Introducing the sleek and sculpted, family-sized 2014 Toyota Highlander.
We’ve come a long way since the first Toyota Highlander, which debuted back in 2001 and the Hybrid Highlander, which was introduced in 2005. I got a glimpse of the 2014 Toyota Highlander and its evolution from a rough-and-ready mid-sized SUV to a more sophisticated SUV in Charleston, South Carolina. This third generation model has grown from clunky and unimaginative-looking to a slimmer, more sculpted looking ride. It can accommodate eight and incorporates fast forward technology and safety features, has increased cargo space and some really cool family features.
Destination Charleston, Y’all!
Founded in 1670 as Charles Towne in honor of King Charles II of England, Charleston, South Carolina is situated on Charleston Harbor, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean. Charleston is known for its charming cobblestone streets, alleys full of surprises, historic architecture, and remarkable bouquet of art, culture, restaurants and nature.
Conde Nast Traveler cited Charleston as America’s Most Friendly (City), and this delightfully welcoming Southern city with its antebellum architecture, long verandas, and blooming jasmine is the perfect destination to reveal the new 2014 user-friendly Toyota Highlander.
Shopping, Shopping, Shopping (and Some Sight Seeing, Too)
Our first night we dined at McCrady’s, one of the city’s finest restaurants. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Landmarks, McCrady’s is known for its “new Southern fine dining.”
We also visited charleston cooks!, a unique kitchenware shop that carries local culinary treats, Mac & Murphy, a homespun stationary store located in a refurbished home, and Sneaker, a funky sock and sneaker shop housed in a back patio off the main street. The shopkeepers were friendly, enterprising, energetic, and smart and community minded. The takeaway — hip and forward thinking – enough to have me (briefly) think about relocating from NYC!
And then there’s the nature side of Charleston. We drove a short distance to Isle of Palms, a quaint vacation spot with six miles of sandy beaches and a tiny town. We didn’t make it to the Magnolia Plantations. Why? Because I received a “warning” for driving 37 mph in a 25 mph zone on the island. Sorry officer, I didn’t see any signs…
A Strikingly Stylish Interior With An Ideal Handbag Spot
Our 2014 Toyota Highlander model sported a vanilla toned leather interior (with navy blue contrast stitching on the seats!) laced with touches of satin chrome. The handy in-dash shelf has a partition to keep your cell phones (or other stuff) from sliding around. In addition, the shelf has a pass-through to snake your USB/12V plug-ins beneath the shelf. Now, why didn’t anyone think of this before? Brilliant! But maybe the best part was the 24.5L center console designed to hold oversized items like a large purse or handbag or (as they showed us) 38 cans of soda. Never have your purse slide off the seat or console again. Wow.
Comfort For Second and Third Row Passengers
The second and third rows have air vents with available three-zone automatic climate control, and the second row has sunshades on some of the top-tier models. And the third row? Of course! I tried it and even though I’m not a large person, it doesn’t qualify for grown-ups on a long ride. Kid friendly– for sure! One other cool feature is the driver easy speak: a one-way microphone that projects your voice to the back row! (As if any kid ever listens to me whether they are in the front or the back.)
The Highlander comes with a standard backup camera and eight airbags. Highlander Limited models offer technologies, including: a monitor for blind spots and rear cross traffic and a rear parking sonar assistant.
The 2014 Highlander is equipped with Entune Audio with hands-free Bluetooth streaming and advanced voice recognition. The 6.1-inch hi res touch screens comes standard on LE and LE
Plus, 8” is standard on XLE and Limited grades. If you prefer heated and ventilated front seats, they’re standard on the Limited with available heated steering wheel and heated second row seats.
The available panoramic moon roof is a MUST on my list. Another notable is the power rear-gate that is height adjustable. In other words, if you are short, you don’t have to stand on your tiptoes to reach the button and you can program it so it won’t knock the ceiling of your garage when you open it inside. So smart.
This SUV has plenty of pluck on the highways. What we liked is that it felt light and easy to maneuver, not at all like a truck. The 2014 Highlander was fun in crowded city streets, parallel parking and even backing out of one-way alleys – even when I went the wrong way!
Engines and MPG
Choose between three engines: 2.7L FWD (20/25), 3.5L V6 FWD (19/25) AWD (18/24) and Hybrid AWD (27/28).
The marketing folks at Highlander told me that they wanted to skew more male. Their consumer base is a predominately woman. Now, when was the last time you heard that?
Price Range for 2014 Highlander: Pricing ranges from $29K to $47K
Disclosure: I traveled to Charleston as Toyota’s guest to test drive the 2014 Highlander; opinions expressed here are all my own.