2014 Toyota Highlander
While there are several paths to take when redesigning an suv or crossover, the tried and true route seems to be make it bigger and more comfortable. And that’s the approach that Toyota has taken with the 3rd generation of their largest crossover, the very successful highlander. Let’s see if it still rates high on our list.
The Highlander has indeed been a very successful family-sized crossover for Toyota and that will more than likely remain the case for the 2014 edition.
But, not willing to take any chances, Toyota has equipped the new Highlander with a more sophisticated design and added additional features to keep suburban households in their corner.
While everyone likes to talk practicality and even fuel economy when making everyday vehicle decisions, most buyers still consider the right appearance a strong suit. The Highlander’s slicker sheet metal will help put that situation in its favor.
Body panels are more sculpted than before and there’s almost 3 additional inches of length to play with that gives it much more presence.
Up front, there’s a larger trapezoidal grille, reminiscent of the one sported by the athletic new Corolla; and redesigned A pillars that along with larger rear quarter windows allow for better all-around visibility.
Substantial 18-inch alloy wheels come standard with 19’s available.
Engines are carryover, however, but the all-wheel-drive V6 is more fuel efficient thanks to updates for the 6-speed automatic transmission. Government Fuel Economy Ratings are now 18-City, 24-Highway, and 20-Combined.
Energy Impact Score comes in average at 16.5-barrels of oil use per year with 7.2 tons of CO2 emitted.
We spent time in all powertrain options at the press launch in Carmel, California. And, as you might expect, the V6 with its 270-horsepower and 248 lb-ft. of torque was our preferred option. It’s both strong and more refined than the base 2.7-liter I4. The V6-based hybrid is also highly desirable with even more power and efficiency, but it still comes with a substantial sticker price penalty.
Regardless of powertrain, on the road Highlander feel both more comfortable and polished. And thanks to additional body sealing, added sound deadening materials, and rerouting of the exhaust system, the ride is quieter and smoother, moving Highlander closer to luxury utility ranks.
Dynamic Torque Control all-wheel-drive defaults to front drive until slip is detected, then up to 50% of power heads rearward. You also get torque shift for added grip under heavy acceleration and handling loads. Indeed, when the turns got extra twisty, we felt it helping us through the corners.
Inside there are new soft touch materials, primarily on the dash. But the more time you spend inside the cabin, the more you feel like Toyota could have spread the softness around a little more.
As before, three row seating is standard, but the third row is now wider allowing for 3 across and for first time 8-passenger capacity. Still, the shorter your legs, the more comfort you’ll be. Third row access is easier with a one touch sliding function for the second row.
Where there’s adequate room for just about anyone, whether you opt for bench seating for 3 or Captain’s chairs for 2.
Cargo space behind the 3rd row is up as well, to 13.8 cubic-ft. But, behind the 2nd row, space remains the same as last year at 42.3 cubic-ft. And, surprisingly, max. cargo with all rows folded is actually down a bit to 83.7 cubic-ft.
On the new features front, there’s available Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Pre-Collision, Blind Spot Monitoring, and Lane Departure Warning.
The Highlander adds a useful shelf that spans the dash and is a great place for electronics and knick knacks that seem to always find their way into the cup holders.
Toyota has stepped things up in connectivity too, with the latest version of Entune standard, as is Bluetooth with audio streaming.
4 trim levels are available starting with the LE at $30,075. Limited models start at $40,500 with LE Plus and XLE in between. All-wheel-drive is available on all models, but the 4-cylider is only available in LE trim, and hybrid only as a Limited.
While the 2014 Toyota Highlander has indeed achieved a loftier status thanks to additional features, more passenger space, and increased refinement; in most ways, it’s still the same great family crossover as before. So while the Highlander is indeed new, it is also totally familiar. And that will please the Toyota faithful to a “T”.
- Engine: All-wheel-drive V6
- Horsepower: 270
- Torque: 248 lb-ft.
- EPA: 18 mpg city/ 24 mpg highway
- Energy Impact: 16.5 barrels of oil/yr
- CO2 Emissions: 7.2 tons/yr
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid
Crossed Up Corolla Gets More Efficient
Toyota offers a hybrid powertrain in just about everything they make, so it did seem odd that last year, when they debuted an all-new SUV version of their long-time best-selling Corolla, a hybrid was nowhere to be found. Well, it didn’t take long for Toyota to correct that situation, delivering this Corolla Cross Hybrid for 2023.
With prices for everything seemingly going up daily, we can all use a little more cost efficiency in our lives. That’s a mission that Toyota has been undertaking for some time now and continues to do it with this 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid.
The Alabama-built Corolla Cross arrived just last year as Toyota’s attempt to bring their best-selling nameplate into the SUV era, and give them an additional entry into the most popular automotive segment going right now, small crossovers.
There are some RAV4 styling cues here, but the Corolla Cross is mostly its own deal, and the Hybrid is more than just a fuel efficient option, it has added performance too. So, it’s offered only in Toyota’s S line of trims S, SE, and XSE, where the standard Corolla Cross is available in base L, LE, and XLE.
There are some differences outside, most notably unique front and rear fasicas; the front with a much more aggressive look, with larger grille and blacked-out trim.
Black trim and logos in back too, along with a redesigned bumper; plus, you can optionally go 2-tone by adding black paint to the roof.
Great packaging has it feeling roomier inside than most small 5-seat utes, straddling the line between subcompact and compact. And seats are way more comfortable than your typical urban-minded utility.
In fact, the entire interior feels quite upscale, and the layout will be very familiar to those stepping up from an actual Corolla.
Those who put off buying a Corolla Cross until now will be rewarded with upgraded infotainment, as all Hybrid’s will come with Toyota’s latest 8-inch touchscreen multimedia system standard.
The Hybrid’s small battery is located under the rear seat, so there’s minimal loss of rom, with a good 21.5 cubic-ft. of cargo space available; expanding to 61.8 with rear seatbacks folded.
Getting to the heart of the matter, the Corolla Cross Hybrid’s fuel-sipping ways are courtesy of the 5th generation of Toyota’s Hybrid System which outputs a combined 196-horsepower through its trio of electric motors and naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine. One of those motors operating strictly the rear axle for standard all-wheel-drive.
At our test track, there was a nice little chirp of the tires off the line, but that’s where the excitement ended.
So while a 7.5-second trip to 60 may not raise your blood pressure, it’s a full 3-seconds quicker than the standard Corolla Cross we tested last year. We’ll take that!
CVT automatic means engine revs and engine noise both hang relatively high throughout the whole ¼-mile, which took us 15.6-seconds to complete, finishing at a reasonable 90 miles-per-hour.
The Hybrid also gets a “sport-tuned” suspension, and indeed it felt light and nimble through our cone course, very neutral too, with no noticeable understeer or oversteer. Steering was light but still provided good feedback. With some grippier tires, this would certainly give the best handlers in the segment a run for their money.
But the real reward comes in Government Fuel Economy Ratings which are 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined. We averaged a great 43.3 miles-per-gallon of Regular; that’s a 40% increase over the 30.9 miles-per-gallon we averaged in the standard Corolla Cross last year.
But, that does come at a cost, though it’s difficult to make direct comparisons with separate trim families, but pricing starts at $29,320 for the Hybrid, about 3-grand over a base all-wheel-drive non-hybrid. Top XSE comes in at $32,400.
As influential as Toyota is in spreading the hybrid doctrine, it was indeed odd that the Corolla Cross arrived last year without a hybrid option. Smartly, it didn’t take them long to right that wrong, as it was always part of the plan, and the Corolla Cross has benefitted from it greatly. The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid is not just more efficient, it’s more capable, and a much better small utility all around.
- Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
- Horsepower: 196
- 0-60 mph: 7.5-seconds
- MW Fuel Economy: 43.3 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: e-CVT
- Torque: 139 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 15.6-seconds at 90 mph
- EPA: 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined