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Sunday, March 02, 2014

2014 Toyota Highlander

PRICE : For 2014 Toyota Highlander $31,680

With all the family-friendly crossovers on the market these days, it's a full-time job just keeping them straight. So allow us to make your job a little easier. The 2014 Toyota Highlander is the granddaddy of this segment, and it's back this year with a whole new bag of tricks. A decade and a half ago, the original Camry-based Highlander became the first vehicle to blend the versatility of a midsize SUV with the ride and handling of a sedan. Now, facing a legion of tough rivals, the all-new, third-generation 2014 Highlander is out to regain its edge.

Truth be told, the second-generation Highlander was still a stud when Toyota put it out to pasture last year. We even called it an "ideal choice" in some respects, which is high praise indeed for a family hauler on its farewell tour. But that doesn't mean there wasn't room for improvement. In particular, the hard plastic dashboard failed to impress at this price point, as did the unremarkable technology features it housed. Also, the Highlander's rear accommodations had begun to feel a bit cramped by midsize crossover standards, especially in the third row. A reinvention wasn't strictly necessary, but signs of aging were increasingly apparent.

Take a look at the 2014 Highlander and it's apparent that the rest of the segment may now be playing catch-up. The new dashboard is a welcome addition, as Toyota has ditched the generic hard panels in favor of supple surfaces with artful curves. A larger 8-inch touchscreen is available, while desirable add-ons like adaptive cruise control help bring the options list up to date. Thanks to an extra 3.7 inches of width in the third row, there are now three seats back there instead of two, making the Highlander one of the few crossovers in this class with room for eight. The driving experience has been refined, too, with reduced cabin noise and a responsive new six-speed automatic transmission for the faultless V6 engine.

As well-rounded as the redesigned Highlander is, it's not the best at everything. If you want a truly adult-friendly third row, for example, the 2014 Ford Flex would be a better bet. Another perennial favorite of ours is the 2014 Mazda CX-9, which is more fun to drive and offers more cargo space as well. There's also the handsome-looking and sportier 2014 Dodge Durango or the three-row 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe, which stacks up nicely against the Highlander across the board.

But the Highlander has history and the Toyota nameplate on its side, and it's better than ever for 2014. Here's how you remember the all-new Highlander: It's the one that got this whole party started, and now it's the latest three-row crossover to raise the bar.


The exterior has really grown up for the third generation with a more mature stance. The large front grille leads the bolder design by looking somewhat similar to the Tundra’s grille. Around the side, nicely sculpted fender arches and black wheel well trim keep the rugged look. Out back, the rear taillights jut outward of the body and act as an aerodynamic feature to improve high-speed stability and to maintain the CUV’s broad-shoulder appearance.

Those taillights aren’t the only aerodynamic feature built into the bodywork, as an air diffuser resides below the rear bumper, while a spoiler is perched above the rear window. Wheel spats deflect air around all four wheels, and small fins integrated into the side mirrors move air around for stability and reduced wind noise.

Available on the range-topping Limited trim, a huge panoramic moonroof really opens up the cabin. A power sun shade slides from back to front to offer a break from the hot sun. I didn’t have that problem during my time with the Highlander, as the outside temps hovered just above freezing. Even with the shade retracted, the glass felt surprisingly insulated and didn’t make the cabin feel cold or drafty.


 Premium Interior Design with Advanced Functionality

Toyota engineers raised the bar on interior design for the mid-size SUV segment by adding even more refinement and functionality to the new Highlander. The 2014 model will offer a premium interior highlighted by increased spaciousness for up to eight people, and an array of standard comfort, convenience and technology features.

The new Toyota Highlander's interior utilizes premium materials to offer an upscale experience, with most models featuring standard contrast seat stitching. All Highlanders will come equipped with a soft-touch instrument panel; and silver-painted, satin, and chrome-plated accents that are thoughtfully placed throughout the interior. Wood-grain pattern trim can be found on the front dash and door trim for an added touch of elegance. Premium fabrics, available smooth and perforated leather-trim seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob add to Highlander's redesigned upscale interior. The adoption of a high quality knit roof lining and available second-row sunshades add to Highlander's refinement and comfort.

A new roll-top center console box with a dampened sliding door provides a comfortable armrest, or when fully opened is large enough to hold a large handbag. All Highlanders will feature a newly designed in-meter-cluster Multi-Information Display. Available ambient lighting around the front dash and doors add to the refined environment.

The second row offers bench-seating for three passengers or two captain's seats featuring a collapsible tray with cup holders for added convenience. Getting into the third-row is made easier with the addition of a one-step second-row sliding seat function that provides nearly three more inches of space for easier entry and exit to the third-row. An overall interior width increase of 4.3 inches in the third-row and a standard recline function creates added comfort for up to three passengers. Like the second-row bench, the third-row will be 40/60 split for added passenger and storage flexibility and convenience. Rear cargo space behind the third-row has also increased by up to 34 percent for added storage.

Additional available convenience features include an Automatic High Beam System, Auto Cruise Control, Smart Key, driver's seat memory, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row captain's seats, and a heated steering wheel.


 Transmission:6-Speed Auto
 Horsepower @ RPM:270
 Torque @ RPM:248
 Displacement:3.5 L
 0-60 time:7.8 sec. (Est.)
 Top Speed:105 mph (Est.)


As was the case with the RAV4, the Highlander's powertrains are carried over from the previous generation. One's an overlap: the 2.7-liter four-cylinder in base models is the only engine found in the smaller RAV4. Coupled to a six-speed automatic and offered only with front-wheel drive, the engine turns in 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.

Toyota says only about five percent of you will be interested in this base version. It's a price leader, mostly. While the four-cylinder Highlander accelerates reasonably and smoothly, it's configured without many of the features and options found on the V-6 models--features like all-wheel drive. Gas mileage is barely better than the V-6, too.

Of those, the far more common version will be the standard 3.5-liter six, with 270 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque, also teamed up with a six-speed automatic and in this case, a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. It's not the quickest alternative in the class--a turbocharged Ford Flex will blow all four doors off--but the Highlander's V-6 a smooth, fairly quiet commodity, uncontroversial in every dimension, with gas mileage that's no penalty versus the four-cylinder.

The Highlander we'd choose least often is the Hybrid. Compiled from a 231-hp version of the 3.5-liter V-6 and a pair of motors in front and one in back, the Hybrid nets 280 hp and pairs with an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (eCVT). All versions have through-the-road all-wheel drive, which means the gas power goes to the front wheels, while electric power passes only to the rear wheels. Adding 350 pounds of mechanical gear drags on the Hybrid's acceleration, putting it in four-cylinder territory--while we've struggled to hit any of its estimated fuel-economy figures in previous-generation Highlanders.

The Highlander's driving dynamics were long overdue for attention. The last edition had copious body roll and uncommunicative steering. Toyota has reworked the front-strut and independent-rear suspension for better handling, and much of the Highlander's substantial body lean has been tuned out. Ride quality is no longer cushy, but it's on the correct side of firm for a vehicle in this size class, though we'd avoid the optional 19-inch wheels to keep road ruts in check.

The Highlander's firmer-feeling electric power steering can even be called pleasant. It's as if all the invisible handling screws have been tightened a few complete turns, without ruining its family-wagon fundamentals.

The Highlander also can be rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds, so long as the non-Hybrid V-6 engine is installed; four-cylinder versions are rated at a puny 1,500 pounds.


 Improved Dynamic Performance, Handling, Efficiency

The new Toyota Highlander will be available in three powertrains. A 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine is equipped with a variable intake manifold and dual Variable-Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), which controls phasing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts to optimize torque and fuel efficiency. The 2.7-liter engine is teamed with a six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.

A 3.5-liter V6 is also equipped with dual VVT-i and a variable intake manifold. Acceleration and fuel efficiency are improved thanks to a new six-speed, electronically controlled automatic transmission (ECT) that offers selectable manual sequential shifting.

The Highlander Hybrid model's Hybrid Synergy Drive system pairs the 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine with a high-torque electric drive motor-generator for additional power and fuel efficiency.The new Toyota Highlander will provide a more dynamic driving experience, with new technologies that include Dynamic Torque Control All-Wheel Drive (AWD), enhancements in suspension performance, and optimized electric power steering. The spring rates and the shock absorbers have been optimally tuned to help enhance the vehicles handling characteristics.

Highlander will have a MacPherson strut front suspension, double-wishbone rear suspension, four-wheel disc brakes, 18-inch alloy wheels and available 19-inch alloys.

Highlander's Dynamic Torque Control AWD system automatically shifts from front-wheel drive (FWD) to AWD when accelerating or when sensors detect wheel slippage. The driver is able to view the torque-distribution settings on the meter display.

The Dynamic Torque Control AWD system continuously monitors and controls the torque transfer between the front and rear wheels via an electromagnetically controlled coupling positioned in the rear differential.Front to rear torque distribution can vary from 100:0 to 50:50, with front-wheel drive (100:0) automatically engaged under normal driving conditions to help improve fuel consumption.

The Dynamic Torque Control AWD system uses information sent from various sensors (speed, steering angle and speed, throttle angle and yaw rate) to automatically govern the transmission of torque to the rear wheels, as required.

A sophisticated, high-speed interactive management system coordinates control of the Dynamic Torque Control AWD, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Electric Power Steering (EPS) systems to enhance Toyota Highlander's performance, handling and safety.


Highlander comes with a choice of three powertrains: a 2.7-liter inline four-cylinder (185 hp/184 lb-ft of torque) standard in the LE only; a 3.5-liter V6 (270 hp/248 lb-ft of torque) available in the LE and standard in other models; and a gasoline-electric hybrid with a 3.5-liter gasoline V6 and two electric drive motors that produce 280 hp together as a system. The gas-only versions come with a six-speed automatic transmission, while the Hybrid gets a continuously variable automatic (CVT).  The four-cylinder engine is hooked up to the front wheels only. The V6 can be ordered with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and the Hybrid is all-wheel drive only.

I’ll follow up with a more extensive test drive of the different models in the near future. On this test drive, I got a chance to spend a few hours behind the wheel of a Hybrid Limited model, and a few more hours thrashing a gas-only V6 Limited. As in the past, Toyota has chosen to configure the Highlander Hybrid as a top-of-the-line model only, bundling the premium powertrain with a host of other premium features. That’s all good, except it makes the price of entry for a Hybrid very steep, starting at over $47,000.

 Driving the Hybrid is a seamless experience. The CVT is well-matched to the powertrain, delivering crisp performance and smooth operation. The gas-only V6, thanks to its traditional stepped automatic transmission, is a little more satisfying to drive, and can be ordered with a good mix of features for a much more reasonable price. Both Highlanders benefit greatly from the new suspension, with a smooth ride, controlled handling and cornering that is surprisingly agile. Toyota has made substantial improvements in NVH (noise/vibration/harshness), and as a result Highlander achieves near-luxury levels of driving refinement.


At 191.1 inches long, on a 109.8-inch wheelbase, the Highlander's stretched by three inches over the prior version, but none of it comes between the wheels. There's a half-inch more width, in what was already a fairly large vehicle--though one that's still noticeably smaller than competitors like the new Nissan Pathfinder.

The Highlander can seat up to eight passengers. In front, the chairs are like many we've sat in recently: better in softer, plusher fabric than in their leather-wrapped cousins, especially when ventilation is factored in. As much as we love the cooling effect, the feature takes the place of some valuable padding. To get power adjustment on both front chairs, by the way, you'll have to spend for the priciest Limited edition.

Behind the front buckets, separated by a tambour-covered console almost big enough for a gym bag, the Highlander totes five or six. The second row's either a three-person split-bench seat with a recline feature, or a pair of captain's chairs. The recline function's a good thing for tall passengers--we had to set the seatback at a slight angle to create headroom under one Highlander's standard power sunroof.

We admit we'll miss the "Center Stow" seat Toyota has offered in the past Highlander. It had a section in the middle bench seat that tucked away into the console, creating a pass-through to the third row. There's a flip-up cupholder tray to fill the space left behind, between captain's chairs. The new seat's less functional in that way, but it does slide on a track for good adjustability.

It can either nibble away its own leg room or increase it, taking up space from the reclining third-row seat, which has 4.3 inches more width for better comfort but hardly any more headroom, rendering it a place for tweens and kids, and not many other people.

It's more critical that Toyota has carved out more space behind the third-row bench for cargo. The third row folds flat, and out of the way so the crossover can be loaded up: there's up to 13.8 cubic feet behind the third row, 42.3 behind the second row, and 83.7 behind the front two seats--enough for a set of bunk beds or a round of extreme couponing.

The desire to put a Highlander through those paces is diminished, though. With each generation it's become nicer, quieter, calmer, and the leap in this generation's more marked than the last. Thicker acoustic glass damps powertrain noise, and insulation in the floor blots out vibrations, suspension chatter, and tire squawk. The soft-touch materials on the dash are rich, the woodgrain convincing, the tray formed into the dash a truly useful spot for all kinds of small electronics. It's come a long way from the boxy, utility-drawer 2001 Highlander...SEE ALL PHOTOS


Three different drivetrains are available. The base LE gets a 2.7-liter four cylinder with 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It’s only available in FWD, but does a decent job of moving the Highlander around town. The range-topping hybrid model comes only in Limited trim and is powered by a 3.5-liter, V-6 producing 280 horsepower when combined with the connected three electric Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motors. Two reside up front and one out back to power the rear wheels. The volume engine will be the standard 3.5-liter, V-6 available in all trim levels above the base LE. It kicks out 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. All three engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

In my time with the 3.5-liter Limited AWD model, I was impressed with its acceleration and handling. The AWD system with 50:50 torque split works well at eliminating torque steer that’s way more apparent on the FWD model. To the Highlander’s credit, the FWD’s torque steer wasn’t apparent until the throttle was buried.

Likewise, It’s only then when any harsh engine noise is noticeable. When accelerating up a steep on ramp, the engine was audible, but cruising around town or sitting at a red light, the engine is almost silent.

Fuel economy is also improved for the Highlander’s third generation. The base 2.7-liter I-4 with FWD is rated at 20 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. The volume-leading 3.5-liter with FWD comes in at 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined, while opting up for AWD drops each category by one mpg to 18/24/20. The hybrid is only available in AWD and makes a respectable 27/28/28


Toyota has worked hard to smooth out the Highlander’s ride. Up front, the MacPherson struts get returned coil springs and low-friction material inside the shocks provides better dampening when cornering or braking. Out back, an all-new double wishbone suspension features front and rear stabilizer bars to keep things on the straight and narrow. The main added benefit of the new setup being a reduced interior intrusion from tall shock towers – giving the third row an added chair. (The 2013 Highlander had a two-person third row)

Vented 12.9-inch rotors up front and 12.2-inch rotors out back bring the 4,134- to 4,861-pound CUV to a stop. A drum-style parking brake resides within the rear brake rotors.


The 2014 Toyota Highlander offers up a rich list of features, even in base four-cylinder models priced at about $30,000. All versions have premium cloth interiors, an Entune connectivity kit, and Bluetooth to go with the usual power features and conveniences. A rearview camera's also standard, as are a USB port, 18-inch wheels, and split-folding second- and third-row seats.

Add the Plus package and you'll get a power driver seat; satellite radio; three-zone automatic climate control; and a power tailgate with a flip-up glass window.

Highlander XLE crossovers come with pushbutton start; leather; heated front seats; a sunroof; navigation; Homelink garage door opener; and 5,000 pounds of towing capacity thanks to the standard V-6 engine. The second-row bench seat can be changed out for captain's chairs. A Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system is an option. A feature called Driver Easy Speak pipes in front-seat voices to back-seat voices in Highlander XLE and higher trims--making a shout at third-row kids a little less strained, if no less necessary.

Limited Highlanders get 19-inch wheels; rear parking sensors and blind-spot monitors; second-row captain's chairs; heating and ventilation for the front seats; a power front passenger seat; and premium audio. At this equipment level, gas-only Highlanders are priced right around $45,000--and Hybrids, $50,000.


Toyota has three engine options for the 2014 Highlander, though it already knows which is likely to be most popular. Cheapest is the 2.4-liter, 185HP four-cylinder, with front-wheel drive, though Toyota expects most to go for the 3.5-liter, 270HP V6. A new hybrid is on offer for 2014, pairing the V6 with a trio of electric motors for a total of 280HP.

That's a minor increase over the regular V6, true, but Toyota claims it comes with a neat bump in economy. The four-cylinder is rated for 22mpg combined and is only available with front-wheel drive (FWD), while the Hybrid-V6 is expected to get around 28mpg combined, and comes only in all-wheel drive (AWD). In-between slots the regular V6, rated for 21mpg in FWD form and 20mpg in AWD form.

Toyota has tried to pair the aggressive styling with a more sporty feel on-road, with mixed results. We spent the majority of our time in the V6, which has tauter suspension than the outgoing version, and promises to deliver more road-feel through the wheel. On a smooth road that pays dividends, but load the car up and you start to feel more tarmac imperfections than we'd prefer. It can also get a little uncomfortable for those at the back, swinging the Highlander around leaving its overall size clear.

In fact, the 2014 Highlander works much better if you treat it as a capable cruiser. Power delivered through the six-speed automatic - gaining a ratio over last year's model - is smooth and consistent, rather than punchy, easily capable of overtaking at highway speeds without a confused flurry of gear-changes.

Most of the time the AWD model feeds its torque to the front wheels, for better on-road dynamics, only bringing the rear wheels into play if Toyota's computers figure you're losing traction. The brakes are particularly impressive, hauling the SUV to a halt with no problems.

Toyota has been pushing the tech on its recent cars, and the Highlander benefits from that focus on gadgetry. That includes blind-spot warnings, sensors that flag up cross-traffic, and lane-departure sensors, while there are a total of eight airbags spread around the interior. Exactly which of the sensors you get is dependent on which trim level you splash out on - LE, LE Plus, XLE, and Limited - though all versions get a near-essential reversing camera...SEE ALL PHOTOS


The 2014 Toyota Highlander comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, a driver knee airbag, a front passenger seat-cushion airbag and full-length side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is also standard.

The Limited trim gets a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, and its optional Driver Technology package adds a frontal collision warning and mitigation system (with automatic braking), lane-departure warning and Toyota's Safety Connect telematics (emergency assistance, stolen vehicle location and automatic collision notification). Unfortunately, these items are unavailable on lesser Highlander trims.

In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Highlander received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. In the small-overlap frontal-offset test, the Highlander received the second-highest rating of "Acceptable." Its seat/head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.


The Highlander sets no fuel-economy records, but it's generally in line with other seven-passenger crossover SUVs.

The most frugal version of the Highlander, the four-cylinder model with front-wheel drive, doesn't fare much better than a Ford Flex with a V-6, though. The base Highlander's rated at 20 miles per gallon city, 25 mpg highway, and 22 mpg combined.

Highlander V-6s come with either front- or all-wheel drive. The front-drive model's pegged at 19/25 mpg, or 21 mpg, by the EPA. The all-wheel-drive version is rated at 18/24 mpg, or 20 mpg combined.

The most planet-conscious Highlander Hybrid fares much better, at least according to its EPA ratings of 27/28 mpg or 28 mpg combined. They're nearly identical to the prior Hybrid, though, and we've had trouble observing those figures in real-world driving.


Video by : Motormouth Canada


By : Automotive News & Super Modified Sports Cars

= Shahen Tharammal

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