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Frisky Dingo

Frisky Dingo's Long Term 4Runner Review

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So as you all may know, I bought a 2014 4Runner Trail Edition Premium a few months ago. I gave some first impressions and thoughts on it when I got it, but this is going to be a look at what I've experienced over the last few months, what I like, and what I don't.


Let me start by saying I'm still glad I bought it, and I'm still enjoying it. It really takes a lot of stress off me over keeping it clean and immaculate at all times like I did my BMW. That's not to say I trash it, but I got Weathertech mats, so I don't mind to get in with dirty shoes. I don't care if there's bugs splattered on the front, or water spots after it rains. I don't feel the urge to wash it every 3 days, because I know it's going to get dirty again soon, and sometimes intentionally.


Expanding on that, my favorite thing about it is still using to get to places I would have never gone or couldn't have gone in the BMW. Living in SE Missouri, there's no shortage of dirt trails, state parks, and farm roads to take it down. And after experiencing some moderate flooding the last few weeks, it's taken me through some pretty deep spots of standing water that kept me from having to take lengthy detours. I enjoy actively taking it out and getting it dirty/muddy.


People who don't venture off the pavement in these things are really doing themselves a disservice. It's truly a blast to tear down sandy farm roads in. It stays very composed and controllable over big whoops, ruts, and even small jumps. And with everything shut off, it's even fairly easy to toss around bends with some rotation. 


I've been a little more hesitant when it comes to mud and rugged trails because of my relative lack of experience, fear of getting stuck alone, and knowing that there is still room for improvement over stock to tackle such tasks better than it can now. It does good in mud, gravel, soft dirt, and what not, but I can tell the factory tires are a liability. They simply aren't aggressive enough. A few more inches of clearance would help, too. I plan to rectify both as soon as these tires wear out- they have about 50% left now. With those two things addressed, I'd be much more comfortable getting really down and dirty with it.


Taking the discussion back to on-road manners, it's a mixed bag. The high points are the ride, refinement, and features. I love being able to simply steam roll speed bumps, potholes, and just road imperfections in general. I've gone from remembering every flaw in my town's road surfaces to not caring. It's just a non-issue. And it's a luxury you don't realize you have until having something like my 335. It will take such obstacles with no drama in the way of body quivering, rattles, or squeeking. 


No drama is coincidentally about the best way you could describe it's handling too, for better or for worse. You won't mistake this thing for Porsche, or even an Accord, but it goes where you tell it to with no fuss. The steering I feel is appropriate for such a vehicle- right weight, right quickness, etc. That's not to say it bristles with feedback, because it doesn't, but you're aware of what's going on, nonetheless. It should go without saying that there is considerable body roll, however, and it's coupled with some pretty heavy brake dive.


Said brakes are where I take quite possibly greatest issue with the entire vehicle. They're super soft and vague, to the point of being at-best infuriating and at-worst almost-accident-inducing in stop-and-go traffic. In everyday driving, it's only the softness that rears it's head. But after spending a week in Austin and New Orleans crawl-along-at-5mph-for-5 yards-then-stop-again traffic, it's a major complaint. Your right foot will live in the last inch of brake pedal travel- the only place you get meaningful retardation of forward progress. My right foot was actually getting tired from it. I will actually be looking into upgraded pads, rotors, and fluid in hopes that it will rectify the issue.  


The other sore points are to be expected, and one's I knew would exist. One is mileage, which averages around 16 for 90% in town driving is rather poor. On the way down to Austin, I averaged between 20-21 at 75mph. About what it's rated at, but still a tough pill to swallow compared to the 28 I'd get in the BMW. The other, as you may have guessed, is power. It's fine around town and when off-road generally, but it really leaves you wanting at higher speeds such as on the highway and such. Even an extra 50hp would go a long way. 75-100 would be great. If they offered a V8, I'd trade mine in tomorrow. Lastly, the headlights suck. Like bad. The low-beams are embarrassingly dim. An HID upgrade will be happening soon.


On the upside, the factory stereo is pretty good, I love the all-power up/down windows (rear included), the rear power outlet is surprisingly handy, and the A/C will freeze you on the hottest days. The seats are pretty comfortable, and putting rear child seats in the back is a breeze. And of course it has XM, bluetooth, all the normal stuff. Overall ergonomics are pretty good. I do miss proximity key/push-button start and dual-zone climate, though.


Overall, the vehicle has proved to be a fun tool for enjoying some time off road away from the hustle, but not at the expense of being able to faithfully serve daily needs. It's opened up a form of vehicular fun I was previously ignorant to, and it's a welcome change. I would say it's really the last of it's kind, and would argue it's the only choice for anyone who wanted a fully enclosed, mid-priced SUV that would be regularly seeing off-road use. That's the 4Runner's primary mission statement, and I think it fulfills that role rather well. It'll be interesting to see if Toyota stays dedicated to this thing in a market increasingly straying from such vehicles, and if they do, how it will adapt.


Thanks for reading. I'll also happily take questions on anything I may have left out.

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Great in-depth review... but this thread is nothing without PICS!!


I like how you're ironing out one specific problem at a time and how you can fix them to make the truck perfect for you. That's how you can pick out a true enthusiast. Make sure you keep this updated when you upgrade the brakes, tires, and headlights.


Get some pics from your local dirt trails too!

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Very cool, thanks for the write up like this. I agree some pics would add to the story. But nice job to start. :)

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