The Toyota Highlander has always been a good seller for Toyota, but it has also been a little bland. The new design of the 2014 Highlander has taken a step in the right direction to cure some of the blandness. With its new grill it looks more truck like, right in line with the current generation Tundra. While it takes a little getting used to, I eventually began to like the looks of it.
Toyota is not known for having cars that are really exciting to drive, and while the Highlander is no exception, it doesn’t do a bad job at keeping things interesting. The steering is still numb and there still isn’t a great connection to the car, but what it lacks in feeling it makes up in responsiveness. Surprisingly, the steering was quite responsive to inputs, and didn’t lag as much as you’d think electric powered steering would be on an SUV as big as this. No changes have been made to the engine choices from the previous generation, but the transmission has received updated programming and felt pretty smooth. This model comes with the V6 engine with 270hp and it felt quick for its size, and had no trouble passing slower moving vehicles, or merging onto highways. Taking off at full throttle from a standstill, you still get a nominal amount of torque steer, which was easily controllable. So for all you red light racers, just be conscious of that. Also, for those serious off-roaders, you can also get a locking center differential(up to 25mph), for those large parking lot curbs. Speaking of parking lots, while this Highlander is larger than the outgoing model, it feels as if it has a fairly small footprint while driving, but once in a parking lot, you can feel the size a lot more as it can be a little trickier getting in and out of some tight spaces.
If you’re looking for a nice riding and roomy family hauler and do not want a minivan, this would be a good place to start. It’s got plenty of room with seating for 8, although the third row is more suited for 3 kids, rather than adults. Interior noise was pretty quiet, even at highway speeds and the seats provided a nice comfortable ride. The only thing I noticed that worried me a little was when going over some rough roads, you could see the middle seats shaking a little violently when no one was in them.
You can see what I’m talking about here. Video is slowed down to show the amount of shaking that happens:
From the driver’s point of view, you’re given a good sense of visibility, with a nice seating position. Storage was ample with the cavernous center storage, and the dash had a neat little shelf that you could put phones, wallets, keys, or whatever your or your kids hearts desired. I’m not a very tall guy, but I felt that the center dash controls were a little out of reach for me. I often found myself having to sit forward and stretch for them in order to just change some normal use buttons. This might not be an issue for those longer armed people, but I found it annoying and distracting when trying to use the controls.
The only gripe I had was with the HUGE side view mirrors. Combine these huge mirrors with an a-pillar that already creates a blind spot, and you’re in for some surprise curb hopping fun. I noticed this blind spot more when turning left and trying to see around turns. Where you would normally look down and through to see where you’re going, all you see is a-pillar and mirror. It’s a guessing game, and you better hope there is no one standing in that area, or you could potentially come close to or hit them.
Overall, I’d have to say I enjoyed this redesigned Highlander a lot more than I was expecting. Coming from a family man, this would suit the majority of families very well. I personally prefer something with a little more soul, but for what you’re paying, what you’re getting, and the versatility included in this package you can’t really go wrong, and for 99% of the people that will buy one, they will be more than happy with their purchase.