The Toyota Highlander has always presented an admirable alternative to the highly populated mid-size crossover segment. Ignited by the domestic brands, nearly every mainstream brand offers a variant in this record-selling segment. So when Toyota set out to develop an updated revision of the Highlander, specific details were in mind to remain competitive, versatile, efficient, and competent. The 2014 model year introduces the industry to the third generation.
From the exterior, a more forward front fascia announces a more aggressive stance that remains consistent to other recent Toyota product launches. The stunning Oh La La Rouge Mica (yes, that’s what Toyota calls it) underlines an effort of class borrowed from the company's closely related cousins, Lexus. Drawn from lightweight construction, the aluminum finished wheels neatly complemented the wheel wells to present a level of sophistication while still creating a look of off road ruggedness.
The interior stays on task with luxury themes by offering a well-tailored interior space that executes a higher level of material fit and finish. Silky leather surfaces adorn the interior from wall to wall, and promise maximum comfort for all passengers. The dashboard offers an intuitive layout with an interesting storage area that includes a streamline access door that allows easy connectivity from the USB/12 volt charging port. My only gripe for the dashboard was the significant amount of reach needed to operate some controls; mainly stereo functions. Even at 6'3" with long arms, I found it hard to reach. However, intuitive steering heel controls allow for ease of operation.
The test vehicle was delivered in the powerful, yet efficient hybrid variant. As one of the only hybrid contenders on the market, the Highlander Hybrid offers drivers a quiet and efficient alternative to an already strong sport utility. However, a substantial price increase may not be enough for some to make the move.
An acclaimed manufacturer estimate of 28 MPG is slightly higher than the most efficient gas variant. However, buyers and passengers are sure to enjoy the premium offerings that remain standard on the hybrid variant compared to the entry-level conventional model. During mixed city and highway driving, the Highlander Hybrid test model saw an average of 25 MPG. It should be noted most was highway driving, and an available EV mode allows the vehicle to remain in all electric drive until about 25 mph. (Perfect for city or highway bumper traffic)
Overall, the Highlander Hybrid promises buyers a great alternative to other somewhat notable gas guzzling sport utility models on the market. An attractive, well-poised vehicle on any surface, the Highlander is sure to impress even the most particular buyer. On a recent visit to the Florida Everglades National Park, the Highlander proved it's quiet capability of being able to approach a gator in the swamps. For more information on the Highlander Hybrid, visit Toyota.com.