By Trevor Dorchies
KBB Expert Rating: 8.3
Born to haul families and all of their cargo, the Toyota Highlander continues to uphold that reputation but brings a more refined feel than those before it. Competition is stiff with the likes of the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot circling close by but the Highlander is no slouch. Toyota estimates that 90 percent of all 2014 Highlander models sold will leave the lot with a V6 engine and 60 percent of those will come equipped with all-wheel drive (AWD). We're inclined to go with that combination, too.
A slew of trim levels and drivetrain options, combined with high customer-satisfaction numbers, make a strong case for the Highlander.
KBB Expert Ratings
All-new for 2014, the Toyota Highlander boasts new features like Driver Easy Speak and a wonderful in-dash shelf. The base hybrid model goes away for the 2014 model year with the Hybrid Limited remaining as the only option. Exterior and interior restyling and optional seating for eight join the Highlander lineup.
Driving Impressions Equipped with available all-wheel drive, the new Toyota Highlander holds its own on a variety of road surfaces. The 3.5-liter V6 engine and its 270 horsepower smoothly spring into action...... when called upon and provide adequate power when getting up to highway speed. The front-wheel drive V6 model has been rated by the EPA to return 19 mpg in the city and 25 on the highway, while the all-wheel-drive variant drags those numbers down only slightly. The 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine trades some operational smoothness for a more fuel efficient ride. If you wish to stretch those mpgs even further, opt for the Highlander Hybrid, which turns in 27 city/28 highway fuel economy. No matter which powertrain you decide on, the latest Highlander delivers a quality on-road experience, allowing some engine and road noise into the cabin, though certainly less than the previous model.
IN-DASH SHELF WITH EASY CABLE MANAGEMENT
A shelf deep enough to hold even the biggest smartphone stretches from the front passenger's door to the driver's right knee. As advertised, the "easy cable management" keeps your smartphone's charging and audio cables organized and out of the way.
FLIP-UP REAR HATCH WINDOW AND ADJUSTABLE POWER LIFTGATE
New for 2014, the optional rear hatch window can now open while leaving the lower gate door closed. The optional power liftgate can adjust to different heights, too.
The all-new Toyota Highlander SUV boasts a clean interior that was redesigned for the latest model year. Horizontal lines on the dashboard escort your eyes from one end, stopping at the centralized multimedia screen, and spans all the way to the front passenger's side door. A few big round knobs made the cut for the 2014 model year, but three flat buttons now flank the standard 6.1-inch touch screen on each side. Storage space is abundant throughout the cabin and a cavernous center console can swallow at least 58 standard size juice boxes. A sliding 2nd-row seat gives way to an optional third row which now offers seating for eight.Exterior
Representing the first run of the third generation, the Highlander now sports a bolder, more chiseled look. This redesigned exterior styling is still aimed at family-centric customers with hopes of more male buyers using the Highlander as their daily driver. More defined side panels play into the aerodynamic look Toyota was going for when it first sketched this latest Highlander. Not as round as the one it replaces, the new Highlander still goes after Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot sales.
Opting for the base front-wheel drive Toyota Highlander will land you 18-inch split 5-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels, halogen headlights, Entune Audio with AM/FM/CD and a MP3/WMA-capable 6-speaker stereo, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, day/night rearview mirror, and three 12-volt auxiliary power outlets (two up front and one in the second row). Standard safety features include eight airbags, Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children (LATCH) points, stability and traction control, and antilock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution.
The vast majority of options and packages can be found on the Limited and Hybrid Limited trim levels. These packages feature an abundance of cutting-edge safety features including lane-departure, dynamic radar cruise control and automatic high beams as well as heated 2nd-row captain's chairs, a panoramic moonroof, a heated steering wheel, and a rear-seat Blu-Ray and DVD entertainment system.
The base 2014 Toyota Highlander crossover SUV relies on a 2.7-liter inline-4 cylinder engine with 185 horsepower and a 6-speed automatic transmission for motivation. This model is only available in a front-wheel-drive configuration. The automaker asserts, however, that 90 percent of all transactions will include the 3.5-liter V6 variant. The V6 engine is available in either front-drive or all-wheel drive on everything except for the top-tier Hybrid Limited trim, where only a V6 AWD setup is offered. The V6 engine is paired up with an electronically controlled automatic transmission. The hybrid drivetrain consists of the same 3.5-liter V6 gas engine but is assisted by two electric motors to produce 280 horsepower. During EPA testing, the Highlander Hybrid turned in 28 mpg on the highway.
185 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/25 mpg
270 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
248 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/25 (front-wheel drive), 18/24 (AWD)
3.5-liter V6 + AC 650-volt permanent-magnet motors
280 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
215 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/28 mpg
The 2014 Toyota Highlander SUV starts at just under $30,000 and that will bring you the LE trim level with a 4-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive. The Highlander LE with a V6 engine will set you back a cool $31,380. The top-trim Limited starts at $40,500 for front-wheel drive and $41,960 for all-wheel drive. The Hybrid Limited commands a $48,160 price tag. We expect our Fair Purchase Price values to mirror real-world transaction prices right around sticker price. Then there's the Highlander's resale value, which is known to be one of the strongest in its segment. Some other similar models to the Highlander include the Nissan Pathfinder and Honda Pilot.