2014 Toyota Highlander XLE
23 Jan

2014 Toyota Highlander Preview

Pros:

  • Sharp, athletic new exterior style
  • Roomy interior is also quite luxurious
  • Excellent road manners for a large vehicle
  • Lots of available tech features

Cons:

  • Powertrain options are largely unchanged
  • High priced Hybrid model lacks a good value proposition

Mid-sized crossovers have fast become one of the bread and butter automotive segments. Folks looking for a family sized vehicle are passing on minivans and large SUVS, flocking instead to more stylish, yet still practical softroaders.

The Toyota Highlander was one of the first car-based crossovers on the scene when it was launched in 2001, and has steadily built a solid reputation for reliable family transport. The new 3rd generation 2014 Highlander is an evolution of the crossover formula, providing seating for up to eight, a more stylish exterior, the latest in available technology, and the go-anywhere ability of all wheel drive.

2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum 51 600x400 2014 Toyota Highlander Preview

Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum

In revising the Highlander, Toyota focused on three opportunities for improvement: exterior style, better for families, and driving dynamics. The new exterior gives the Highlander a much sharper, more athletic appearance than the rather plain looking 2nd generation. Exterior and interior dimensions have grown slightly, allowing for a roomier 3rd row and more cargo capacity. The new interior is also more luxurious, with more soft touch materials and lower noise level.

The 2014 Highlander features 3 powertrain options, which carryover largely unchanged from the previous generation. Base models come with a 2.7 L 4 cylinder engine, while the volume engine remains a 3.5 L V6, which is the required choice should you need all wheel drive. An upgraded 6 speed transmission is standard for both engines. The Highlander Hybrid continues with the same V6 based hybrid system as before.

We were recently invited to test a variety of new Highlander models in scenic Carmel, California. After driving a top of the line Hybrid, a mid-level XLE, and the base model LE, we came away quite impressed. Road manners are as good as anything in this class, and all 3 powertrains served their purpose well. Ride quality is nicely balanced, smoothing out the bumps without folding over in the corners. Credit the new transmission, standard 18-inch wheels, and a redesigned double wishbone rear suspension for injecting a bit more sportiness into this otherwise practical vehicle.

2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Platinum 01 600x400 2014 Toyota Highlander Preview

Although we initially questioned the choice of even offering a 4-cylinder engine, the base LE model was perhaps the most impressive, especially from a value perspective. For $29,215 you get a spacious family hauler that comes decently equipped, provides surprisingly good performance, and should get around 22-25 mpg. The volume seller XLE ($36,040) adds a host of additional features, including an 8-inch touchscreen display and leather seats, and the V6 offers more than respectable acceleration.

The pricey Hybrid, on the other hand, was a perhaps a bit of a letdown. While extremely well equipped and generally very competent, the high sticker price ($47,300) and only marginally better fuel efficiency left us wondering if shoppers with this amount of coin shouldn’t be looking at a luxury crossover instead. Perhaps Toyota should consider putting its 4-cylinder based hybrid system in the Highlander, like it does in the full-size Avalon sedan. A large crossover that achieves over 30 mpg and costs under $40k would seem like a very compelling proposition.

2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum 12 600x400 2014 Toyota Highlander Preview

Folks looking for more luxury can also opt for the non-hybrid Limited model ($39,640), which comes with heated and ventilated front seats, three-zone climate control, panoramic moonroof, and an available Driver Technology Package that includes such features as radar cruise control and lane departure alert. Luckily you don’t have to be rich to enjoy some of this new tech, as all Highlander models now come with a backup camera and next generation Entune Audio systems.

Although some view crossovers as an unfortunate compromise, with less room than a minivan, less performance than a sedan, and less off-road capability than an SUV, the new Highlander proves that sometimes compromise can be a good thing. Need to drop off the kiddie carpool? Haul a dozen bags of cement? Transport some mountain bikes to the local trailhead? The Highlander will do all this and more, and now with an extra dose of style and luxury.

2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum photo gallery

2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum photo gallery

2014 Toyota Highlander XLE photo gallery

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Category: Car Reviews, Hybrid / Electric, Reviews, SUV / CUV

Comments (2)

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  1. Linda Parker says:

    I want this car . That’s it , I want this car .

  2. Linda Parker says:

    I want this car soooo bad . That’s all I can say about it.

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