2015 Highlander New Car Test Drive
The Toyota Highlander is completely redesigned for the 2014 model year. A three-row crossover sport-utility vehicle, Highlander has seats for seven or eight assuming at least a couple are kids, decent cargo space and variety of versions from base four-cylinder frugal to a Limited Platinum Hybrid.
Outside, the 2014 Toyota Highlander is longer, wider and lower than pre-2014 models; inside, it is redesigned. The 2014 Highlander features familiar engines and a 6-speed automatic transmission for the V6 models. Most components underneath have been notably updated for the 2014 model year.
Toyota family resemblance is found on the nose and tail, more masculine than the cars and vans, not as macho as the trucks and 4Runner. The new cabin gets the layer-cake dash of recent Toyotas and a three-child third-row seat; some offer a three-person middle row, some a two-seat arrangement; Highlander XLE offers the choice of each. All rear seats fold in sections. Cargo area is up slightly for model year 2014.
A four-cylinder front-wheel-drive model is the base 2014 Highlander. A 2014 Highlander Hybrid all-wheel-drive model is the other extreme, which rates an EPA-estimated 27/28 miles per gallon City/Highway. In between, the 2014 Highlander LE, LE Plus, XLE, and Limited all use a 270-horsepower V6 engine and offer the choice of front- or all-wheel drive. When equipped with the V6 towing package a Highlander is rated to tow 5000 pounds.
The top models are loaded with features but even base models come with front and rear air conditioning, alloy wheels, Bluetooth, USB, iPod connectivity, reclining second- and third-row seats, driver knee airbag, and a rearview camera. However, the latest safety features such blind-spot warning, rear park assist, lane departure warning and dynamic radar cruise control with collision mitigation braking require upgrading to the top models.
When the Highlander originally debuted, competitors such as the Ford Explorer and Dodge Durango were based on trucks while others had not yet appeared. Today, the Toyota Highlander competes with Explorer and Durango, Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan Pathfinder, Chevy Traverse, Honda Pilot, GMC Acadia, Mazda CX-9, ad infinitum. If driving dynamics are a priority we recommending leaning to the Mazda CX-9 or Dodge Durango, for speed the Durango Hemi and Explorer 3.5 turbo, for efficiency the Honda Pilot or Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid. Only the Pilot and GM twins offer seating for eight. Alternatively, if people and cargo space are more important than looks, a loaded Toyota Sienna van gives up one mpg to the Highlander (Sienna offers all-wheel drive but no hybrid), but brings much more passenger room, twice the cargo capacity and doesn't cost any more when similarly equipped, and Sienna has some options even a Highlander doesn't.
The 2014 Toyota Highlander is offered in multiple trim levels, most with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive ($1,460), all with a 6-speed automatic transmission.
Highlander LE ($29,215) comes with a 185-hp 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine; Highlander LE V6 ($30,250) comes with a 270-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine. Both include cloth upholstery, front and rear air conditioning, power windows/locks, 60/40 reclining and fold-flat second-row and third-row seats (with sliding second row), 3.5-inch information display, 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, Entune audio (6.1-inch touch-screen, AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA/USB 2.0/iPod, voice recognition, Bluetooth hands-free and streaming, six speakers, rear camera), heated power mirrors with signals, 18-inch alloy wheels, wiper de-icers, remote keyless entry, sliding visors with illuminated mirrors, front/middle-row reading lights, and body-color door handles, rear spoiler and mirrors.
Highlander LE Plus ($32,740) upgrades to SofTex/cloth upholstery, three-zone climate control, eight-way/four-way power front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel, flip-up hatch window, power liftgate, fog lights and Entune Plus audio (Entune plus SiriusXM with HD radio, traffic and weather with 90-day trial).
Highlander XLE ($36,040) upgrades to leather upholstery (front- and second-row seats), moonroof, second-row window shades, 4.2-inch color info display, 110-volt AC outlet, antitheft alarm, auto-dimming mirror, Chromtec roof rails and pushbutton entry/start. The Entune Premium system adds navigation and app suite with HD predictive traffic and Doppler weather overlay, AM/FM cache radio and Gracenotes. XLE also offers optional rear-seat Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system with nine-inch display and heated front seats and second-row captain's chairs with side table.
Highlander Limited ($39,640) has perforated leather front- and second-row upholstery, heated/ventilated front seats, second-row captain's chairs, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors, woodgrain trim, auto up/down rear windows, LED ambient cabin lighting, smoked chrome headlight trim, driver memory, puddle lamp mirrors, 19-inch alloy wheels and a JBL 12-speaker sound system driven by the Entune Premium system. A Limited may be further upgraded with the rear entertainment system ($1,810); a Technology package ($1,400) that includes Safety Connect with emergency assistance, stolen vehicle locator, roadside assistance, automatic collision notification, pre-collision system with dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with automatic high beam headlights; or a Platinum package ($2,490) that includes the Technology package plus panoramic moonroof, heated steering wheel, and heated second-row seats.
Highlander Hybrid Limited ($47,300) employs a 231-hp gasoline V6 and electric motors for a total 280 horsepower, continuously variable transmission and all-wheel drive. Features and options parallel the Limited.
Safety features standard on all models include dual front, dual front side and all-row roll-sensing side curtain airbags, driver knee airbag, passenger seat cushion airbag, 3 LATCH child-seat anchors, and electronic stability control with smart stop. Optional all-wheel drive can improve handling stability in slippery conditions. Other optional safety features: blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors, Safety Connect (emergency assistance, stolen vehicle locator, roadside assistance and automatic collision notification), dynamic radar cruise control with pre-collision system, lane departure alert, automatic high-beam headlights.