2014 Toyota Highlander Review

Great Scott! The Highlander Goes from Bland to Bold

2014 Toyota Highlander Review

Family-focused crossovers aren’t the most electrifying vehicles on the road. They’re typically ponderous, overweight and thirstier than they should be. Is this a description of a car or your eccentric uncle?


1. Three different powertrains are offered including a 2.7L 4-cylinder, a 3.5L V6 and a hybrid.

2. Our 2014 Highlander Limited AWD tester is powered by a 270 hp. V6 engine and uses a 6-speed automatic transmission.

3. Base price is just about $30,000 for an entry-level Highlander, including destination and delivery charges.

4. V6 AWD Highlanders are rated at 18 MPG city and 24 mpg highway.

Injecting some much appreciated visual flair into Toyota showrooms across the country is the completely redesigned 2014 Highlander. One of the first things you’ll probably notice about this all-new three-row people hauler is its expressive new body. This crossover makes quite a statement, with its gaping, almost Lexus-like grille.

And it ought to look nice; the first design company stylists came up with was scrapped because it just wasn’t good enough. The result of that mulligan is dramatically more interesting than today’s model, though from the rear it does look like it’s got a load in its diaper.

Of course the new Highlander is more than just a pretty face. This vehicle offers a lot of family-friendly features in a spacious but not-too-large package.

The Breakdown

The third-generation Highlander targets active, “sporty” families in need of practical transportation. It competes with products like Nissan’s Pathfinder, the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Traverse to name but a few of its rivals. Toyota’s offering competes in a crowded segment rife with well-thought-out vehicles that literally give customers a run for their money.

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Playing the field, the new Highlander is offered in four different trims ranging from the entry-level LE model, to mid-level LE Plus and XLE versions, to the range-topping Limited flavor. Once again a hybrid is on the menu, though it’s only available in highfaluting Limited trim; if you want to save money at the pump you’ve got to shell out a big ol’ bag of Benjamins up front.

2014 Toyota Highlander Review taillight 2Base price for a stripped-down entry-level version is right about $30,000, including 860 bucks in freight charges. Likewise, Limited models start around 40 grand. Across the board prices have gone up, in some instances by more than 15-hundred dollars but that delta is offset my more standard equipment.

Depending on the model you opt for this sporty looking utility vehicle will seat between seven and eight passengers, perfect for weekend runs to the highland games for a quick caber toss or hammer throw, though the newly improved third-row seat is still best left to children.

Start Your Engine

2014 Toyota Highlander Review Rear 3

As for powertrains two are available in non-hybrid models. The base engine is a 2.7-liter four-banger providing 185 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. It’s only expected to account for between 5 and 10 percent of sales; really it’s the value leader and probably only exists so Toyota can claim the Highlander starts at less than 30 grand.

The overwhelming majority of these vehicles will be powered by a familiar 3.5-liter V6, the efficient and ubiquitous 2GR-FE. It delivers a smooth 270 ponies with 248 lb-ft of twist. Unlike today’s model a six-speed automatic transmission is standard with both engines.

2014 Toyota Highlander Review Engine 2Naturally fuel economy is a subject on everyone’s mind, from consumers and dealers to engineers and designers. Reduced consumption was a key goal with the 2014 Highlander and the vehicle’s scores are up compared to the previous generation. Front-wheel-drive V6 models sticker at 19 miles per gallon city and 25 highway, which results in a combined score of 21 MPG.

Disappointingly the four-cylinder model is barely more efficient than that. They’re expected to stretch a gallon of gasoline 20 miles in urban driving and up to 25 on the interstate; combined they ought to hit 22 MPG.

2014 Toyota Highlander review front 3Naturally, all-wheel drive is also on the menu, though it’s only available on six-cylinder models. About 60 percent of buyers are expected to opt for this traction-boosting technology, though it cuts into efficiency by 1 MPG in each category.

When properly equipped the 2014 Highlander can tow up to 5,000 pounds, which is theoretically enough to drag the Loch Ness Monster from her murky lair.

Highlanders with the four-banger are only rated to tow 1,500 pounds; mid-range and hybrid versions fall somewhere in between. Bringing a merciful dash of common sense to the automotive industry these figures are SAE certified (J2807). This is a hot topic in the pickup segment.

Cargo-ing, Going, Going

2014 Toyota Highlander Review trunk

Despite its thorough overhaul the Highlander still has the same wheelbase as today’s model, though it’s got a wider track and longer body. In part that translates to a more spacious third-row seat and more cargo room.

In fact behind the back-most bench there’s nearly 14 cubic feet of space, which is sufficient for at least a gross of kilts or enough haggis to feed the Orkney Islands for half a year!

Aft of the first row chairs the Highlander tallies more than 83 cubic feet of storage volume. Just imagine all of the stuff you could pile in there. It’s practically roomy enough to light off your own Fourth of July fireworks and still be able to board a mini horse.

Cabin Fever

2014 Toyota Highlander Review Interior 2

The vehicle’s entire cabin has been redesigned. It’s more attractive, more useful and a lot more refined. The look borrows cues from the new Avalon sedan, which isn’t a bad thing.

Squishy plastics abound on the dashboard and door panels. There’s even an integrated storage cubby that runs across the dash. It’s nicely padded and is a perfect place to stash your smartphone for a quick recharge while driving.

2014 Toyota Highlander Review Interior 4There’s also plenty of technology. The new Highlander is available with the latest driver assistance systems, things like blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alter. Additionally a backup camera is standard, which is a handy addition. Bluetooth connectivity and heated side-view mirrors are also included at no extra charge.

When it comes to storage front-seat riders are treated to a massive center console between the seats. It’ll hold 24.5-liters of junk, which is equivalent to at least 58 children’s juice boxes. In adult terms that’s approximately a week’s supply of single-malt Scotch whiskey, though I don’t recommend you test that out, ESPECIALLY while underway…

The Drive

2014 Toyota Highlander review front 2

Like most new vehicles on the market today it’s hard to find fault with the way Toyota’s Highlander carries itself. The vehicle is sturdy and composed at all times with no immediately obvious shortcomings.

It rides on a stiff new structure and engineers paid particular attention to NVH, that’s shorthand for noise, vibration and harshness. To combat this annoying trio they focused on a number of things like optimizing the sound-absorbing insulation behind the dashboard and strategically applying spray foam to certain parts of the vehicle body, and it worked. The Highlander is serene inside.

2014 Toyota Highlander Review Interior 5As for steering feel, it’s not too bad. The electrically-boosted tiller is nicely weighted – light at low speeds and heavier at higher velocities – it’s also reasonably precise. The Highlander is no Mazda Miata or Audi R8 but the way it drives is perfectly fine for what it is.

Unfortunately the powertrain’s performance isn’t as laudable. Toyota’s 3.5-liter bent six is as silky as ever but it just isn’t up to the task of lugging the Highlander around with any enthusiasm. Now, to be fair we were testing the vehicle at altitude in the mountains around Monterey, California. The thinned air undoubtedly reduced its stable of ponies but still, it did not feel as responsive as we had hoped. Perhaps 270 horsepower isn’t as much as it used to be, or more likely the Limited all-wheel-drive model’s 4,508-pound curb weight dragged things down.

The Verdict

2014 Toyota Highlander Review Rear 3Q

As with previous generations, the new Highlander is an efficient, functional vehicle that’s perfect for families that don’t want a minivan. The 2014 model is also nicer looking and better to drive than ever; in classic Toyota fashion it will probably withstand the test of time for a very long time.

But is all of that enough? The Nissan Pathfinder is just as stylish and versatile; Mazda’s CX-9 is likely more entertaining to drive (though rather dated now) and the Ford Explorer offers a bonkers 365 horsepower EcoBoost V6. Viewed through the lens of competition the Highlander is still pretty cautious.

However, if any company has proven that conservative sells it’s Toyota. Look at how many Camrys they deliver each year. Executives project the company will sell 140,000 of these new Highlanders in the United States next year. And that sounds totally reasonable; through November of this year they’ve delivered more than 115,000 copies of the outgoing model.

« Back

AutoGuide.com’s Monthly Overlay Newsletter Signup – By subscribing to our email newsletter, Entrants are eligible to win one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card (value of $100.00 USD). One (1) winner will be chosen every month at random and contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. *Amazon.com is not a sponsor of this promotion. Except as required by law, Amazon.com Gift Cards ("GCs") cannot be transferred for value or redeemed for cash. GCs may be used only for purchases of eligible goods at Amazon.com or certain of its affiliated websites. For complete terms and conditions, see www.amazon.com/gc-legal. GCs are issued by ACI Gift Cards, Inc., a Washington corporation. All Amazon ®, ™ & © are IP of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. No expiration date or service fees.


2. PRIZE: One (1) Winner will be randomly selected every month to each receive: one (1) $100.00 Amazon.com Gift Card (the “Prize Supplier”). Total approximate retail value of all prizes is approximately $100.00 USD. Prizes are not transferable and no cash or prize substitution is allowed. Prize package is awarded "as is" with no warranty or guarantee, either express or implied.

3. ELIGIBILITY: From the time of entry through the final date of prize fulfillment, each contest entrant and selected entrant must be a permanent lawful citizen and resident residing in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia or in Canada, and be twenty one (21) years of age or older. VOID IN PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, IN ALL FOREIGN COUNTRIES OUTSIDE OF THE UNITED STATES, AND ALL OTHER U.S. TERRITORIES OR CANADA AND POSSESSIONS AND WHERE PROHIBITED OR RESTRICTED BY LAW. Employees, officers, directors, agents and representatives, of the Sponsor and the Prize Supplier and each of their respective parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, advertising and promotion agencies, promotion partners and any entity involved in the development, production, implementation, administration or fulfillment of this Sweepstakes, and the immediate family members (e.g., spouse, mother, father, sister, brother, uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, in-law, daughter and son, regardless of where they live) and persons living in the same household (whether or not related) of such individuals are not eligible to participate or win. Only one selected entrant per household. All decisions of the Sponsor with respect to this sweepstakes are final. The Sponsor shall have the right at any time to require proof of identity and failure to provide such proof may result in disqualification from the Sweepstakes.

4. ENTER BY INTERNET: You may enter this sweepstakes via the Internet by logging onto AutoGuide.com and subscribing to our email newsletter via the pop-up overlay.

5. SELECTION OF WINNER: One (1) Entrant will be selected by random selection who have subscribed to our email newsletter. The winner may be announced publicly on AutoGuide.com and will be contacted by VerticalScope Inc.’s staff. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address (that is not a P.O. box) to receive the prize which will be shipped free of charge.

6. ODDS OF WINNING: Odds of winning a prize are determined by the total number of eligible entries received.

7. RESTRICTIONS: The prize package consists of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card with an approximate value of $100.00 USD. If prize cannot be awarded due to circumstances beyond the control of the Sponsor or Prize Supplier, no substitute prize will be awarded due to the unique nature of the prize. Sponsor and Prize Supplier shall not be liable to the winner or any person claiming through winner for failure to supply the prize or any part thereof, by reason of any acts of God, any action(s), regulation(s), order(s) or request(s) by any governmental or quasi-governmental entity (whether or not the action(s), regulations(s), order(s) or request(s) prove(s) to be invalid), equipment failure, utility failure, internet failure, terrorist acts, threatened terrorist acts, air raid, blackout, act of public enemy, earthquake, war (declared or undeclared), fire, flood, epidemic, explosion, unusually severe weather, hurricane, embargo, labor dispute or strike (whether legal or illegal) labor or material shortage, transportation interruption of any kind, work slow-down, civil disturbance, insurrection, riot, or any other cause beyond Sponsor's or Prize Supplier's control (collectively, "Force Majeure Event"). Sponsor shall not be responsible for any cancellations, delays, diversions or substitutions or any act or omissions whatsoever by the performers/events, other transportation companies or any other persons providing any of these services and accommodations to passengers including any results thereof such as changes in services or accommodations necessitated by same.

8. CONDITIONS: By entering the Sweepstakes, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions and that Sponsor has the irrevocable right to use in perpetuity entrants' names, user names, likenesses, photographs, voices, home mailing address, biographical and prize information, and entry materials, without notice to entrants and without compensation or obligation, in any and all media now or hereafter known throughout the world, in any manner whatsoever, to advertise and promote Sponsor, its products and services, the Sweepstakes, and for any other purpose except where prohibited by law. Entrant waives the right to assert as a cost of winning a prize any and all costs of verification and redemption or travel to redeem said prize and any liability which might arise from redeeming or seeking to redeem said prize. Sponsor is not responsible for fraudulent calls or emails made to entrants not by the Sponsor. If the Sweepstakes is not capable of running as planned by reason of damage by computer viruses, worms or bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical limitations or failures, any Force Majeure Event or any other cause which, in the sole opinion of Sponsor, could corrupt, compromise, undermine or otherwise affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity, viability or proper conduct of the Sweepstakes, Sponsor reserves the right, in its sole and absolute discretion, to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend all or any part of the Sweepstakes, and to select a winner from among all eligible entries received by Sponsor up until the time of such cancellation, termination, modification or suspension, as applicable. Sponsor reserves the right in its sole discretion to disqualify any individual that (i) tampers or attempts to tamper with the entry process or the operations of this Sweepstakes in any manner, (ii) violates the Official Rules, Terms and Conditions or (iii) acts in an unsportsmanlike or disruptive manner, or with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass any other person. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT BY AN ENTRANT OR ANY OTHER INDIVIDUAL TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAWS. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR RESERVES THE RIGHT TO SEEK CIVIL AND/OR CRIMINAL PROSECUTION AND/OR DAMAGES FROM ANY SUCH PERSON TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. Any expenses and receipt and use of the prize and federal, state and local taxes and fees applicable in connection with the prize awarded are the sole responsibility of the winner. An IRS Form 1099 will be issued in the name of the winner for the actual value of the prize received. This Sweepstakes is subject to all federal, state and local laws of the United States. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Sponsor, Prize Supplier, and their respective officers, directors, parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies, employees, representatives and agents are not responsible for and shall not be liable for (i) any injuries, losses or damages of any kind caused by a prize resulting from acceptance, possession or usage of the prize, or (ii) printing, distribution or production errors. Sponsor or its affiliates may rescind any promotion found to contain such errors without liability at its or their sole discretion.

9. SPONSOR: The Sponsor of this contest is VerticalScope Inc. (the owner and operator of AutoGuide.com), 111 Peter Street, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, M5V 2H1.

Subscribe to our email newsletter and automatically be entered to win.
*Restrictions apply. See offer for details

Get Breaking Automotive News, Reviews and Video in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked