2014 Toyota Highlander: Twist for Long-Haul Adventure
December 3, 2014
I like the 2014 Toyota Highlander the more I drive it. It's a car in my wheelhouse: big, roomy and versatile without consuming a massive footprint. Although I know it's a crossover, I can almost persuade myself that it's a direct descendent of the Land Cruiser and 4Runner with all of Toyota's off-road legend and tradition baked into its bones. As such, I believe all I need is a map, some sunglasses and a smattering of Spanish to drive it from L.A. to Buenos Aires. Maybe I will try this. It would make for great writing, especially the leg through Honduras.
Then I come to my senses and realize I'd settle for visiting far-flung corners of this country. At 20 mpg combined (but 24 highway), it won't be the most frugal way to travel, but something about the Highlander still urges you to adventure. That something, I've decided, is torque.
Never mind the cavernous interior and three-row seating. Or the 8-inch ground clearance and hill descent control. The Highlander's V6 is what makes you think you can pass 18-wheelers all day and still make it out of Texas before dinner. What's stranger is that the Highlander's 3.5-liter V6 is on the lower end of the pound-foot spectrum in its class.
It makes 248 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm. The Honda Pilot makes 253 lb-ft at 4,800. The Ford Explorer, 255 @ 4,000. The Pilot and Highlander weigh about the same, 4,500 pounds, equally spec'd. The Explorer is a couple hundred pounds heavier. The Hyundai Santa Fe's smaller V6 makes about the same twist as the Pilot and it's much lighter, but the power delivery is a bit raunchy and unrefined.
It's really the Highlander's smooth and effortless pull, and whatever valvetrain voodoo working atop the cylinder banks, that inspires long-haul confidence. That the Highlander is also a fantastic place to sit while eating the miles is gravy.
Does one need a passport to cross Honduras? Or just a weapon and loads of luck?
Dan Frio, Automotive Editor