2014 Toyota Highlander Preview
The redesigned 2014 Toyota Highlander is longer and wider than the model it replaces, offering 8-passenger seating in a midsized crossover SUV package. This new Highlander is about the same size as a Honda Pilot, but is not quite as large as a Chevrolet Traverse, Dodge Durango, GMC Acadia, or Nissan Pathfinder.
Key 2014 Highlander design highlights include a large trapezoidal grille, new wraparound headlights and taillights, and what Toyota calls "deeply sculptured" fenders. A set of 18-inch aluminum wheels is standard for the LE and XLE trim levels, while the new Highlander Limited is equipped with 19-inch aluminum wheels.
To accommodate eight people, the redesigned 2014 Highlander's cabin is equipped with a third-row seat that is 4.3 inches wider than the previous model and a second-row seat designed to make entering and exiting the third-row easier. Toyota also says it has improved cargo space behind the third-row seat, adding 34% of volume, which translates to 13.8 cubic feet of space when cargo is stacked to the roof. A power tailgate with adjustable height settings is also new for the redesigned Highlander.
Toyota says the new Highlander's interior "will raise the bar" for midsize crossover SUVs. Soft-touch materials, improved headliner fabric, premium cloth seats, large roll-top center storage console, leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a blend of simulated wood, metallic, and chrome accents are designed to make good on the automaker's assertion. Toyota also says it has taken steps to reduce noise, vibration, and harshness in its redesigned family crossover SUV.
Depending on the trim level selected, the 2014 Toyota Highlander can be optioned with numerous extras. Leather seats, heated and ventilated in front, are available, along with second-row captain's chairs, second-row window shades, and a heated steering wheel.
The new Highlander can also be equipped with ambient cabin lighting and a panoramic glass sunroof, as well as a Smart Key passive entry system with push-button starting and an automatic cruise control system. Infotainment upgrades include a larger 8-inch color touch screen with Entune App Suite technology, JBL premium sound system, and a rear-seat entertainment system with input jacks for game consoles.
Under the Hood
Toyota did not divulge the 2014 Highlander's horsepower and torque figures when the new crossover debuted. But the automaker did confirm that the standard engine is a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder, the upgrade engine choice is a 3.5-liter V-6, and that both engines will drive the SUV's front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The Highlander Hybrid returns for 2014, equipped with a gas-electric hybrid powertrain that can power the SUV at low speeds using nothing but the electricity stored in its battery pack, according to Toyota. Toyota did not announce whether it will replace the Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain's current nickel-metal hydride battery pack for a more compact and contemporary Lithium-ion battery. The Highlander Hybrid is likely to continue with its continuously variable transmission (CVT) and dual electric assist motors, which effectively provide all-wheel drive.
A Dynamic Torque Control AWD system is optional, though Toyota does not say whether or not it will be paired exclusively with the 3.5-liter V-6. The system continuously monitors vehicle speed, steering angle, throttle position, and yaw rate to vary engine torque distribution from a 100:0 front-to-rear split to a 50:50 front-to-rear split. At low speeds, the system can be locked into a 50:50 split for maximum traction.
The new Toyota Highlander is equipped with eight standard air bags, reversing camera system, and Smart Stop technology that is designed to make it impossible for the driver to accidentally accelerate if the brake pedal is pressed. Safety-related options include rear park-assist sensors, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure alert system, blind-spot monitoring system, and a pre-collision system.
Toyota includes a 6.1-inch Display Audio touch-screen radio in every 2014 Highlander, as well as Bluetooth connectivity, voice-recognition capability, and the automaker's Entune smartphone pairing and multi-media services technology. An Entune App Suite package is optional, as well as automatic high-beam headlights that dim when oncoming traffic approaches or when the Highlander is approaching traffic ahead.
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