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Redesigned Toyota Highlander: Better Than Ever



Toyota Highlander

There are many enviable characteristics that have helped separate Toyota from most of its competitors in the automobile world for more than a decade. The basic reason is this - they make very good cars!

Search up and down the Toyota lineup and there simply isn't a vehicle that can be deemed a failure. Some models like the Camry sell incredibly well, but even lesser-known vehicles like the Yaris slip into a category that fills a niche for Toyota and are viewed as quality automobiles.

Personally, the sport utility vehicle offerings by Toyota have always been a favorite. Whether shopping for a compact SUV or a super-sized model, there is something in the Toyota lineup for everyone. If one includes the Venza, which some folks consider a wagon, Toyota has seven SUVs overall.

The Toyota SUV list includes the RAV4, 4Runner, Highlander, Land Cruiser, Sequoia, Venza, and the somewhat quirky FJ Cruiser. And if one desires a more upscale SUV, Lexus (Toyota's luxury division) has a variety of options to peruse.

One of the more highly-rated Toyota SUVs is the Highlander, a sensible, well designed crossover. The Highlander is a three-row, family-friendly midsize crossover that's offered in four trim models (LE, LE Plus, XLE, Limited) and a hybrid version.

The 2014 Highlander comes with a redesign that features a more chiseled, beefy look that gives it a bolder appearance than previous models. The new Highlander is not as rounded and its more aggressive exterior styling might be more appealing to men than its previous bland look.

Answering its critics, Toyota responded with more cabin and cargo room, styling changes, and added some premium amenities to the Highlander.

Major Changes for 2014 Toyota Highlander

  • New dashboard. Toyota upgraded from its previously hard panels to curvier surfaces.
  • Extra 3.7 inches of width added to third row, making Highlander one of the few midsize crossovers that seats eight people.
  • Refined driving experience, thanks to new six-speed automatic transmission.
  • Height-adjustable power liftgate with memory height settings

The Highlander provides two engine choices - we prefer the V6 option. The V6 Highlander is a 3.5-liter with 270 horsepower that elicits 248 pound-feet of torque. It's been clocked at 7.3 seconds going from 0-60-mph, which is about a second faster than many of its segment rivals.

The base Highlander (LE) is a front-wheel drive, 2.7-liter, four-cylinder engine with 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.

The Highlander hybrid also has a 3.5-liter, V6 gas engine, but gets assistance from a pair of electric motors to produce 280 horsepower and 215 pound-feet of torque. The gas mileage is an estimated 27-28 mpg.

2014 Toyota Highlander

  • Performance: 2.7-liter, four-cylinder, 185 horsepower; 3.5-liter, V6, 270 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 20-25 mpg; 18-24 mpg
  • Estimated price: $29,215 to $41,960
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance: 2 years/25,000; corrosion: 5 years/unlimited

Toyota predicts that 90 percent of all 2014 Highlander models sold will have the V6 engine and 60 percent of those will be equipped with the optional all-wheel drive.

Interior changes are impressive with the 2014 Highlander. The gauges now feature a more contemporary look and are clustered together in a sensible fashion. A dashboard shelf is a great innovation and the storage box under the console can occupy a sizable purse. Another positive change is increasing the space to 13.8 cubic feet behind the third row.

We also admire the optional "driver easy speak" that utilizes a Bluetooth microphone to broadcast your voice to third-row folks, the underlying reason (of course) is to get the attention of misbehaving kids.

Thanks to the numerous changes, the Highlander remains one of the primary choices in this crowded field of midsize crossover SUVS that includes Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Ford Flex, Mazda CX-9, and Dodge Durango.

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Weidel on Wheels author Jeffrey Weidel is an award-winning writer from the Sacramento region who has reviewed automobiles for more than two decades. He can be reached at skiweidel@gmail.com
Follow him on Twitter at @jeffweidel.




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