Are you the gal who never says no? The PTA prez has asked you to pick up 50 cakes for the bake sale, your daughter’s dance troupe needs a lift to a recital, one of your gal pals just bought a horse and needs to haul it to the barn? Ok, the last one’s probably a stretch. But you need roomy wheels. How about a chic ride that can seat up to eight, can tow up to 5,000 pounds, and has a contemporary, sophisticated appeal? Few can match the can-do attitude and good looks of the completely redesigned 2014 Toyota Highlander.
By Tara Weingarten
Are you the gal who never says no? The PTA prez has asked you to pick up 50 cakes for the bake sale, your daughter’s dance troupe needs a lift to a recital, one of your gal pals just bought a horse and needs to haul it to the barn? Ok, the last one’s probably a stretch. But you need roomy wheels.
How about a chic ride that can seat up to eight, can tow up to 5,000 pounds, and has a contemporary, sophisticated appeal? Few can match the can-do attitude and good looks of the completely redesigned 2014 Toyota Highlander.
10 Things To Know About The 2014 Toyota Highlander
Please don’t belittle me for saying this, but one of the most awesome features of the all-new Toyota Highlander is its deep, wide storage compartment in the center console. For as long as I’ve been writing about cars, I’ve heard women lament the lack of a dedicated spot in cars for our purses. And they’re right. We always set our bags on the passenger seat, if no one’s there. Or on the passenger floor well. But invariably, our purses fall over, our junk tumbles out, and our lipsticks and small change wedge into crevices of the car, never to be found again. Enter Toyota’s gift to women…the center console cubby. Just pop your purse in the huge covered bin and it stays upright and secure.
And guys, don’t feel left out. The space is large enough to hold a 15″ laptop and all of your electronic gear.
Seating for eight. Yep, in all of the 2014 Toyota Highlander trim levels except the Limited model, there’s ample seating for eight. The second-row seats easily slide forward to make entry to the third row a breeze. The top-of-the-line Limited model has seating for up to seven, with two captain’s chairs in the second row (separated by a folding table in the middle), and seating for three in the third row.
Five trim levels to fit all budgets. The entry-priced LE has a 4-cylinder engine that’s a bit sluggish when merging into highway traffic. But it gets slightly better fuel economy (one mpg in city and highway driving) than the more powerful V6, 3.5L engine version. The 4-cylinder engine is offered only on the LE model. A hybrid engine is available only on the Limited trim level (the most expensive trim level), and includes all upgrades like a panoramic sunroof, 19″ Chrome wheels, and an 8″ touchscreen for $47,300.
Standard safety features on all trim levels include a backup camera, whiplash injury lessening seats (to reduce the possibility of whiplash), and eight airbags, including a new front-seat cushion airbag to keep the driver and front passenger upright in the event of a crash. Some safety features are included on pricier trim levels, and they include: Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (beeps in backup mode when someone crosses the Highlander’s path), Lane Departure Alert, which flashes lights to alert driver they’re veering out of their lane, Auto High Beam Headlights, which automatically dim with oncoming cars, and Safety Connect, which calls a help center in the event of an accident.
A dashboard shelf. Again, don’t laugh. But it’s the little things in cars that get me going. The shelf, which is line with soft-touch rubber, holds both the driver and the passengers’ smart phones at near eye-level. No more fumbling for the phone, or placing it in the cup holder (which should be used for cups, after all.) A small pass through in the shelf allows chargers to connect the phones or MP3 players to the electrical outlets below.
Steering feels a bit wonky in the 2014 Toyota Highlander. On a twisty road, I was constantly having to correct the steering. I would turn into a curve, and then I’d have to adjust it a bit to keep on track. It was not a huge thing, but I noticed it. I also felt that the steering made the Highlander feel heavy and big. On the media launch, we were driving prototype vehicles, so I am hoping that full-production vehicles will have this problem fixed. I will keep you posted when we are able to drive a production model and update as needed.
The Highlander’s ride quality is great. It’s pretty quiet inside, the vehicle takes bumps well, and my passenger and I were comfortable in roomy, well proportioned seats.
Backseat riders aren’t treated like third-class citizens. Unlike some mid-size SUVs, the 2014 Toyota Highlander gives all trim levels air vents in the second and third rows, along with optional three-zone automatic climate controls. An available rear-seat entertainment system serves both second and third-row riders.
All trim levels on the 2014 Toyota Highlander, except the top-of-the-line Limited, have a 6.1″ touch screen for navigation and audio. All trims get a dual-zone climate control for front and backseats, and daytime running lights. New soft-touch materials feel luxurious, and satin chrome metallic accents on the dashboard, doors and center consoles look great.
Harried moms will love the Driver Easy Speak feature (available on XLE and Limited models), in which an overhead microphone projects the driver’s voice to backseat passengers through the vehicle’s audio speakers, allowing the driver to scream at the kids while still facing forward, keeping her eyes on the road.
The 2014 Toyota Highlander is made for large families. If you're not the minivan kind, this mid-size SUV is aimed at you. With goodies like an optional panoramic sunroof, heated front seats (on certain trim levels), and easy to use climate and audio controls, the Highlander is well thought out. Another plus: the 2014 Toyota Highlander is completely American made, in Princeton, Indiana.
The deep center console cubby is just the right size for my purse and my iPad.
Pretty and sophisticated. The Highlander looks more expensive than it is.
Steering that makes the vehicle feel heavy and a bit bigger than it is.