All-new 2014 Toyota Highlander preview ahead of official release
Toyota has announced that it will reveal the all-new 2014 Highlander at the New York Auto Show in two weeks. The Highlander has been basically the same since 2008, when it moved to the larger, Avalon type platform away from the shorter wheelbase Camry platform. Six years with the same design is a long time for most brands, but Toyota does have the habit of keeping its crossover models in production longer than its cars.
Part of the reason that Toyota can keep its Highlander and RAV4 unchanged so long is that it defines those categories. Leadership has its perks. The fact that Toyota has the best resale value, and wins most, if not all the quality awards, such as the J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study, does not hurt either. The competition has to scramble to keep gaining on Toyota, and it isn’t clear they are. Toyota’s sales are actually up this year for the Highlander, not down. Any manufacturer that can do that in a model’s last year of production is doing things right.
What Toyota Will Change Mechanically On the Highlander
Toyota has not made an official announcement yet, but based on regulatory requirements, and market realities, Toyota has to improve the 2014 Highlander’s fuel economy. It is currently lagging the competition by about 10%. The popular V6 all-wheel drive model rates only 17 city, 22 highway MPG. It would be shocking if Toyota introduced a new engine to replace the 3.5 liter engine it now uses. Direct injection is easy for Toyota to add, in fact, the Lexus line already has some sporty models with this same engine using direct injection, but our guess is they don’t do it. The current Lexus RX350 still doesn’t have direct injection and Toyota almost never lets the Toyota branded vehicles leap ahead of the Lexus line in technology. However, look for the aging 5 speed automatic transmission to be replaced with a 6 speed auto, or possibly a 7 speed. A CVT is not out of the question, but let’s say a prayer to the car Gods it doesn’t happen.
The Highlander Hybrid will of course continue, but will roll out slightly after the initial 2014 Highlander does. It will adopt the current hybrid drive from the Lexus ES300h and will see an increase in MPG. In two wheel drive configurations this will almost certainly become the segment leader in fuel efficiency.