2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited 4dr SUV (3.5L V6 Hybrid AWD CVT Automatic)
Driven On 6/17/2014
Like the normal SUV on which it's based, the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a marked improvement over the last one. These changes keep it as a top pick in the hyper-competitive 3-row SUV segment. Stirring-yet-efficient performance, exceptional quality and comfort and a claimed 28-mpg make this one a solid value.
PerformanceThe 2014 Highlander Hybrid has a competent hybrid powertrain, proficient brakes and an intuitive, albeit heavy, steering system. Additionally, good highway manners, acceptable towing capability and admirable off-road credentials place the Highlander Hybrid at the top of its class.
The hybrid and CVT pairing gets the Highander out of the hole quickly. Its quiet, 280 hp (270 engine, 10 battery) V6 is powerful enough, though not fast. Our 6,400-lb AWD Limited accelerated from 0-to-60 mph in 7.6 seconds.
Despite a vague-feeling pedal, the Highlander provides substantial emergency braking effectiveness and good fade resistance. It stopped from 60 mph in 127 feet. In daily situations, pedal engagement can sometimes feel awkward.
Intuitive response and reassuring feedback when cornering, isolated straight-line stability on the highway. But this steering is heavy during low-speed maneuvering.
A confident and competent handler, right up to the relatively low limit set by the electronic-stability system that really lets you know when you're asking too much of it.
Good torque off the line makes it easy to drive around town, though it is not necessarily fast. It drives bigger than its predecessor. Aside from the previously noted steering heft, it is easy to drive and live with every day.
A properly equipped Highlander Hybrid Limited can tow up to 3,500 pounds, compared to 5,000 for the conventional gasoline Highlander.
No low-range gears, but a sophisticated AWD system, 8-inches of clearance, hill-hold/descent and advantageous approach/departure angles give the Highlander admirable off-road capabilities.
ComfortLexus-like. The Highlander's seats, ride comfort and utter silence are as good as any luxury SUV's. That said, the third row is a kids-only environment.
Despite being reasonably adjustable, not all will find the driver seat comfortable. An inability to tilt the seat-bottom up is to blame. Second row seats are firmer, but slide/recline in a wide range. Third row quarters are snug.
One of the Highlander's best qualities is its ride comfort; highly isolated and confident without feeling like a floating barge. Very few, if any, road irregularities intrude.
One of the quietest SUVs we've ever measured. An occasional wisp of wind noise is evident on a gusty highway pass. At full throttle, the CVT drone does occasionally find its way into the cabin.
InteriorWith one significant exception (the infotainment controls being positioned such a far reach from the driver), the Highlander's interior is highly competitive in terms of access, scale and storage options.
Technology is sound and without software glitches, but the long reach to the touchscreen and some oft-used buttons is an oversight. All else is intuitive, including folding seats. This is the heaviest hood I've ever lifted.
Front and middle rows are easily accessed with large doors and reasonable seat heights. Retractable grab handles help, but the third row is a little arduous, as most are.
Big and accommodating where it matters (front/middle rows), but there are others with more ultimate space and larger measurements.
The top-end Limited model is available with a reaview camera, rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitor and pre-collision systems.
Cubbies abound: cavernous center console fits a large handbag; center-console shelf has power-cord access for mobile devices; ample-sized pockets and cup-holders. Rear seats fold 60/40. Rear glass opens independent of liftgate.
ValueSure, the Highlander is a class-leader elsewhere, but it also is a leader in value due in part to its superior build quality, fuel economy and ownership experience. All that, and it's not the most expensive in its class either.
Build Quality (vs. $)
Despite worries that Toyota has lost its grip on build quality, this Indiana-built Highlander showed otherwise: tight, quiet, excellent seams and surfaces.
Limited's standard leather, Sat/HD radio, USB input, keyless ignition/entry, Bluetooth and navigation represent a strong value compared to similar hybrid SUVs at around the same price. MSRP starts at $47,300.
At $51,600, our well-equipped Limited is competitive with similar vehicles. Its extensive standard equipment list and dominance in other categories make it very competitive for the money.
We recorded a real-world 26 mpg during mixed driving. EPA fuel economy estimates for the Hybrid are 28 mpg Combined (27 City/28 Highway). By comparison, the non-hybrid is 20 mpg Combined (18 City/24 Highway)
Basic is 3 years/36,000 miles (typical in the class), but the 5-year/60,000-mile drivetrain warranty is a little light compared to others in its class. Hybrid components are covered for 8 years/100,000 miles.
The 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes with 2 years/25,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance and roadside assistance.
Fun To DrivePerhaps we should rename this category "Rewarding-to-Drive" because while the Highlander Hybrid isn't thrilling, it is immensely satisfying and more capable than it probably needs to be. And that feels very rewarding.
The pairing of CVT and V6 make the hybrid reasonably quick off the line. This makes it satisfying to drive around town, despite the quirky brake engagement. Take advantage of the torque too much, though, and fuel economy suffers.
The Highlander Hybrid functions nearly as well as the minivan alternative that it is. Near-luxury comfort and increased fuel efficiency over the non-hybrid give it a character shoppers should find appealing.