The redesigned 2014 Toyota Highlander is the latest example of the automaker’s attempt to offer more inspired designs. The redesigned Avalon and Corolla were Toyota engineers’ response to company president Akio Toyoda’s call to add passion to their vehicles, and the new Highlander makes it a trifecta.
In his review, New York Times contributor Tom Voelk gives high marks to the top-of-the-line Highlander Limited he test drove.
The redesigned interior of the $44,450 model he drove features simulated stitching and wood trim but he says it takes a “determined stare” to tell they’re not the real thing. Other notable features include a handy shelf that runs from the center of the dashboard to the passenger door and a one-way intercom to help the driver communicate with passengers seated in the third row.
Voelk liked the Highlander’s body lines and design elements which he likens to a “mash-up of Toyota4Runner and Dodge Durango.” The only exception being the headlights and tail lights which he says “stick out awkwardly.”
Toyota has also upgraded the Highlander’s suspension to reduce body roll and give it crisper handling characteristics. The new Highlander rides on the same platform used by the previous generation, with the addition of high-strength steel to provide front passengers with more protection in the event of an accident. Although the 2014 model is 3 inches longer and a bit wider and lower than its predecessor, headroom in the cabin’s rear is a bit tight.
Powertrain options include a 4-cyliner, V6 and Hybrid. The 4-cylinder is only available in a front-wheel drive configuration, while the V6 is also offered on an all-wheel drive model.
The V6 gets an E.P.A. estimated 18 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway; slightly lower than the class-leading Nissan Pathfinder. Other three-row competitors in the segment, including the Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Ford Explorer and Chevy Traverse come within 1 to 2 mpg of matching the Highlander.
Considering the fierce competition in the three-row crossover market, Voelk recommends test driving at least three before making your final buying decision. Otherwise, he says, “You might be missing out on the one that’s just right for your family.