2014 Toyota Highlander Review: Bigger And Better – Forbes

14 Jun 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »
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2014 Toyota Highlander Review: Bigger And Better

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The steering, like the handling dynamics, occupies a middle ground relative to competing models. It has more weight to it and gives more feedback than some (Nissan Pathfinder), but less than others (Mazda CX-9 ).

The bottom line is: don’t expect a truly sporty driving experience from the 2014 Toyota Highlander. But you will enjoy a smooth ride, spacious interior, lots of amenities and low cost of ownership.

Added sound deadening material and acoustic glass on the windshield cut road noise significantly and make the cabin as quiet as a luxury car under 70 miles per hour. There was pronounced wind noise after the Highlander got above that speed, but it was very windy on the day of our test drive.

The optional all-wheel-drive system has been changed to improve fuel economy. In the previous model, it always sent power to all four wheels. Now the power goes exclusively to the front wheels in normal driving. The system sends power to the rear wheels only when the front ones start to lose grip or when accelerating through a turn.

The all-wheel-drive system has a “locking mode” for really slippery conditions. It splits power evenly between the front and rear wheels as long as the Highlander stays at low speeds. It automatically disengages above 25 miles per hour.

Fuel economy for the V6 engine is up by 1 mile per gallon overall, thanks in part to a new six-speed transmission that replaces the outgoing model’s five-speed. The Environmental Protection Agency rates the Highlander’s fuel efficiency at 19 mpg city/25 mpg highway/21 mpg combined for front-wheel drive and 18/24/20 for all-wheel drive. We averaged between 19 mpg and 20 mpg overall in the all-wheel-drive versions we tested.

A four-cylinder engine is offered on the base LE model and a hybrid powertrain is available on the top Limited trim level. Neither the four-cylinder nor the hybrid was available to test drive.

Optional Features and Pricing

The Highlander has four trim levels in all: the LE, the LE Plus, the XLE and the Limited.

A $1,400 technology package is available for the two highest trims. It includes features such as radar cruise-control and a pre-collision warning system with automatic braking function—all of which is more commonly found on luxury vehicles.

The Limited’s platinum package adds indulgences such as a panoramic moon roof, low-gloss wood trim and mood lighting for an extra $2,490. It includes everything in the technology package as well.

The midsize SUV segment is going upscale, with consumers increasingly opting for the highest trim levels and the most equipment possible, Toyota’s Hoffmann says. Average retail prices in this segment are up about $4,000 since 2008.

Toyota expects the two highest trim levels — XLE and Limited — will account for 75 percent of Highlander sales, while less than 10 percent of buyers will opt for the base four-cylinder model.

The 2014 Toyota Highlander LE starts at $29,215, the LE Plus at $32,740, the XLE at $36,040 and the Limited at $39,640. The priciest version of the Highlander is the Hybrid Limited Platinum, which starts considerably higher at $49,790.

All prices exclude a requisite $860 delivery charge.

Like the two previous generations before it, the 2014 Toyota Highlander will be a hit. It gives growing families everything they need to ride in comfort and safety.

The driving experience is sportier than before. It handles better than some competitors, including the Hyundai Santa Fe and Nissan Pathfinder, but not as well as others, including the Ford Explorer and Mazda CX-9 .

More importantly, the Highlander was a pleasure to drive all day long. From the feel of the seats, to the function of the controls, to the sound and power of the engine, the Highlander proved to be a wonderful road-trip companion that never annoyed or disappointed in any significant way. That’s saying a lot, considering how so many new vehicles perturb these days, whether with frustrating controls, annoying transmissions or lack of head room.

The 2014 Toyota Highlander is on sale now, with the hybrid version arriving in mid-February.

Get a closer look at the redesigned Highlander:

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