Test Driving the 2014 Toyota Highlander

The Toyota Highlander has been redesigned and revamped for 2014 and it’s now larger and more luxurious than ever before. For starters, the car is now made of a rigid unibody structure that has been made to be a bit wider and longer, so that there is more available interior space, as well as an extra seat. On the outside, Toyota has also redesigned the Highlander’s styling to be a bit more aggressive in order to help it attract more male buyers and the conquest market, but we think that overall, the design is more modern and appealing to everyone. When it comes to the interior, Toyota has increased the seating room so that the Highlander now carries an 8th seat. That makes the Highlander the perfect vehicle for larger families. In addition, they have also increased the cargo capacity on the Highlander by 34%.

Upscale Amenities

From the soft-touch interior materials and satin chrome metallic accents throughout, to the sophisticated two tone dashboard design with its practically luxurious amenities, it’s clear that elements of Lexus’s style has trickled down to the redesigned Highlander, especially on its LE and Limited models. To that effect, you can get everything from an 8 inch touchscreen to heated seats on the Highlander.

A 6.1-inch high resolution touch-screen display actually comes standard on the LE and LE Plus, with an 8-inch high resolution touch-screen display coming standard on the XLE and Limited models. Heated and ventilated front seats are also available with the Limited grade, as well as a heated steering wheel and heated second row seats. Other pretty sweet options include a rear Seat Blu-ray DVD Entertainment system, 2nd row sunshades, and a panoramic moon roof. And while 18-inch alloy wheels come standard, you get 19-inch Chromtec wheels standard on the Limited.

Taking a Test Drive

The 2014 Highlander packs in a redesigned double wishbone rear suspension, upgraded six speed transmission, and the responsiveness of Dynamic Torque Control all wheel drive. This all translates to improved driving dynamics which speak volumes on the road.

We took the Highlander 2014 for a test drive on the roads of Charleston, South Carolina. We were immediately impressed with what a smooth ride the vehicle offers. As a matter of fact, your kids are much less likely to get road sick in this car thanks to its improved driving dynamics. But not only is the drive incredibly smooth, it’s also quieter than last year’s Highlander thanks to increased side impact protections which reduce vibration harshness. Handling on the road also feels really good, and despite being so large in size, the Highlander doesn’t feel too heavy a drive on the road.

Smart Storage

Sometime it’s the little things that you impress you most. To that effect, the 2014 Highlander has designed the dashboard with a clever in-dash shelf. This in-dash shelf is able to securely and conveniently hold your smartphone, cables, wallet and whatever else, so that the items are easily accessible, but won’t go flying out at a short stop. The shelf is even lined with soft padding. Plus, it houses a dedicated USB port so that you can have your smartphone charged and connected to the car while it’s being stored on the shelf. All in all, while this in-dash shelf is hardly a cutting edge addition to the vehicle, we consider it to be a brilliant addition to the Highlander.

Toyota has also increased the size of the center console so that it can now hold 38 cans! Why anyone would want to encourage that many rest stops… well that’s the driver’s onus. The 24.5L center console is also large enough to hold a large ladies handbag, and still able to offer a place for your arms to rest, even with the console open.

Safety

Toyota has also heavily focused on building the Highlander to be safe. And that includes preventive technologies. First and foremost, all of the Highlander vehicles come with a standard backup camera, and that seems pretty essential when you’re driving such a large vehicle. But beyond that, the car can also be configured with a Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert system which includes Rear Parking Assist Sonar and there is an available Driver Technology Package that includes a Pre- Collision system with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Automatic High Beam Headlights, and Safety Connect.

All in all, these preventive technologies are especially critical to parents deciding on a vehicle to carry their most precious cargo in. And we do see why they are so practical in everyday use – after all, it’s easy for kids to distract mom while she is driving, so at least mom has an A.I. on the road with her to help keep them safe.

In addition, to all of these preventative features, the Entune Audio system offers a hands-free Bluetooth system and advanced voice recognition, so that drivers can keep their eyes focused on the road.

Pricing

The 2014 Highlander is notably, being built in the USA, and pricing starts at $32,400 and goes up to around $44,000 for the LE and Limited models. Also, the improved MPG on this year’s model also means that it’s a better value over last year’s model. Furthermore, there are hybrid models coming later in the year.

Conclusion

The 2014 Toyota Highlander SUV is yet another nail in the mini-van’s coffin. It’s also quite the significant update to its predecessor, the 2013 model. To that effect, the 2014 Highlander offers families an incredibly spacious and secure ride that is surprisingly luxurious too. Parents will be impressed with its plethora of safety features and extra space, and drivers will appreciate the improved driving dynamics which offer a smoother ride. And then there are also the “little things” like the in-dash shelf that further remake the Highlander stand out amongst other SUVs out there.

All in all, there is no mistake to be made here, the 2014 Highlander is heavily focused on safety and convenience and it’s especially geared towards families, especially large ones. Which is why the Muppets are actually a perfect fit for their new #noroomforboring campaign which they will be debuting during Superbowl this sunday. So keep an eye out for the adorable Highlander commercials that packs the cast of the muppets into the Highlander.