2014 Toyota Highlander: Toy Hauler
December 1, 2014
OK, so it's no surprise that the 2014 Toyota Highlander can haul stuff. What's more impressive is the packaging efficiency of the cargo area. In this case, I managed a four-piece drumkit, cymbals and hardware in the 42.3 cubic-feet of space behind the second row seats. There's still loads of vertical room to spare. In my Jeep, where I usually haul this same or similar setup, the drums seemingly consume most of the 60 cubic-feet offered behind the Cherokee's front seats.
Compared to the Highlander, the Cherokee's wheel wells, doughnut spare and 4x4 packaging limit the width and height of the cargo area. Sixty cubic-feet sounds optimistic, actually. Then again, the Jeep has carried larger setups than this when packed to the roof. It's obviously not a direct comparison, but the Highlander makes a trip like this so easy. And it still leaves room for three or more admiring fans, depending how you spec the second row.
I'd take the 60/40-split-folding bench and the closed, flat load floor it offers instead of the captain's chairs in our Limited model. That little fold-up side table between the captain's chairs can't be trusted with anything heavy. Problem is, you can't go higher than the XLE trim if you want the second-row bench. The Limited and Limited Platinum offer only the captain's chairs.
But after studying the features list, you're not sacrificing much if you insist on the second-row bench. LED ambient lighting. Nineteen-inch wheels. Ventilated front seats. Some safety tech like adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning. A panoramic sunroof and heated steering wheel would be nice (Limited Platinum), but somehow I'd manage.
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor