2014 – 2015 Toyota Highlander First Drive Review

2014 toyota highlander the big news for the 2014 model year is that this highlander is now available in an 8 seat passenger version which means that this competes very directly with the likes of the honda pilot as well as GM’s Llano triplets which includes things like the chevy traverse as well as the
GMC acadia the highlander also competes

with the likes of the ford explorer as
well as the nissan pathfinder but because this is a prototype vehicle and we’re at a launch event we won’t have too much time to compare it with the direct competition so be sure and check back on this channel in February when we get our hands on one for a complete week and we’ll fill in all the details at that point 2014 brings us a much bolder front and I’m not sure if I like this grill that much it is definitely larger and more aggressive than last year’s model and these headlamps are also quite dramatic compared to the outgoing Toyota
Highlander down here you’ll find

standard fog lamps as well as daytime
running lamps that are LEDs in higher level trims these headlamps are an interesting look they stick out quite far from the body that’s something that a lot of Japanese companies have been doing lately I’m not entirely clear whether I like the style or not but we’re told that part of the reason for this is all in aerodynamics and reducing the wind noise in the tota Highlander something that is definitely improved for this 2014 model year this look is also mimicked on the back of the Highlander so let’s go around there now you can really see from this angle how dramatically these rear tail lamps stick out from the back side of the vehicle again I’m not really sure how much I like that but do let me know what you
think in the comments section down below

the rear end of the 2014 Highlander is
notably more exciting than the last Highlander that was something that apparently a lot of Highlander owners complained about was that the car was just a little bit too boxy a little bit too boring and didn’t really fit in with the rest of the more dramatic crossover crowd and Toyota’s really fixed that with this generation depending on which model you get you can get a rear separate opening glass the base models of the Highlander do not get this glass that opens separately from the tailgate but the xle and limited models do get it and it is very handy we also have a power opening rear tailgate which is also a very handy feature in this segment and one thing that I kind of like but you know people may Vera
pinions may vary on this feature is that

they put the power tailgate button right
here on the tailgate itself rather than on the side down here the exhaust tips are hidden on every highlander model so rather than having a very dramatic rear end with dual exhaust tips we only have one exhaust tip and it’s hidden right down there on the right side of the vehicle the biggest change for 2014 and the Highlander is this side profile view and that’s because things aren’t awful lot more dramatic and more exciting than they were last year I’m seeing an awful lot of Jeep Grand Cherokee in this design which is a very good thing we have this sort of sloping rear profile here and this actually more of an optical illusion that an actual sloping rear profile because the roof height is fairly constant as we go rearward in the Highlander it just gives this appearance of a more coupe like profile which is
quite attractive the windows also get a

little smaller as we go towards the rear
we still have fairly slab slides and a fairly mainstream character line as we go across the vehicle the other thing that you’re going to notice about the Highlander for 2014 is how long this is it’s become three inches longer than the last generation Highlander although this isn’t as long as something like a Chevy Traverse it is still a decent amount larger than it was last year and larger than something like a Kia or a Hyundai competitor to the Highlander the chassis lengthening is all because of the rear seat passengers because we now get a third row that seats three in the Highlander so that means this is an eight passenger vehicle two up front three in the middle and three in the back as I’ve come to expect with modern cars when we look down here at the wheels they’ve gotten bigger for 2014

they’re an inch larger all the way

across the model lineup Toyota’s also
done something a little bit interesting with the high-end trims of the Highlander if you opt for the chrome tech package it’s not really a chromed alloy wheel like you might assume it’s actually an alloy wheel like this one this is a regular old alloy wheel here but then they put on top of this alloy wheel a plastic chromed cover I guess you’d call it sort of like a hubcap only it’s not removable so it’s permanently bonded to the alloy wheel I’m not sure how well those will last I really want to see what those look like after they’ve been curbed a few times I think it’s a little bit of a disappointment that Thota doesn’t allow you to replace that chrome cover I think it would be a great selling point if you did curb your wheel and you could replace that chrome tech cover it would make repairs an awful lot less expensive not too much has changed under the hood for the Highlander which means you still won’t

find any boosted four-cylinder engines

under here things start out with the base 2.7 liter four-cylinder engine it’s basically the same engine you’ll find in the Toyota Camry 185 horsepower 184 pound-feet of torque that’s mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission and power is sent only to the front wheels there’s no all-wheel drive option available with that four-cylinder engine Toyota tells us that only about 5% of customers will be choosing that four-cylinder engine so most people will have this 3.5 liter v6 that we have right here it produces 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque and new for this year it is now mated to the same 6-speed automatic as the four-cylinder got which is an improvement over last year like last

year you can opt for the top-end model
with the 3.5 liter based hybrid system it produces 280 horsepower and about 280 pound-feet of torque although todah doesn’t really say for sure the heart of that system is both the traditional hybrid power split device under the hood right here with two motor generator units and a third motor generator unit in the back powering the rear axle which is good for about 75 horsepower that’s somewhat similar to the Acura RLX system where there is no mechanical connection between the front wheels and the rear wheels so under full throttle acceleration the most power you can ever send to the rear in a Toyota Highlander Hybrid it’s about 75 horsepower or so that’s quite a bit different than the 3.5 liter v6 gasoline only version of the Highlander which can lock the center coupling and send 50% of the power and torque to the rear axle thanks to the new 6-speed automatic transmission on the 3.5 liter gasoline engine fuel economy has improved over last year by about one mile per gallon across the board whether you have the all wheel drive version or the front wheel drive version before we hop inside let’s talk pricing the base Highlander with the 2.7 liter engine will cost you twenty nine thousand two hundred fifteen dollars and the most expensive Highlander available is going to be a fully loaded hybrid and
it will set you back forty nine thousand

four hundred seventy dollars
the majority of Highlanders sold we’re told about 80 percent will be the xle or the limited trim which range between $36,000 for the cheapest xle and about $42,000 for limited with most of the options although we’re in the xle model right now Toyota tells us that the one step up Limited model is actually going to be the volume seller for the Highlander they expect about 40% of the models to be that Highlander Limited one thing to keep in mind is that the eight passenger seating package is only available in the Highlander XLE and below it’s actually the standard package and then you opt from there into the 7 seater package in the xle in below and then limited hybrid and above etc those all have the 7 you’re seeding as standard for the driver we have a standard tilt telescoping steering wheel with a decent range of motion and the steering wheel is a little bit more attractive than some of the other tow two steering wheels that we’ve seen in the past we still have a foam injection molding going on right here on the airbag cover but there are no harsh points like you’d find in the Toyota rav4 do have a

leather steering wheel in most of the

models as well over here to the left of the driver we have a button bank that kind of reminds you that you didn’t choose all the options available on the highlander because there are a lot of blank buttons there in our xle model the driver seat is very comfortable for this category it’s also is quite adjustable we have a bottom seat extending feature right here in the xle and the limited and hybrid models and also have a two-way lumbar support the power passenger seat is standard on the xle and the limited model as well but it doesn’t have the same range of motion as this driver’s seat second row comfort in the highlander is very good for this segment as well the seat bottom cushions aren’t as close to the floor as some entries in the mid-sized crossover segment meaning that it’s more comfortable for an adult or an adolescent to sit in this seat in relative comfort we have manual forward and backward adjustment on the seat as well as a reclining seat mechanism this is the most reclined position as you can see right there that’s in both the seven
passenger and the eight passenger

versions of the highlander if i move
over to the middle seat we get a little bit of a headroom loss back here but i still have about an inch and a half of headroom left the model of highlander that we’re in right now has the rear seat entertainment system which is this pop down screen from the roof and we also have the smaller sunroof option there is a panoramic sunroof option available in the highlander but it does severely cut down the rear headroom especially in that third row back there if i move over to the far right side you can see i do have a decent amount of legroom left between this second row seat and this front seat which was adjusted for a six foot five passenger that we had in the car earlier the important thing about that is that i can really move up this middle seat quite a bit in order to give that third row seat some room so let’s check this out right now i have about three inches of legroom left behind this seat right here I might even recline it just a touch right there now let’s hop in the third row and see how that third row is entering the third row is fairly easy we do have a little lever right there which
allows you to

push that seat forward although tota
does not advertise this as such I suspect that you could probably keep a smaller child seat in this second row seat well it was collapsed forward there’s also a another way of doing this and that’s what this handle right here you can lean that seat almost all the way forward like that you can also use this other handle right here on the bottom of the seat to fold that seat forward and then scoot it all the way forward if you so desire this seat does not however fold and tumble like certain designs so you can’t fold this seat and then tumble it into position up there and give yourself a little bit more room either way it’s fairly easy to get into the back seat which is somewhat cramped if I’m honest this is not the largest back seat available in this class you can tell just by looking at the position of my legs as well as the seats back here this is definitely a mother-in-law or small child third row my head’s also touching the ceiling if I move all the way over to the right push that headrest up and try and sit back in this third row seat the headrest
as you can see is kind of hitting me at

the top of the back rather than on the
head and my hair is brushing the ceiling if I move this front seat up to its most upright position right there we get a little bit more legroom and if I move the seats all through the car to be suitable for a six-foot passenger that would be the front seat the middle row as well as this back row then you get a little bit more room you can also recline this third row back a decent amount the recline is actually fairly severe in this third row but if you do that then your head is a little bit close to the glass which makes me just a tiny bit uncomfortable however I could probably do this for you know an hour or so or off to lunch if I needed to this third row middle seat isn’t quite as high off the ground as this second row middle seat although my hair is still touching the ceiling an interesting feature available on the 2014 highlander is called driver easy talk and you can kind of think about it as an in-car intercom there’s a microphone up front that’s used for the Bluetooth system as well as the voice recognition system and if driver easy talk is enabled the car will use that as sort of a one-way intercom so that way the passengers in this third row can more easily hear the driver without the driver having to really speak up or yell throughout the cabin but it doesn’t allow the rear passengers to talk to the front passenger in that
same assisted way so the rear passengers

still have to talk up a little bit

let’s take a quick walk around the interior as you can see the driver and the front passenger have height adjustable seatbelts two-way adjustable headrests there these are anti whiplash seats they’ve gotten a little bit thinner for this year as you can see that’s to help improve legroom for the rear passengers since we’re in the xle model we get standard leather seats and in the limited model we get standard perforated cooled leather seats as well over on the doors and dashboard Toyota has made extensive use of soft touch plastics which really bring up the Highlanders game in this competitive segment over here we have a soft touch injection molded dashboard soft touch plastics in this little shelf right here and then hard plastics lower in the dashboard let’s take a closer look at that shelf as you can see it runs all the way from the passenger side all the way along to the front of the Highlander it allows you to put cellphones keys and other widgets right there in this fairly deep shelf so that way they don’t slide around too much there’s this little plug which also acts as a divider allowing to put something like a cell phone right here on that side of this little cubby right there so it won’t roll around this is kind of a large Android cell phone that Toyota has provided with the car as you can see it doesn’t quite fit there but it does fit in this section right over here we also have a little divider right there this divider over here acts like a plug so you can pull it out and
it allows you to run your USB cables or

charging cables to the usb and charging

ports right down there below in the dashboard xle and limited models get the standard 8 inch touchscreen infotainment and navigation system lower end models get a slightly smaller touchscreen with essentially the same software – the navigation below is where you’ll find the tri-zone climate control in xle and limited models base models get a dual zone climate control system that’s one zone up front and one zone in the rear again there are USB charging connectors right under there and then down here you’ll find things like your stability control program hill descent Assist and a locking center coupling moving back we get two large cupholders that easily accommodated large drinks we have our heated seats in our xle model if we were in a limited model we get slightly different switches right along here that both heated and cooled and we have a very large center console interestingly enough these are soft touch plastics on top but it is actually a roller top so like you’d find those you know multi divided desk roller tops that’s quite the same thing going on right there only it has a soft touch plastic top this is a very very large center console with a removable divider you can see it quite deep in there and we have a 12-volt power plug in there as well allows you to put supposedly 50 something juice boxes in there if you so desire or large purses we’re told xle
and limited models get a four dial

instrument cluster very similar to the

hybrid instrument cluster of course the hybrid would replace the tachometer with the hybrid power meter xle limited and hybrid models all get this color multi information display right here in the center lower end models get a black and white display moving out we can take a closer look at the steering wheel over here we have a radio and phone buttons and then over here these buttons control that multi information display and cruise control is on a stalk like you typically find with Toyota taking a look in the rear we can see that that rear seat is in its most reclined positions a little bit difficult to see the detail right there if we move over to this seat it is in its most upright position second row passengers an xle and limited get standard rear sunshades there which are very handy you’ll also find door plastics that don’t depart from the front door plastics that’s fairly common in vehicles to get cheaper plastics as you go rearward but we still have plenty of soft touch plastics here and then of course here on the door as well in the rear the rear seat entertainment system is ceiling mounted and we have a blu-ray disc player with a secure digital card slot as well as a fairly decently sized screen we’re out here on California’s Highway one testing the 2014 highlander because this is now one of the better handling vehicles in this mid-sized crossover segment whereas the last highlander was towards the bottom of the

pack that’s due to a number of things

first off we have skinnier rubber on
those tires and I don’t mean width of the tires I’m actually mean the aspect ratio so it’s less rubber going on on those wheels but thanks to those wheels growing this year that means that we have less give in those tires which adds to crisp or feel out on the road but we also have much stiffer Springs than we had before the Highlander in 2013 was a fairly soft crossover vehicle and for 2014 this is now towards the upper end of the pack in terms of Road feel as well as handling ability and I know that sounds like a strange thing coming from Toyota but trust me you need a test drive one of these things and you’ll instantly see the difference between this Highlander and the last generation of Highlander also adding to that is the new rear suspension design the old suspension in the Highlander was honestly designed for packaging as well as cost this generation of Highlander now has a much slimmer rear suspension of to a double wishbone suspension which is typically found in luxury vehicles but the reason for that is again packaging because the rear seats are about three inches wider or so than before even though the Highlander has only grown about half an inch and overall width that’s how they Jam the three people in that third row seat to give you the eight passenger seating however it pays dividends out on the road because the rear suspension is much much better than the outgoing version decaling version really felt a little uneasy and quite unsure out on the road especially on rough pavement it was kind of unsettling because you had those soft Springs and a rear suspension design that just never really felt totally settled out on

winding mountain roads means that out on
these roads we have an awful lot less tip and I have an awful lot less body roll than we had before in the previous generation highlander and we have a highlander that’s actually fun to drive out on these mountain roads whether you get the front wheel drive version or the all-wheel-drive version now i had a chance today to test the all-wheel drive v6 the front-wheel drive v6 and the front-wheel drive four cylinder engine unfortunately that 4 cylinder engine is only available in the base model of highlander which i think is a shame because that’s a very good engine very well suited to the highlander even though it only has a hundred and eighty something horsepower the performance is fairly good this v6 all-wheel drive model slotted in just over 7 seconds 260 right between seven and seven and a half will have that final number when we get one for a week so be sure and stay tuned for that but the v6 is fairly reasonable for this segment the four cylinder honestly isn’t that far behind it felt like it was around eight to eight and a half seconds which is acceptable for the mid-sized crossover segment fuel economy depends greatly on which engine you choose that four-cylinder engine averaged about twenty six miles per gallon for us the v6 with all the drive has been averaging about 16 or 17 miles per gallon making it just about or slightly below average in this segment the hybrid model scored 28 miles per gallon average in our test which is right around what the EPA says you’ll get and it makes it the most fuel efficient gasoline engine available in this midsize 3-row crossover segment only the Grand Cherokee exceeds that number and it’s a two row five passenger SUV that doesn’t exceed it too much and it’s only in the diesel version and the

diesel will cost you an awful lot more

to operate than the gasoline electric highlander will at 72 71 decibels in my measurements this 2014 model has made significant strides in terms of cabin quietness however it is still louder than something like a GMC Acadia a Buick Enclave or something like a Dodge Durango it is however a little bit quieter than something like a Kia Sorento or one of those other entries towards the bottom of this 3 row segment 2014 repositions the highlander as more of a drivers crossover than it ever has been in the past well this isn’t as fun as something like a Dodge Durango which is rear-wheel drive this is a great improvement over the last model and if you’re looking for something in this three row cross or a segment that has a little bit more excitement to it then the highlander is definitely a decent option especially if you’re looking for an 8 passenger crossover vehicle because your real only options in this segment are this pilot that’s right in front of me as well as a 3-row crossover from General Motors and those three row GM crossovers are fairly heavy that Buick Enclave is the cupcake shy of 5,000 pounds meaning that this Highlander is a decent amount more
nimble out on the road with the revised

suspension design in this highlander

it’s also an awful lot more stable and an awful lot more planted now the four-cylinder engine is front-wheel drive only and the base 3.5 liter v6 is front-wheel drive as well so you do get a decent amount of torque steer and other front-wheel drive feel out on the road same thing goes on with the hybrid actually because the hybrid can only send about 75 horsepower to the rear so you still get one wheel peel as well as some torque steer in that model Toyota has upped their technology game for 2014 making available certain driver assistance and safety features that they haven’t offered in the past like radar cruise control blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning compared to the competition however some of those features aren’t quite as advanced like the radar cruise control system that’s available in this highlander only operates above 35 miles an hour it’s not a full speed range system and it operates in a higher speed range than some of the other entries in this segment which typically cut out around 15 or 20 miles an hour you also won’t find things like front parking sensors all around view cameras or self parking systems in the Highlander but it does mean that it’s going to be easier to find the model that you want on the lot because there are fewer variations of the Highlander instead Toyota makes it a lot easier to purchase one by packaging all those options into packages rather than having a million standalone options

if you’re shopping for a midsize 3-row
crossover vehicle then the Highlander definitely deserves a place at the top of your list especially if you’re looking for an eight-passenger crossover vehicle because this seriously tops GM’s landed platforms as well as the honda pilot the pilots getting a little bit old and the highlander definitely drives better than any of those other options part of the problem with the lambda triplets from General Motors is that they’re quite heavy for an SUV they’re actually of almost as heavy as the full-sized body on frame SUVs from General Motors and they’re also very large if you are shopping for that eight passenger crossover then you need to ask yourself how comfortable you want those eight passengers to be because the third row in the Highlander just isn’t as large as the full-size lambda crossovers or as large as something like a Ford Flex which is very boxy and has an awful lot of rear headroom however this is just about as comfortable.

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