Competes with: Honda Pilot, Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer
Looks like: A sleeker Highlander with bolder proportions
Drivetrain: 2.7-liter four-cylinder with front-wheel drive and six-speed automatic transmission; 3.5-liter V-6 with six-speed automatic transmission and front- or all-wheel drive; 3.5-liter V-6 hybrid with continuously variable transmission and all-wheel drive
Hits dealerships: Early 2014
The 2014 Toyota Highlander is thoroughly overhauled with an all-new interior featuring room for eight occupants — one more than 2013 — and an all-new sleeker exterior. Toyota says it's taking an upscale approach with the new Highlander's interior as well as adding more cargo room and standard features.
The old interior's styling hasn't been updated since 2008, so the revamp is a much-needed one. Toyota's midsize Highlander SUV last received an overhaul for the 2011 model year with mostly cosmetic changes.
Because the outside was recently updated, the exterior needed less attention than the interior but that didn't hold Toyota back from going all out with the new look. The roofline is lower for improved aerodynamics while the overall length has grown 3 inches and the width by a half an inch. Toyota says rearward visibility is improved from larger rear quarter windows. The automaker also claims forward visibility is improved with repositioned front A-pillars.
Toyota's upscale interior additions include a soft-touch instrument panel on all Highlander trims as well as reduced interior noise with acoustic glass and additional sound insulation materials. If Toyota can mirror the jump in quality pulled off with the 2013 Avalon sedan, then the Highlander has the potential to impress. Toyota says cargo room behind the third row has increased 34%, which is promising considering the current Highlander is short on space with the third row in the upright position.
The new interior has seating for up to eight with a second-row bench seat and seven with available captain's chairs. The plus-one occupant count comes from the third row that now has room for three — up from two — helped by 4.3 more inches of width in the back. Toyota says access to the third row is improved with a one-step second-row sliding function that provides up to 3 more inches of access to the third row.
Newly standard features include a backup camera, hill start assist, Bluetooth with voice control, Toyota's Entune multimedia system and a 6.1-inch touch-screen. Options include an 8-inch touch-screen and Toyota Entune with its app suite, leather seating, heated and ventilated seats, heated steering wheel, panoramic roof, upgraded JBL stereo and rear-seat entertainment system.
The Highlander also receives newly available options like rear-parking sonar, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert and a precollision system.
Powering the 2014 Highlander are 2.7-liter four-cylinder and 3.5-liter six-cylinder engines; the non-hybrid V-6 has a new six-speed transmission said to improve acceleration and fuel economy over the five-speed from 2013. Gas mileage estimates are still under wraps. Toyota says the suspension and electronic power steering are also revised for a more dynamic driving experience.
The 2014 Toyota Highlander goes on sale in early 2014.