Read the 2014 Toyota Highlander's introduction of this vehicle to our long-term fleet.
See all of the 2014 Toyota Highlander's long-term updates.
What We Got
The Toyota Highlander was completely redesigned in 2014. Already a popular family vehicle, the latest model was bigger, more practical and offered a wider range of features, all of which made it a great choice for our long-term fleet. We opted for a top-trim Highlander Limited, which included a standard 3.5-liter, 270-horsepower V6 and new six-speed automatic transmission. We stuck with the standard front-wheel-drive configuration for better mileage and a slightly lower price.
Limited models started at $40,500. Perforated leather seats, 19-inch wheels, a rearview camera, touchscreen navigation and a power liftgate highlighted the standard features of this trim. We added a few optional packages: Platinum ($2,400) came with a moonroof and second-row captain's chairs; Driver Technology ($1,400) included adaptive cruise control and numerous electronic driver aids; Preferred Accessory ($308) got us carpeted floor mats and a cargo net. The rear bumper protector ($129) was a stand-alone item.
We located a vehicle locally, secured a price using Edmunds Price PromiseSM and paid a total of $39,704 for our Shoreline Blue Pearl Toyota Highlander Limited. Once it entered the fleet, it didn't take long before it became the default choice for staffers needing room for the family and more.
"It's able to deliver the kind of low-end torque that gets it up to highway speeds even when there's a full load of kids and cargo on board.... Factor in the smooth, responsive power of the V6 and it's definitely a worthwhile upgrade. If there's a drawback to the extra power, it's the fact that the Highlander tends to sit back on its haunches too much under full throttle. If that's the only price to pay, I'd say pay it." — Ed Hellwig
"It's clearly not a sports car, but our new 2014 Highlander didn't go all wonky when the road climbed out of the valley and began to hug the snaking canyon walls of the mountains. It went where it was pointed and it felt confidently planted through the most awkwardly scribed turns. The body never seemed to roll over much and it easily shrugged off ripples and sinks that cropped up mid-corner with no ill effects." — Dan Edmunds
"The Toyota Highlander gives you only 13 miles warning and the needle is nearly touching the E. This would be slightly concerning if there weren't 2.9 gallons in reserve. Keep pushing and the Highlander will give you a warning all the way down to 1 mile of projected range as the needle nestles itself on the thick line for E. Blitz past that and the needle stops moving and the range is displayed as 'Refuel.'" — Mike Magrath
"March was 'madness' for our Highlander. First, editor Dan Frio drove it out to Utah and back to attend a wedding. Later in the month, editor John DiPietro again headed east, this time driving to Indian Wells, California, to check out a professional tennis tournament.... Add it up and you've got a total of about 2,500 miles driven for March. For the month, we averaged 21.4 mpg" — Brent Romans
"And the Highlander couldn't have been a better long-hauler. Its well-damped ride filtered out most imperfections on Interstate 15, and the quiet cabin amplified the silent splendor of the white peaks towering outside the windows." — Dan Frio
"The all-new Highlander is not as squishy as I expected. It expertly manages the weight of four adults and nine days' worth of luggage on the same slumped and wavy northwest roads that brought the Santa Fe, quite literally, to its knees. And by knees I mean bump stops. We could ride in the Highlander all day. In fact we just did, with no complaints." — Dan Edmunds
"Thirty-seven boxes of hardwood flooring, each weighing about 40 pounds, exceeded the Highlander's rating by about 100 pounds. I thought it over. With some clever Tetris-ing, I could probably bring home all of the boxes.... I erred on the side of caution.... I felt like I'd cheated the Highlander out of an opportunity to prove itself. In fact, I'd probably just avoided an opportunity to prove myself an idiot." — Dan Frio
"Unique features are rare these days in the car world. Today it seems every car has this and every car has that. But the flip-up rear window on our long-term Highlander is pretty unique, and I dig it.... Although it isn't power-operated like the tailgate, it flips up easily after you push that small black button above the license plate, and it's easy to close." — Scott Oldham
"You'd expect pretty much any car seat to fit into a large, family-first vehicle like our long-term Highlander. For a personal Highlander, I'd probably go with one of the lower-line models (below our Limited Platinum) so I could get a center seat in the second row. But the captain's chairs in our long-term Highlander are still very car seat-friendly, particularly with their nice, flat seat-bottom cushions and multiple seatback recline positions." — Erin Riches
"Apparently, Toyota didn't quite learn its lesson with the Tundra pickup.... It had a pretty glaring issue with the design of its center stack. It involved the tuning knob for the radio, which was placed in the upper right-hand corner of the navigation screen... a very long reach away for the driver. It's not quite as exaggerated in the Highlander, but it's still not ideal." — Ed Hellwig
Audio and Technology
"With the 2014 Highlander, Toyota is hoping to make this a little easier with the Driver Easy Speak feature. This is not to be confused with a Driver Speakeasy, which sounds like a theoretical place I'd like to visit someday. Instead, it's essentially an in-car intercom system that allows the driver to more easily communicate with passengers seated in back." — Brent Romans
"Back in July Matt reported that his hands were too large to be able to reach the USB port in our Highlander. It's hidden away in this tiny space behind the shifter. Well, I'm here to tell you that it's not Matt's hands.... I have freakishly small baby hands. And even I have a hard time plugging my iPod into this USB port. The space is not at all tall and has no light." — Donna DeRosa
"Here's a good reminder that no matter how useful the latest technology can be, it's always best to rely on your own senses first. In this case, I mindlessly backed our Highlander into a sprinkler pipe because I relied on the back-up monitor instead of turning my head first." — Ed Hellwig
"While carefully arranging slabs of turkey, the person preparing my sandwich told me all customers were eligible for a free drink and cookie. Score.... The service cost nothing thanks to the Toyota Care free maintenance program, which covers scheduled service up to two years or 25,000 miles. A friendly staff, minimal wait time and lunch on-site made the experience painless." — Cameron Rogers
"But the V6 was truly the star of the show. Despite prodigious torque steer, which was predictable, avoidable and sometimes just plain fun to wrestle with, the Highlander never left us in a lurch or wanting more merging or passing power, even on a steady grade between Arizona and Utah. Granted, with only two passengers and maybe 150 pounds of gear, it was not much to ask of the big SUV. But for pure road-trip performance and confidence, it impressed." — Dan Frio
"The second row captain's chairs don't slide forward enough for easy ingress and egress, however. We had a few stops to make over the course of the day, and getting in and out of the third row quickly became a chore. Especially after we were laden by our potato, ham, bacon, sausage, scrambled egg and cheese skillets from Apple Annie's. And red velvet fudge. And apple cider floats. It was a rough day." — Cameron Rogers
Maintenance & Repairs
Toyota recommends 5,000-mile service intervals for the Highlander. The Toyota Care free maintenance program pays the tab for a two-year or 25,000-mile period.
A recall for the seatbelt pre-tensioner marked the only service campaign issued during our test. The only out-of-pocket expense was $865 for a rear window. We shattered the first.
Fuel Economy and Resale Value
Observed Fuel Economy:
We averaged 19.8 mpg over 20,000 miles of ownership. That was on the low end for its EPA estimated fuel economy, 21 mpg combined (15 city/25 highway). Our best range on a single tank covered 431 miles.
Resale and Depreciation:
One year ago we paid $39,704 for our Highlander. We added 20,668 miles by the time it was ready to sell. Edmunds' TMV® Calculator valued the SUV at $33,633 based on a private-party sale. But before advertising on the private market we stopped at CarMax. Its favorable offer of $34,000 was hard to resist. So we didn't. Depreciation of just 14 percent was outstanding, and due largely to the deal we got at the time of purchase.
Pros: Composed ride quality, even when fully loaded; plenty of smooth, quiet power from the V6 engine; usable third-row seating; practical interior design with plenty of storage; free scheduled maintenance; strong resale value; plenty of cargo room.
Cons: Radio and navigation controls are too far from the driver; tight third-row access; brake pedal gets soft after repeated use; hard to reach USB ports.
Bottom Line: For shoppers looking for minivan practicality in a vehicle that's not a minivan, the Toyota Highlander is an excellent choice. It combines plenty of passenger room with a thoughtfully designed cabin, strong V6 power and a wide range of safety features. Excellent reliability and two years of free maintenance only add to its low-stress ownership experience.
|Total Body Repair Costs:||None|
|Total Routine Maintenance Costs:||None (over 12 months)|
|Additional Maintenance Costs:||$865 for a new rear window|
|Warranty Repairs:||Seatbelt pre-tensioner recall|
|Non-Warranty Repairs:||Replace broken rear window|
|Scheduled Dealer Visits:||3|
|Unscheduled Dealer Visits:||None|
|Days Out of Service:||None|
|Breakdowns Stranding Driver:||None|
|Best Fuel Economy:||26.5 mpg|
|Worst Fuel Economy:||11.9 mpg|
|Average Fuel Economy:||19.8 mpg|
|True Market Value at service end:||$33,633 (private-party sale)|
|What it Sold for:||$34,000|
|Depreciation:||$6,071 (14% of paid price)|
|Final Odometer Reading:||20,668 miles|
Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.