2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Long-Term Road Test: Introduction
April 01, 2014
It may surprise you to learn which of our long-term test cars are consistently checked out first as the weekend approaches. Our sports cars are popular, but don't go first. Neither do the luxury cars.
In fact, our car-picking habits closely mirror those of the American car buyer. When push comes to shove, ample cargo space, three-row seating, a comfortable interior and everyday versatility win out every time. And with summer nearly upon us, we knew that another seven-seat road trip warrior would be a welcome addition.
The 2014 Toyota Highlander is one of the most shopped crossovers on Edmunds.com, which immediately put it on our radar. Add to that its laundry list of improvements over the 2013 model and it was clear that we had to add one to our long-term road test fleet.
What We Bought
The Toyota Highlander has been completely redesigned for 2014. The interior is markedly improved with higher-quality materials; a clean, modern layout; handy storage compartments; and available eight-passenger seating. On the powertrain side, the Highlander sticks with its four- and six-cylinder engines but swaps in a new six-speed automatic when you tick the box for the V6. Front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive continue to be available on V6 models except for the Highlander Hybrid, which comes in all-wheel-drive flavor only.
The 2014 Toyota Highlander comes nicely equipped in base LE trim, which starts at $30,075 and includes heated and power-folding outside mirrors, remote keyless entry, a 6.1-inch touchscreen radio and an integrated back-up camera. It's also saddled with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder, front-wheel drive and a five-speed automatic. A 270-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 is available as an option here, and is standard across the rest of the Highlander line.
Stepping up to the $33,600 LE Plus adds an adjustable power liftgate, three-zone climate control, environmentally friendly synthetic leather seats and a leather-trimmed shift knob and steering wheel. Keep going and the XLE increases the price another $3,300, and adds leather seats, a power moonroof, Smart Key and a larger, more advanced infotainment system.
As with most of our long-term cars, we purchased a loaded 2014 Toyota Highlander so we could try out all the new features. The top trim Highlander Limited starts at $40,500 and adds a 12-speaker JBL audio system, perforated real leather seats, 19-inch wheels and a blind spot warning system.
We also wanted our Highlander Limited to have the Platinum package, a $2,400 add-on that combines the $1,400 Driver Technology package (subscription-based emergency assistance service, lane departure warning, pre-collision braking aid, radar-guided cruise control and automatic high-beam headlights) with a panoramic moonroof, heated steering wheel, and heated and perforated second-row captain's chairs. We also ticked boxes for a rear bumper protector ($129) and a Preferred Accessory package ($308), which includes carpet floor mats and cargo liner, a cargo net and a first aid kit.
Since our long-term Acura MDX, Hyundai Santa Fe and Nissan Rogue are equipped with all-wheel drive, we decided to switch it up and purchase a front-wheel-drive Highlander. AWD is great for people who need it, but we can get by without it. The system would have added $1,460 to the bottom line and dropped fuel economy by 1 mpg both in the city and on the highway.
All in, the window sticker for our 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited was $43,427. We located at least three Highlanders that met our specifications on our Web site. From there we anonymously used our Edmunds Price Promise® feature to get guaranteed quote certificates. Ultimately, we settled on a Shoreline Blue Pearl Highlander at Auto Nation of Irvine with its guaranteed price of $39,704.28.
Why We Bought It
The Highlander is the third best-selling midsize crossover on the market, and even with the optional V6 underhood (only 8.2 percent of Highlander buyers chose the four-cylinder last year), the Highlander remains Toyota's least expensive three-row SUV.
During a recent test, we were so impressed with the all-new Highlander that we gave it an "A" rating. The few demotions were for the hard-to-reach infotainment console and notable size increase compared to the 2013 model, and these were easy to overlook compared with what this crossover does so well.
After 12 months and 20,000 miles, will we remain enamored with its ability to effortlessly play taxi, or will we tire of its comfort-above-all driving dynamics? Will this front-wheel-drive Highlander be just as practical and desired as our AWD SUVs, or will the threat of weather restrict long road trips? Will the thousands of dollars of tech and safety goodies prove worthwhile, or just get in the way? Follow along on our Long-Term Road Test Page to find out.
Best MPG: 23.7
Worst MPG: 17
Average MPG over 1,289 miles: 22.3
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purpose of evaluation.