2014 Toyota Highlander Review: Bigger And Better – Forbes

Posted: Saturday, February 01, 2014

Toyota’s midsize Highlander gets big changes for 2014. It’s larger, roomier, more upscale and looks more masculine than the model it replaces.

This midsize sport utility vehicle has been a hit since first introduced as a 2001 model. Toyota sold more than 127,000 Highlanders in 2013, up 26 percent from the previous year. That’s a huge increase by any measure, but it’s even more impressive considering that 2013 was the last year in which the previous version of the Highlander was sold.

Usually, sales dwindle the older a vehicle gets, and then plummet in the waning years before a major redesign. But sales of the Highlander, now in its third generation, have remained strong since it was first introduced as a 2001 model.

Toyota’s reputation for building reliable, practical and high-quality vehicles has kept it relevant all these years.

Exterior

One of the biggest complaints about the previous Toyota Highlander was that it didn’t look enough like a truck. Men in particular made a big deal about the styling in customer focus groups, says Josh Hoffmann, brand manager at Toyota Motor Sales. But women also cared a lot about the looks.

The 2014 Highlander is more macho. It has a huge front grille, angry-looking headlights and wide, beefy fenders. The front is so bold that it makes the Highlander almost look like a caricature of a burly SUV.

Its amped-up attitude fits with Toyota’s new focus on creating more emotional designs. (Read about this new approach here.)

Toyota improved the vehicle’s aerodynamics with a lower roof line, small fins under the rear bumper and on either side of the rear window, among other changes. Smoothing airflow over the vehicle helps to improve fuel economy by reducing wind resistance.

Interior

Mid-size SUVs are the minivans of the new millennium, so to speak. Style-conscious parents who need three-row seating prefer them over real minivans even though they aren’t as practical, because they’re not as frumpy.

The good news is that Toyota greatly improved the interior of the 2014 Highlander. It’s still not as spacious as a minivan, but it’s close.

The 2014 Toyota Highlander is 3 inches longer and about half an inch wider than the previous model. There is 30 percent more cargo space behind the standard third row.

It also seats one more occupant than before, for a total of eight. That’s because the third row now accommodates three people instead of two, thanks to a redesigned rear suspension system that allows for a wider seat.

Thinning out the backs of the front seats increased room in the second row. The amount of legroom feels downright decadent, almost like in a stretched limousine. Adding to that vibe is are the comfortable seats.

The increased legroom in the second row also gives more space to third-row occupants because it allows those in the second row to move farther forward without compromising comfort.

The third row of the 2014 Toyota Highlander now seats three. (Credit: Toyota)

The third row of the 2014 Toyota Highlander now seats three. (Credit: Toyota)

Wide doors and seats that slide out of the way make getting into and out of the third row easier than before. Three kids or two average-sized adults will be comfortable back there on short- to moderate-length trips.

The second row can be outfitted with optional “captains chairs” on upper trim levels of the 2014 Highlander. These individual seats with armrests are more comfortable than the standard bench seat and allow easier access to the third row because of the space between them. But they decrease the overall seating capacity from eight to seven.

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