2014 Toyota Highlander: Power Delivery and Torque Steer
May 6, 2014
First, despite the Highlander's considerable mass, I too would still characterize its 3.5-liter V6 as gutsy, given one condition. And that condition pertains to the 6-speed automatic transmission. See, it is quick to select higher gears (almost assuredly for fuel economy and noise reasons), making the potent engine feel a bit short-breathed when subjected to little squeezes of the throttle.
But once it drops a gear or two, the true nature of the engine's thrust is revealed. And it is good. Toyota's corporate 2GR V6 has always been a really impressive performer. It's not the most aurally delightful thing in the world when you give it the beans, but there is surprising midrange grunt even when saddled with the Highlander. Plenty adequate thrust. More than you might expect, even.
The transmission's manual mode neatly circumvents the propensity of auto mode to select top gear at a moment's notice. There is, however, a noticeable pause between when you command a gear change and when said gear is delivered (and no rev-matching, which isn't really a surprise). Not the most responsive manual mode, then, but better than nothing.
And then there's the torque steer. Torque steer is far more pronounced in this Highlander than in other applications. You don't even need to give the throttle full whack to summon noticeable lane squirm. One the one hand, torque steer means torque, which is good. On the other hand, it's not the most confidence-inspiring trait in any car, and particularly so in the type of vehicle like this Highlander that's likely to be piloted by average Joes (read: non-enthusiasts). They're less likely to understand or accept behavior such as this.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 4,528 miles