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Car Review: 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Hybrid

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There is no doubt that Toyota has been focused on styling with new models recently, and the 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Hybrid keeps that spirit alive and well. The all-new Highlander is a no-compromise, mid-size, three-row SUV that brings together the best in style, technology, comfort, capability and safety. Its exterior design conveys both refinement and strength, which complements a totally redesigned interior that will raise the bar in its segment. We drove the new Highlander for a week and had the chance to see exactly where Toyota is headed.

EXTERIOR

I first want to comment on the silver sky metallic paint, because so many people took notice of the color and complimented on the appearance and paint for the whole testing period. It’s a very clean color that also looks very modern and stylish. Sophisticated and dynamic, the new Highlander Hybrid features a progressive silhouette, a lower roofline for improved aerodynamics and sculptured side-door panels. The exterior has grown in length by approximately three inches, while width has increased one-half inch, conveying a sleek and strong appearance.

From the front, Highlander’s hood merges with a redesigned trapezoidal grille, wraparound headlamps and deeply chiseled fenders for a more aggressive appearance. The length of the profile, from the front fenders to the rear quarter panels, boldly stands out with sculptured wheel wells at the corners, allowing for prominently protruding wheels. The total package is capped off by a newly designed height-adjustable rear lift-gate with an available one-touch power open/close and driver selectable memory height settings, and taillights and a bumper that exude style and strength. The chromtec roofrails were also a nice touch!

INTERIOR

This is where Toyota has really stepped things up with the 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Hybrid, delivering a luxurious cabin with more space than appears from the exterior. Toyota engineers raised the bar on interior design for the mid-size SUV segment by adding even more refinement and functionality to the new Highlander and Highlander Hybrid. The 2014 model offers a premium interior highlighted by increased spaciousness for up to eight people, and an array of standard comfort, convenience and technology features.

The new Highlander’s interior utilizes premium materials to offer an upscale experience, with most models featuring standard contrast seat stitching. All Highlanders come equipped with a soft-touch instrument panel and silver-painted, satin and chrome-plated accents that are thoughtfully placed throughout the interior. Wood-grain pattern trim can be found on the front dash and door trim. The Limited grade model we tested adds touches of elegance. Premium fabrics, available smooth and perforated leather-trim seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob add to Highlander’s redesigned upscale interior. The adoption of a high-quality knit roof lining and available second-row sunshades add to Highlander’s refinement and comfort.

A new massive roll-top center console provides a comfortable armrest, or when fully opened, is large enough to hold a large handbag. All Highlanders feature a newly designed LCD in-meter-cluster Multi-Information Display available in 3.5-inch black and white or 4.2-inch color display. The 4.2-inch in our media Highlander was as good as it gets! Available ambient lighting around the front dash and doors add to the refined environment.

The second row offers bench-seating for three passengers or two captain’s seats featuring a collapsible side tray with cup holders for added convenience. Getting into the third row is made easier with the addition of a one-step, second-row sliding seat function on both driver and passenger sides that provides nearly three more inches of space for easier entry and exit to the third row. An overall interior width increase of 3.7 inches in the third row and a standard recline function creates added comfort for up to three passengers. Like the second-row bench, the third row incorporates a 60/40 split for added passenger and storage flexibility and convenience. Rear cargo space behind the third row has also increased by 34 percent for added storage. Additional available convenience features include an Automatic High Beam Headlight System, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Smart Key, driver’s seat memory, heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row captain’s seats and a heated steering wheel.

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PERFORMANCE

The Highlander Hybrid model’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system pairs the 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine with a high-torque electric drive motor-generator for additional power and fuel efficiency. Net horsepower adds up to an impressive 280 with an EPA fuel rating of 27 mpg city/28mpg highway/28 mpg combined, best in class for a three-row mid-size SUV.

All Highlander Hybrid models are equipped with electronic on-demand all-wheel-drive with intelligence (AWD-i). With new technologies that include enhancements in suspension performance and optimized electric power steering, the new Highlander Hybrid provides a more dynamic driving experience. Highlander Hybrid is equipped with a MacPherson strut front suspension, double-wishbone rear suspension, four-wheel disc brakes and 19-inch Chromtec alloy wheels. The ride is so advanced and solid that simply being impressed just isn’t enough. Like every Toyota, the Highlander features the standard Star Safety System, which includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, an Anti-lock Braking System and Smart Stop Technology. All Highlanders also come equipped with a standard backup camera and Hill-start Assist Control. All AWD gas models have an AWD LOCK switch.

New available safety and convenience features include rear parking sonar, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Alert with Automatic High Beam Headlights and a Pre-collision System with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Refinement is enhanced through improved noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) measures. Interior noise reduction is achieved through a 30 percent expansion of silencing insulation coverage in the floor areas. Acoustic-type glass is used for the windshield to help reduce noise entering the cabin, and even the panoramic moonroof design works to help reduce wind noise, even when the moonroof is open.

OVERVIEW

As the week went along, we enjoyed our time in the 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Hybrid more and more every day. As tested, our Platinum package took the price to $51,761, which compared to models with similar options and refinement, is a bargain. The all-new 2014 Highlander delivers the total package of bold exterior styling, refined interior design, excellent performance and great overall value.

  

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