We?re always watching other cars and drivers when we are out and about, and as part of our test drive process we especially watch for other similar models during our drive time. This gives us an opportunity get a random idea of who buys them and how common they are.
When it comes to the Toyota Highlander SUV/crossover, we?re not sure if it?s the area we live in near Portland, Oregon, or nationally, but there seems to be an abundance of Toyota Highlanders on the road driven mostly by middle age to mature families. And the vehicles seem to run the full spectrum of ages from the original 2001 through the 2014 model we were driving.
Typically, most SUVs and crossovers are boxy and undistinguished. In the Toyota lineup of SUVs and crossovers, which is the largest of any manufacturer, there are two vehicles that always get our attention: the Venza crossover and the FJ Cruiser SUV. Both have striking unique designs that still turn our head every time we see one. However, we had never paid much attention to the Toyota Highlander on the streets because they haven?t had a design that grabs us, as if to say ?look at me.?
All new in 2014, the Toyota Highlander gets a major redesign complete with lower roofline, sculptured body panels, new grill and front and rear-end treatments. We especially like the new forward sloping ?D? pillar and the more pronounced spoiler over the rear window. The 2014 Toyota Highlander is also longer (three-inches) and slightly wider than the previous generation, plus it is quite attractive and definitely more stylish.
One of the important features of the design is an all new height-adjustable rear power lift-gate which allows the driver to select an opening height to avoid having it crash into a garage door or other overhead obstacle. Cargo space behind the liftgate ranges from 13.8 cubic feet when all the seats are up to 83.7 cubic feet when the second and third row seats are folded.
Our favorite part of the 2014 Toyota Highlander is the new interior. The dash has strong horizontal lines with climate controls mounted high, just below the large new Entune screen. In addition to the user-friendly navigation screen and premium audio systems, the new Entune includes a collection of mobile applications and data services enhancing the entertainment and information capabilities of the system. Entune is standard equipment on the upper level Highlander models.
? We?re split on the new shelf that extends from above the console to the right door. Bill likes the storage and easy access to USB and power outlet thinking it?s a great place to stow a smart phone or other electronic devices. Barbara thinks it?s a junk collector and imagines seeing most owners having a mess on the shelf spoiling the otherwise clean look of the dash.
The seats in our XLE test vehicle are beautifully designed, supportive and very comfortable. The soft leather is perforated and the front seats are heated. The Highlander is a three row configuration with a bench or available captain?s seats in the second row. In a maximum configuration, the Highland carries eight people.
All the Highlanders, except for the base model which has a 2.7-liter four-cylinder, are powered by Toyota?s venerable 270-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Highlander uses the same platform as the Toyota Camry, so the standard configuration is front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive as an option.
Buff magazines list the Highlander 0 to 60 mph time at 7.7 seconds. The EPA fuel economy is listed at 18 mpg city, 24 mpg highway and 20 mpg combined. We averaged 20.6 mpg in normal highway and around town driving for the week.
The Highlander rides on a four-wheel independent suspension which produces a comfortable controlled ride with only a small amount of body roll on tighter corners. We thought the electric steering felt natural with good feedback. The turning radius is a tight 38.7-feet, which helped produce agile handling when negotiating parking lots.
The 2014 Toyota Highlander is available in five trim levels if you count the base 2WD four-cylinder model. Prices range from $30,075, including the $860 destination charge, for the base 2WD and go as high as $44,845 from the Limited Platinum AWD with the optional Blizzard Pearl color.
A base model comes well equipped with alloy wheels, keyless entry, privacy glass and so on. Moving up in price, each model adds more features until the top models (XLE and Limited) which include most everything available including the Entune system with navigation and JBL? audio.
Toyota is big on safety devices and the Highlander has a bunch including their STAR Safety System? which adds a handful of active electronic aids to help prevent crashes. The Limited has an available Technology Package that adds a Safety Connect system with several emergency communication features. The package also include a Pre-Collision System, Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning and Automatic High Beam Headlights. Upper level models also have a travel-must for parents with younger children, a rear seat DVD Entertainment System.
The 2014 Toyota Highlander is like the comfort food of the SUV/crossover category. It?s comfortable, quiet and easy to drive with user friendly new technologies.
Hybrid shoppers can also buy a Highlander. It takes the fuel economy up to 27/28/28 mpg, is about a half-second faster from 0 to 60 mph and adds $6,200 to the price of Limited model.