2014 Toyota Highlander XLE

What will past Toyota Highlander owners think of the all-new 2014 model?


The owner of a 2007 Toyota Highlander completes a week-long test of this new Highlander and finds an interesting answer.

The 2014 Toyota Highlander is a completely new design with significant changes to all aspects of the vehicle. This is an important vehicle for Toyota and one of its top sellers. Torque News is testing two separate versions, the XLE, and also the top-of-the-line Limited. Coincidental to this testing, I own a 2007 Highlander Sport, which is the model-trim equal of the current XLE. I have driven it as my daily driver for about 7 years. I have also owned a current-generation Lexus RX 350. What I found driving the new 2014 Highlander is that it stays true to the original generation’s mission, but takes liberally from the Lexus to provide a lot more refinement.

Differences Between 1st Generation and New 3rd Generation Highlander
The original Highlander evolved over time, but by its last model year in 2007 most were V6 powered, 3-row, all-wheel-drive crossovers. The vehicle was a smashing success for Toyota. Families with 1, 2, or 3 kids loved the vehicle for its combination of “right-size,” power, smooth ride, durability, and family-friendly features. The 3rd row was always intended for use by children. That extra seating is perfect for dinners with grandma and grandpa. They get to sit in the middle row, which is extremely easy to get into and out of, and the kids hop in the way-back. It also makes the car a viable substitute for the maxi-van for families that car pool their kids to sports and school.

Size Differences
Overall, the new 2014 Highlander XLE fits the same description, but there are many, many upgrades. The vehicle is now significantly larger and it shares much with the Lexus RX 350 including its platform and overall construction. I could bang out the dimensional numbers, but let’s not. Let’s do it as if you were here with me. You can see that the vehicle is now much closer to being a Ford Escape sized vehicle. The extra width allows for a third space in the 3rd row, so theoretically, it is an eight passenger vehicle. It really is an 8-passenger if three or four of those passengers are on their way to youth soccer. In the Limited, the second row swaps the three passenger bench for two captains’ chairs making that a limo-like place to sit. The second row was always spacious in all Highlander models, but the new 2014 seems to have about a foot more legroom. The length and width really are useful, not done just for the sake of making a bigger vehicle.

Highlander Safest Family Vehicle
Up-front in the 2014 the feeling is of driving a large vehicle. My 2007 Highlander almost feels like a RAV4 by comparison, and in fact, the RAV4 is about as big inside now, except that it is only two rows. The new Highlander gives the driver a feeling of invincibility. That may be good, may be bad. Your call. It is a big, solid vehicle that you will feel confident in when your kids are in back, the ice is coating the roads and it is dark. Actually, since this can be a Top Safety Pick+, the highest possible safety rating for any vehicle in America, it may be one of the safest family cars you can buy. The Honda Pilot is not rated this high. To get the “+” you need to buy optional forward-collision prevention called PCS. Either way the vehicle is as safe as any comparably equipped competitor.

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