2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review

The need for larger vehicles in North America is still very much alive. Be it for carrying people, gear or a combination of the two, few cars can replace what a crossover can do for the family. The minivan remains the best “do-anything” tool on four wheels, but we all know how uncool they are.

The Toyota Highlander landed in dealerships in 2001 and has known a fair amount of success from the onset. The promise of versatility, Toyota reliability, and a handsome design were all strong elements in its favour.

2014 marks the arrival of the 3rd generation of the Highlander. Revamped in its near entirety, the new evolved Highlander brings more ‘tude to the table, a sharper cleaner cabin and a surprisingly good driving experience.

What is a Toyota Highlander Hybrid?
The 2014 Highlander is Toyota’s other midsize CUV, along with the 4Runner. The Highlander is meant to be the more urban option, while the 4Runner offers true off-road potential.

The Highlander was Toyota’s first CUV to be equipped with an optional 3rd row of seating, not to be mistaken with the Sequoia, which is nothing short of a massive SUV. The arrival of the hybrid version in 2006 demonstrates Toyota’s commitment to this green and efficient technology.

2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Price and Specs
The basic 2014 Highlander Hybrid LE brings with it a laundry list of features for $43,720. On top of AWD, the LE includes three-zone automatic climate control, a smart key, 18” wheels, and more. The XLE drops in at $46,145 and adds navigation, 19” wheels, and more.

My tester was a top-line Limited, which starts at $52,695, includes a slew of active safety measures such as a pre-collision system and intelligent cruise control, heated rear seats, and JBL audio among many other accessories.

All Highlander Hybrids are powered by the same 3.5L V6 mated to Toyota’s highly evolved Hybrid Synergy drive system. An electronically controlled CVT box manages the power to the front wheels. The rear wheels are motivated by an electric motor that is itself controlled by an on-board computer when added rear wheel traction is required.

The hybrid’s total output is rated at 280 horsepower and can tow up to 1,587kg (3,500lb). Current fuel consumption numbers are 7.2L (highway) and 6.7L (city) per 100km.

Driving the 2014 Toyota Highlander hybrid
A funny thing happened where I booked a Highlander Hybrid, but ended up with a regular gas-powered Highlander Limited. This is a testament to how smooth Toyota’s highly utilised 3.5L V6 engine is. In the regular Highlander, its 270 horsepower are so effortlessly and quietly delivered that it took two short drives and an overnight to realize that I was not in possession of my Hybrid but of a regular Highlander… I had noticed that the EV mode was absent, but then I thought I was simply being too hard on the throttle, which wouldn’t be the first time.

Once I finally got my scheduled 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, the change in the drive was obvious. Toyota’s 2-mode Hybrid Synergy Drive system allowed me to travel a short distance on electric power alone, at least until I put my right foot down a little deeper. Activating EV Mode will allow for more electric action, however, acceleration must remain mild.

The CVT transmission does a fine job at being inconspicuous. It blends in well with the electric and gasoline engines. Despite a Sport/Manual mode, it prefers to take things easy. The whole purpose of the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is to get things done comfortably and as “greenly” as possible.

The Highlander’s ride is cozy and controlled enough for daily highway jaunts and broken city-street cruising. Brakes, with regenerative function, work well and are not especially disruptive. A fine driver, the Highlander Hybrid is.

Inside and Out of the 2014 Toyota Highlander hybrid
I’ve touched on the added ‘tude now applied to the face-lifted 2014 Highlander and must say that it works. The front end is now more truck-like and thus, by default, a little more masculine.

As tested, in Limited trim, the Highlander wins out with larger wheels, a little more chrome and, all in all, it works.

The 2014 Highlander Hybrid’s reason for being is hauling people and their stuff around. Toyota’s put in an enormous effort on this front. The fold-down cup-holder shelf in the second row is interesting and the enormous centre-console bin is ideal (a slight pain to open though…), but the real thoughtful part is the parcel shelf that runs from the middle of the dashboard to the end on the passenger side. It is perfectly divided and even features a wire pass-thru for recharging phones.

The vast level of amenities is another selling point and they include the available active safety systems. The 3rd is accessible and well thought out, the second row perches are decent for adults, comfy for children, and the front seats are sufficiently supportive for long hauls. The trunk, with the 3rd stowed is positively capacious, not so much when that row is up.

Comparing the 2014 Toyota Highlander hybrid
Toyota’s 2014 Highlander Hybrid marches solely with the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid, as far as three-row hybrids go. The Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe XL, and Ford Explorer are other direct competitors.

The choice to make here is not that simple. All of these have highs and lows, but the regular Highlander may the better overall product.

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