UPDATE: How The World Has Caught Up With The 2014 Toyota 4Runner

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Toyota 4Runner
The 2014 Toyota 4Runner.
Four years ago in this space, I wrote a review of the Toyota 4Runner in which I quoted Casey Kasem's most famous outtake, linked to Sajeev Mehta's piece in The Truth About Cars comparing it to fat Elvis and basically said the 4Runner was going the wrong way for the times.

Well, times change.  That was written in the aftershocks of the 2008 crash, and while there has by no means been a complete recovery and gas prices are higher now (the Sacramento average for a gallon of regular as I write this is $4.11), the world has continued to spin and Americans have, as they always have, adapted, adjusted and bought as large as their credit scores would allow. In those intervening four years, I have driven an additional 200-plus new vehicles and, in the current landscape, the 4Runner no longer seems out of place.

Mind you, I still think Toyota is slicing the SUV spectrum mighty thin with RAV4, FJ, Highlander, 4Runner, Sequoia and Land Cruiser...but (apart from the FJ, which is in its last season) it seems to be working.

Rear 3/4 view of 2014 Toyota 4Runner
2014 Toyota 4Runner.
This time around, I had to admit, the 2014 4Runner Limited 4X4 felt about the right size for its mission...and it felt solid and up to just about any task you'd throw at it. Gas mileage is still nothing to write home about...17 city/21 highway, and could be improved with more than 5 gears in the automatic transmission.  With Jeep playing with 8 and 9, Toyota really should step up.

You can get a 4Runner for as little as $32,820, but not a Limited 4X4.  No, that'll cost you $43,400...but as you can imagine, you get a lot for your 434,000 dimes.

Standard? A 270-horsepower, 4.0-liter V6, full-time four-wheel drive with A-Trac and locking center differential, a 5-speed automatic transmission, X-REAS Sport Enhancement Suspension, hill-start and downhill assist control, skid plates, 20-inch wheels, the full complement of airbags and safety nannies, color-keyed bumpers, rocker and overfenders, chrome accents, handles and roofrails, heated outside mirrors with turn signals built in, a tow-hitch reciever, fog lamps, and rear privacy glass.

Interior view of 2014 Toyota 4Runner
2014 Toyota 4Runner interior.
But wait, there's more! Dual-zone climate control, a premium JBL audio system with Toyota's Entune infotainment app suite, SiriusXM and HDRadio, a 6.1-inch touchscreen with navigation, leather-trimmed seats, heated for the passenger and driver, an alarm system, a leather-trimmed tilt/telescoping steering wheel with audio controls and cruise control, SmartKey with pushbutton start, a power moonroof, a power sliding rear window, and the usual power windows, locks and mirrors.

Our tester went easy on the options by press vehicle standards...automatic running boards ($1,500), a special color paint, Blizzard Pearl ($395) and leather-trimmed, fold-flat third-row seating with passenger-side one-touch access to the third row and third row curtain shield air bags ($1,365).  Bottom line with $860 delivery processing and handling fee: $47,520.

Not cheap, but likely the best of a dwindling breed (Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder are now crossovers, not true truck-based SUVs). If I was heading up into the wilds or into some nasty weather, this would probably be my ride of choice.

PHOENIX BUREAU UPDATE:  I always thought Michael was being too rough on the 4Runner.  But then, he took the economic shift to mean that there would be a sea change in the kind of cars Americans buy, and for the most part that hasn't happened.  After my own week in a 4Runner limited---nearly identically outfitted, but adding floor mats and a cargo mat, with an as-tested price a bit higher at $47,745, I'd say he gets it right in the final paragraph.  There likely isn't a better true SUV between 40 and 50 thousand dollars.