I didn’t think it would happen. In fact, I was sure that it wouldn’t. But it did. I really, really, REALLY like the 2014 Toyota Highlander. It now sits in my top three picks of the year. Toyota didn’t just give this model an exterior body lift. Instead, they really stepped up their game in each facet of the car, making it a fantastic all-around family SUV.
2014 Toyota Highlander Overview
Roomy -The Highlander is on the longer side to accommodate a third row of seating and the interior is spacious. You don’t notice the size when driving, though, because it doesn’t ‘feel’ big. The front seats and the second row captain’s seats have plenty of arm, leg, and wiggle room. This made for a very comfortable ride. Grr, I’m so mad at myself for not taking this on a proper road trip – it was so nice to ride/drive in.
Design – One reason that many families decide to look for SUVs and/or crossovers is looks. They want space but don’t want to be seen in a stereotypical minivan. I get it – been there, done that. And the Highlander looks good! Hot styling, modern accents, clean lines, and sporty leather interior might incite a whistle or two. It does slightly bug me that the back lights stick out so much, but that might just be personal preference.
Power outlet heaven – Yes, this car know how to keep a tech savvy family connected and fully charged. I loved that there were several outlets in both the front and middle area. Several USB, 12V (cigarette lighter), and 120V (2- or 3-prong) outlets ensure that all your favorite devices can get enough juice for the road. Finally a car that can handle our family’s digital needs!
Decent third row – You can’t really get a full-fledge third row unless you take the minivan route. But, the Highlander does a pretty stinkin’ good job at trying. The seats are comfortable, raised about six inches, and provide ‘good enough’ leg room if the second row seats are moved forward. Would I suggest this car if you often carry more than four (with the captain chairs) or five passengers? Not really. Extended rides in the back seat might not be too bearable. One major plus is that moving the second row up to get in the back is effortless.
Functionality – There’s no end to the useful cubby areas. So smart to add a small divider to prevent your cell phone from sliding around! I thought the bulky middle console would be irritating but it wasn’t. In fact, I could fit a monster purse in there with how deep it was. The glove compartment has a minor flaw in that it’s next to impossible to open it if someone is sitting in the passenger sear. The touch-sensitive buttons are responsive, as is the touch screen display. It’s just unfortunate that the angle of the screen makes it hard to see and there’s often a glare cast on it.
I found the flip-up rear window handy for getting things out of the back without everything else spewing out. It’s also handy for curious doggies…
Performance – Smooth, good handling, V6 engine but averaged about 20 miles per gallon (MPG). The Highlander was pretty quiet so we didn’t have to shout to have a normal family conversation. Turning radius is excellent, especially considering the car’s length. Good visibility through all the windows and the car feels nimble enough to maneuver.
I cannot believe how much we enjoyed the 2014 Toyota Highlander. It’s like a Toyota Sienna but in a sleeker, less soccer-mom-ish body style. I do wish that the hood sloped downwards a bit because it’s tough to see over. No, it’s not just because I’m short because my hubby had the same issue. The park-assist sensors in the front do kind of counter that con. With reasonable gas mileage, fantastic features, and an overall comfy ride, it has all the makings of a car that’s perfect for our family. The hybrid is even more tempting, but that comes with an extra $8K price tag.
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