2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum Review: Room for Everything but Boring
The Toyota Highlander has been one of the more popular SUVs in America and for the 2014 model year, the Highlander gets a refresh that adds some size on the outside and a whole lot of space on the inside. The Highlander has grown enough that it is on the borderline of leaving the segment and while some people might miss the previous generation, I view this growth as a very positive thing.
For this review, my subject was a 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum in Alumina Jade with the V6 engine and All Wheel Drive. Shy of the Hybrid models, this is the tip top of the 2014 Highlander lineup and that shows. Every feature of my test vehicle was standard, from the high tech infotainment system to the plush leather seats to the panoramic sunroof so while the sticker price of $44,450 might be hard for some folks to stomach – there is a tremendous amount of value in this package. Really, the Limited Platinum Highlander is more like a luxury SUV than an average family SUV…without the luxury price for a vehicle of this size.
The Toyota Highlander has been a popular midsized SUV since the early 2000s and while it has been a strong seller, it was one of those models that didn’t feature particularly exciting exterior styling. Toyota has been accused of selling vanilla vehicles in the past and I think that most people will agree that the Highlander was one of those models in terms of the exterior design. That all changes with the 2014 Highlander, as Toyota has introduced a bold new styling to a vehicle that is quite a bit larger than the past models. In the past, the Highlander has been one of those models that is too small to be called an SUV, but too big to be a crossover. For 2014, there is no question that this is a rig that should be called an SUV.
Up front, the 2014 Highlander has a big, bold grille centered between a pair of sharp, angular headlights that connect via a thick chrome trim piece that divides the grille top into two pieces. This grille is part of a very upright face that flows down into the aggressive – almost sporty – lower fascia. Down below you find a set of LED driving lights joining a set of round fog lights with a large lower grille opening and a chin spoiler design that bolsters the sporty feel. I’ve really not liked the past Highlanders but this new face is a breath of fresh air.
Along the sides, the 2014 Highlander has more big, bold styling that is far less apologetic than the past models and honestly, I love the bigger feel of this new Highlander. The sharp wheel openings with contrasting trim, the blackened B and C pillars, the dark windows and the upward body lines accentuate the sporty angle with a touch of size.
Out back, the 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum has bright chrome trimmed taillights with red inserts that are very upscale looking while the low rise rear spoiler and the sculpted lower cladding in contrasting black combine to add some more sportiness to the rump of this midsized SUV. Also, the rear reveals a large door that opens nice and wide to allow full use of the large cargo area.
The 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum isn’t too extreme in terms of styling, but it is far more aggressive and much larger than past models – directions that make me love this new Highlander relative to the prior models…and some of the competition in the midsized segment.
When you open any of the doors and climb into the 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum, it really looks and feels more like a layout from the Lexus brand. The Muppets are right – there is a whole lot of room and that room is packed with just about every higher end amenity that you could want so no portion of the interior is boring.
First up, the 2014 Toyota Highlander offers a ton of passenger space across the three rows. The first row and second row – both of which are bucket seats – offer enough space to comfortably seat four NBA players. Seriously, there is a ton of leg room up front and the second row offers the unusual capability to adjust the seats front to back. This way, if you have two tall adults in the front seats, two adults in the second row and no adults or two smaller kids in the third row, you can move the second row back more to give those riders more space. However, if you need to make room for 6 adults, you can move the middle row up to open up some leg room for the third row. You really can seat two adults back there…they just can’t be super tall. Honestly, the fact that you can really seat six adults across the three rows is rare in this segment so this is one area where the Highlander really shines.
When you don’t need the rear seats, the third row quickly and easily fold down to make the rear cargo area massive. The 2014 Toyota Highlander has a nice sized rear cargo area when the third row seats are in use, but the cargo space rivals much bigger vehicles when you fold those rear seats away. All of the seats in the Limited Platinum package are leather, as are the steering wheel, the shifter, the dash pad and the door panels – all of which come together to give this Highlander a very upscale feel.
In terms of climate control, the 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum continues with the luxury feel; offering both heated and cooled seats up front, heated seats in the second row, three zone HVAC with a rear control panel (with front seat override) and ductwork along the ceiling to get that hot or cool air to everyone.
The centerpiece of technology in the 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum is the big, bright touch screen mounted high on the silver trimmed dash. This infotainment screen includes access to control the sound system, the navigation system, the hands free phone system, the integrated text messaging system, the traffic information screen, the Eco information and more. Flanking both sides of this touch screen are a small group of buttons and knobs that allow you to flip through the radio stations of media files, but you won’t find a dedicated navigation button – and that is really my only complaint with the Highlander. In this day and age, navigation is as important as anything and it deserves its own button that doesn’t require you to go through an Apps menu. Fortunately, the collection of controls on the dash and on the steering wheel, plus the voice controls, will allow those people who don’t love the high tech touch screen to avoid the new technology…or people who are wearing gloves.
The buttons on the steering wheel also give the driver quick access to the information screen between the analog speedometer and tachometer, giving you the option to view things like vehicle settings, stereo information, nav directions and fuel economy numbers. It isn’t as fancy as some other vehicles, but the infotainment package in the Limited Platinum Highlander does pretty much everything that systems in far more expensive models can do…for thousands less. Also, this touch screen is hooked to a JBL speaker system that sounds great at loud volume.
One sort of intangible feature of the 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum is the many storage spaces and cup holders…and I love places to stow things. In addition to the basic door pockets and a big glove box, the Highlander has a massive center console with a lower portion at the bottom for the second row passengers along with a unique space that runs along the bottom of the dash, giving the driver and front passenger a unique place to tuck a phone, toll ticket, etc. Toyota puts storage space where they is usually nothing and that is a benefit to any driver – not just families.
Finally, there is the stunning panoramic sunroof that gives the front and middle passengers real access to the glass roof while those up front can enjoy the open air experience. There is a solid shade when you don’t want the sun beating down on you and in a market where huge sunroofs are becoming more and more common – this one really stands out. By the way…this sunroof is standard as part of the Limited package.
My 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum test vehicle was fitted with the optional 3.5L V6 engine that sends 270 horsepower and 248lb-ft of torque to all four wheels via an advanced all wheel drive system and a 6-speed automatic transmission. This drivetrain packs enough power to afford the Highlander solid acceleration from a stop and from a roll so whether you are speeding up to get around slow moving traffic or hurrying away from a stop light to change lanes more easily, the V6 engine delivers. This engine is standard across much of the non-Hybrid Highlander lineup and for good reason, as it is powerful and quite efficient. The EPA expects this Highlander to hit 18mpg in the city, 24 on the highway and 20 combined, but I averaged 21.1mpg during my time in the driver’s seat. That is a number that I consider to be very impressive, considering that I have a heavy left foot.
The 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum offers seating space for six adults and thanks to the smooth, quiet ride – those people can all ride comfortably and talk during the ride. Some SUVs of this size will beat up the rear riders when you hit bumps while the road noise can make conversing from the back to the front difficult, but the Highlander Limited has a very quiet interior even when cruising at speed on the highway. In addition to offering a smooth ride with little road roughness transferred into the cabin, the Highlander offers confident handling both in tight spaces around town and out on the open road. The Highlander is a high riding SUV and that leads to a high center of gravity, but body roll is kept to a minimum at normal speeds and as larger SUVs go, the new Toyota does a great job of combining confident handling and a smooth ride. Also, the suspension setup does a great job of dealing with rough, unpaved roads while the ground clearance is substantial enough to deal with my area’s worst dirt roads.
The 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited is capable of towing up to 5,000lbs but sadly, my test vehicle was not equipped with the towing package. Having that towing package would have made me think even more of the new Highlander, as that extra aspect is important to me in today’s market. With that aside, the new Highlander rides and drives great around town on both paved and unpaved roads as well as when traveling at higher speeds on the interstate.
The Final Word
Other than the fact that there is no dedicated navigation/map button on the dash and the fact that my test vehicle didn’t come with the towing package, I don’t have much bad to say about the 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum. The V6 engine packs plenty of power to keep up with fast moving highway traffic while still averaging better than 20mpg. The interior offers gobs of passenger space and an impressive list of standard features that are more common found as standard equipment on far more expensive luxury models and the exterior design is bold – in a segment where being bold is very important and from a vehicle which has historically not featured a very striking exterior design.
The Muppets are right…the new Highlander ain’t got no room for boring – but there is room for just about everything else that you could want from an SUV of this size. If you want a bigger SUV that gets great fuel economy, offers real space for six adults comes with tons of standard goodies and does so in the mid 40s – the Highlander Limited Platinum should be on your list of vehicles to drive before making your next big purchase.