2014 Toyota Highlander

Accommodating the Whole Family
February 10, 2014 Updated: February 10, 2014

The Toyota Highlander first debuted in 2001. This new third-generation Highlander has been redesigned with a new bold exterior styling, which is accompanied by a slew of very family-friendly features, like seating for up to 8, and the latest in advanced safety and media technology. All this without giving up any of the quality, durability, and reliability you know to expect from Toyota. 

There are five trim levels: LE ($29,215), LE Plus ($32,740), XLE ($36,040), Limited ($39,640), and the Hybrid Limited ($47,300). The base LE is standard equipped with a 2.7 L, 185 hp, I-4 or the 3.5 L, 270 hp, V6 as an option, while LE Plus, XLE, and Premium are standard equipped with the V6 engine. All models come standard with a 6-speed ECT automatic transmission and FWD, with available AWD. The Hybrid Limited is motivated by Hybrid Synergy Drive with a 3.5 L V6 engine and electric motors, putting down 280 net horsepower through ECVT and AWD-i. The Limited will be the focus of my evaluation. 

Once inside you will notice the 8-inch high resolution touch-screen display. Heated and ventilated front seats with optional heated steering wheel and heated second row seats contribute to cabin comfort, while complementing the soft touch materials and satin chrome metallic accents throughout. 

There is a 24.5 L center console that can hold oversized items like purse/bag. An available rear seat Blu-ray Entertainment system adds quality to the entertainment possibilities for those folks in the back. The Limited has second and third row air units with available three-zone automatic climate control. 

The Highlander is spacious beyond belief inside. Seats are wide and boldly comfortable. Even when the front seats are extended as far back as possible rear leg room is remarkable. 

All Highlanders will feature a newly designed LCD In-Meter-Cluster Multi Information Display. The Limited has a 4.2-inch color display, plus ambient lighting around the front dash and doors that add to the mood in the cabin. 

The backup camera is standard. So is the next-gen Entune Audio System, which includes hands-free Bluetooth streaming technology and advanced voice technology. 

The Limited model also includes Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and rear Parking Assist Sonar. For another $2,000 you get the Driver Technological Package that includes Pre-Collision System, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert, and more. 

The new Highlander features a progressive silhouette with a lower roofline for improved aerodynamics, plus sculptured side-door panels. From the front, the hood merges with a redesigned trapezoidal grille, wrapped around headlights, and deeply chiseled fenders for an aggressive appearance. 

The rear is championed by beautiful taillights, offering a butterfly effect. It reminded me of the Toyota Rav 4 vehicle I reported on a few weeks back. Highlander Limited rests atop 19-inch Chromtec alloy wheels.

As far as I could tell, the best improvement over previous models was the increased reduction in noise and vibration. Expansion of silencing insulation coverage in the floor areas absorbs more interior noise. The windshield uses acoustic-type glass to help reduce noise entering the cabin, and even the panoramic moonroof design works to help reduce wind noise, even when the moonroof is open. 

Vibration is minimized through expanded coverage of the dash silencer, enhanced body sealing, and the strategic placement of three hydraulic engine mounts. In addition, improvements to the exhaust layout have been made for additional noise and vibration reduction. 

The all new Highlander is a no-compromise mid-size three-row SUV that brings together all the best in styling, technology, comfort, capability, and safety.

The total package is capped off with a powerful V6 mated to a new six-speed that will produce 270 hp at 6,200 rpm and 184 lb.-ft. torque at 4,200 rpm. 

Highlander has a 5,000 pounds towing capability, and a fuel efficiency EPA rated a 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway/21 mpg combined. Toyota must improve the mpg to gain shares of this segment. In fact, competitors Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, and Chevrolet Traverse have more powerful engines at comparable mpg. Only Honda Pilot has less power at this time. 

The Highlander sits high with excellent rear views on both sides. Rear headrests are easily turned down, making it easy to see through the rear window. It corners well, even when loaded. It also has sufficient power to go around slow vehicles with ease, and to hustle down the road for potty breaks or food fueling. 

Toyota says it will increase Highlander sales from about 10,000 units a month to over 140,000 for the year. All Highlanders are assembled at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana, Inc., which is located in Princeton and exports Highlander to 12 countries around the world. The plant employs over 4,000 American workers. 

36 month/36,000 miles basic new car warranty
60 month/60,000 mile powertrain warranty
Corrosion with no mileage limitation
Complimentary factory scheduled maintenance and 24-hr roadside assistance

Durhl Caussey writes a car column read around the world. He may be reached at this paper or dcaussey@sbcglobal.net.