V8

    Driveline: Five-Speed Automatic, Full-Time Four-Wheel Drive

    Horsepower @ RPM: 301 @ 5,500

    Torque @ RPM: 329 @ 3,500

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined -

    Curb Weight: 5,340 lbs

    Location of Manufacture: Tahara, Aichi, Japan

    Base Price: $60,715

    As Tested Price: $62,770 (Includes $910.00 Destination Charge)


    Mark Levinson Premium Audio - $1,145.00

    Next: 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ 4WD

    There are very few times where I’ll drop my jaw because of the price tag of a vehicle I’m reviewing, whether its a bit too high or low. Such was the case for the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ that stopped by for a weeklong review. When I was reading through the window sticker, I dropped the sheet after seeing the price tag of $69,130. After letting the shock pass over me, I was wondering who would buy an almost $70,000 Tahoe? A GMC Yukon Denali I can see, but a Tahoe?!

    2015 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ 7

    Well Chevrolet has got the design part of the Tahoe right. The new model has the same silhouette as the last-generation, but Chevrolet’s designers have given it some distinctive touches. Up front is a larger grille with larger chrome pieces and uniquely shaped headlights. Around back is a slightly tweaked tailgate design with new taillights.

    Moving inside and Chevrolet deserves a gold medal for the improvements made in here. Gone is the bland dashboard design with the hard plastic and terrible looking wood trim. In its place is a dashboard full of contours and distinctive shapes, along with much better materials such as leather and soft-touch plastics on the dash which makes it a pleasant place to be in. My LTZ tester came with a eight-inch touchscreen and Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system. MyLink still has some bugs to work out such as how long it takes to respond when pressed and overall speed, but at least stability is much better than when I last used it in the Silverado.

    Second row passengers get a set of captain chairs with heat, along with a set of climate controls to make themselves them comfortable. Space back here is good for headroom. Legroom I found was a little-bit tight. The third row is best reserved for small kids as head and legroom are very much at a premium for adults, or to be folded into the floor to increase cargo space.

    Power comes from the 5.3L V8 that powers so many of GM’s light-duty trucks and SUVs. Ratings are 355 horsepower and 383 pound-feet torque. This is paired up to a six-speed automatic and optional four-wheel drive system. Those looking for a more powerful V8 in their GM SUV will need to step up to the GMC Yukon Denali and Cadillac Escalade for the 6.2L V8. As I have stated before in the Silverado/Sierra review with the 5.3L V8, the throttle response when leaving a stop is very sluggish. It feels like there is a hump you have to overcome with the throttle before you get the full power of the V8. I get this is a way for GM to save fuel, but I think there are better ways to do the same thing. Once over the hump, the V8 engine has more than enough oomph to get you moving while providing very little noise. As for fuel economy, the EPA rates the 2015 Tahoe 4WD at 16 City/22 Highway/18 Combined. My average for the week was around 15 MPG.

    2015 Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ 14

    On the ride and handling front, the Tahoe is excellent. The model feels more like a luxury sedan than an SUV with good isolation of bumps and imperfections, and outside noises being kept to an almost whisper. Some of the credit has to go to the Magneride magnetic ride control system which adjusts damping characteristics in as little as 10 milliseconds. Steering is somewhat light, but has good feel.

    So after a week in the Tahoe, I can see kind of see why it has a high price tag. The new model is a massive improvement over the old one and leaves competitors such as the Nissan Armada in the dust. But I’m still wondering if the Tahoe is a just a hair too high price-wise for its own good.

    Disclaimer: Chevrolet Provided the Tahoe, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2015

    Make: Chevrolet

    Model: Tahoe

    Trim: LTZ 4WD

    Engine: 5.3L EcoTec V8

    Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive

    Horsepower @ RPM: 355 @ 5600

    Torque @ RPM: 383 @ 4100

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/22/18

    Curb Weight: 5,683 lbs

    Location of Manufacture: Arlington, Texas

    Base Price: $62,000

    As Tested Price: $69,130 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)


    Sun, Entertainment, Destination Package - $3,255.00

    Adaptive Cruise Control - $1,695.00

    Max Trailering Packager - $500.00

    Crystal Red Metallic Paint - $495.00

    Theft-Deterrent System - $395.00

    Cocoa/Mahogany Trim - $295.00

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    User Feedback

    Awesome Write up Bill. I love the reviews, learned some interesting things about the three different SUV's.


    With that said, I still do not like the look or layout of the 4Runner but then that is why they have various SUV's for people to choose from. Agree with you that the Predator Mouth, AKA Spindle Grill does not work on the GX. 


    Did not know that the GX was a Land Cruiser sibling.


    Tahoe I did not know could come with Magnaride suspension. Over all nice SUV, but like the Yukon better and especially the Escalade.


    I am with you, Chevy having a $70K SUV I think is a bit high. Not sure but guess we will see in the sales numbers for 2015 if the price scares people off or not.


    One question I have is do you think the higher SUV prices is to reduce the soccer moms from buying them and so only use need customers end up purchasing the Full Size Body on Frame SUV's?

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    I'm driving a 2014 Suburban this week (work rental) and I was going to do a write up on it, but William beat me too it.   It is a fantastic vehicle. I'll be taking it on a short roadtrip over the weekend.

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    I think the higher price is to give the Lambda crossovers some breathing room. The Traverse has 97% of the room as a Tahoe and starts at about $30k. 

    Where do they top out at? Is it close to the starting point of the Tahoe?


    Even thought they have close to the same interior space, to me they are very different animals.

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    I think the higher price is to give the Lambda crossovers some breathing room. The Traverse has 97% of the room as a Tahoe and starts at about $30k. 

    Where do they top out at? Is it close to the starting point of the Tahoe?


    Even thought they have close to the same interior space, to me they are very different animals.



    Traverse LTZ FWD Base Price: $42,810

    Tahoe 2WD Base Price: $45,550

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    I think the higher price is to give the Lambda crossovers some breathing room. The Traverse has 97% of the room as a Tahoe and starts at about $30k. 

    Where do they top out at? Is it close to the starting point of the Tahoe?


    Even thought they have close to the same interior space, to me they are very different animals.



    I don't disagree that they are very different animals.  The Traverse AWD LTZ is $45,700, the Tahoe 2wd LS base price is $45,500


    So yeah, I think it is the overlap. 


    The Traverse can tow 4,500 lbs 5,200 lbs. with the factory tow package (with aftermarket tow add-ons, it is limited to 2,000 lbs)

    The Tahoe can tow 8,300lbs or 8,500lbs depending if it is 4wd or 2wd. 


    Most small family boats and campers can be handled by the Traverse. 

    Edited by Drew Dowdell
    Updated the Traverse to the 2015 rating

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    Very cool to see the pricing and towing. Clearly for most families you can use the Traverse and yet for those that have heavy trailers the Tahoe is the better choice.


    Thank you :)

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