The 2014 Toyota Highlander is the third generation of this mid-size SUV with updates that improve its looks, handling, and utility.
Toyota is a brand known for producing reliable cars that do the job at a decent price without getting too fancy. The Highlander fits that image providing a mid-size SUV that sits right in between the smaller, sportier RAV4 and the very large 4Runner. It’s not too small, not too big, but just right. Goldilocks would approve.
The bears, however, would appreciate the Highlander’s ample interior space as it can comfortably seat 8 passengers and still have room for cargo behind the third row. If you need to bring along a lot of cargo with those 8 people, then you can hook up a trailer and tow up to 5,000 additional pounds.
The Toyota Highlander XLE falls in the middle of the model range and comes with heated front seats that are 8-way power-adjustable for the driver, 4-way for the passenger. They’re very comfortable and can be pushed back for plenty of legroom and raised high so that anyone can see over the huge hood.
Second and third row passengers get bench seats with 60/40 splits for when it’s about cargo, not people. The second row also gets sunshades and their own climate control buttons, which are great for keeping everyone in the car happy at the same time.
There are an impressive number of storage cubbies in the Highlander. A little shelf that runs along almost the entire dash is perfect for your key fob, sunglasses, or phone and even has a pass through to plug it in and charge it while keeping the wires out of the way. There’s also a cavernous center storage compartment. You could easily put an entire Mom-sized purse in there and still have room for more stuff.
The Toyota Highlander base models come with a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder but the XLE we tested sports a 3.5-liter 6-cylinder with 270 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque. This is all paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted. It also features a snow setting to help keep your wheels from spinning like tops in bad weather.
This third generation features a reworked front strut and independent rear suspension that has improved the Highlander’s overall handling. There’s also new electric power steering. It all combines to provide a drive that’s very car-like. It’s controlled and solid on the road without becoming unwieldy at highway speeds. Acceleration is strong, but not impressive.
They’ve also improved the ride by making the cabin quieter. Looking at that huge grille you get a sense that this will ride like a truck, but that’s not the case. This is a smooth, refined, and very quiet car that, while not luxurious, is still very nice.
It’s also very safe with all the requisite airbags and a now standard rear view camera. It was rated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety as a Top Safety Pick+ and given a 5-star rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Optional safety features include blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, parking assist, and lane-departure warning.
The Highlander XLE comes with Toyota’s Entune Premium audio system which features an 8″ touchscreen, navigation, app suite, AM/FM CD player, MP3/WMA playback, six speakers, aux jack, and USB port. There’s also hands-free phone capability, Bluetooth streaming, and voice recognition. The infotainment system is easy to use and uncluttered with plenty of physical buttons so you don’t have to be digging through menus with a touchscreen.
Fuel economy runs 18 city/24 highway/20 combined which isn’t anything special. It puts the Highlander solidly in with the rest of the pack. It’s bested by the Nissan Pathfinder but on all other fronts it’s an almost negligible difference between models in this class.
Looking at all that the Highlander has to offer, you might be bracing yourself to hear what it costs. Relax, this is a Toyota, so it’s not priced sky-high. The base LE starts at $30,000 with the Limited coming in at the top of the range at $40,000. There is also a hybrid option that marks the highest priced Highlander with a bit heftier $47,500 price tag. Our XLE was $37,843.
The 2014 Toyota Highlander is a solid choice for an 8-passenger SUV offering affordable comfort as well as plenty of versatility at a price that’s easy on your wallet.
2014 Toyota Highlander XLE
Base Price: $37,500
Price As Tested: $37,843 (not including destination charge)
- Versatile Cargo/Passenger Space
- Solid Handling
- Fuel Economy
- Overly Large Front Grille