2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Review – Impressive SUV

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Toyota has redone the Highlander and it is quite the improvement. This SUV is one of the best vehicles I have driven in a while. Here is my review.

2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Review - Exterior Overview

The all new Toyota Highlander has great styling throughout especially the exterior.

When I first got the 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited, I really didn’t think much of it. The exterior styling is nice and it is a definite upgrade over the previous generation, but beyond that I was not impressed. The more I drove it though, the more I really enjoyed it. From the roomy interior with lots of great features to a very comfortable ride, it is surprising how much I came to appreciate it. Loading my family of 4 into the SUV, I also quickly realized how nice this vehicle would be for a long road trip. Forget the mini-van, this SUV has plenty of room, get up and go and comfort for the long haul.

My press loan was a 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited with a 3.5L V-6 mated to a 6-speed transmission with dynamic torque-control AWD. It had the bucket seats in the middle row, however, with a bench, total seating grows to 8.

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Exterior Styling

2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Review - Rear Hatch

The rear styling looks great and the hatch is easy to use. Also, the rear glass opens for easy retrieval of items.

The exterior has lots of appeal with its sleek lines and stylish front grille. Toyota has done a great job of blending the front with the rear and it is one solid looking vehicle.

It also has some great features. For example, the rear glass opens separate from the hatch. Need to leash your dog before opening the hatch? There you go. Want to grab a few things while traveling without spilling the entire load? You can do that. This is a smart idea that Toyota could have simply skimped on. I’m glad they didn’t.

Also, the width and height of the vehicle make it really easy to park and maneuver. Maybe because I drive a full-size truck, I notice these things. But, this SUV is really easy to park and I can easily reach all areas of it (handy for washing it). Overall, it feels really stylish and well designed.

Driving Impressions

As I said earlier, this is one of the best SUVs I have driven in quite a while. The V6 engine powers this SUV very well and the shifting was really smooth. In fact, I never noticed the car shifting or felt like the engine was straining. It seems like a perfect marriage of powertrain to size.

In the corners, it doesn’t have as much push as I expect and while I wouldn’t say it corners like a sports car, it does corner better than say a 4Runner. Braking, acceleration and handling were all great and I found myself really relaxed behind the wheel.

For the driving position, I found it really easy to maneuver the seat and steering wheel right where I like it. I never felt like I had to stretch for anything and the dials were really easy to read. Also, the visibility is pretty good and this SUV just seems suited to me.

Lastly, the dynamic torque-control AWD is something to mention. This system is basically on-demand AWD. For most of the driving AWD is disengaged giving you better fuel economy. When the vehicle’s computer senses wheel slipping, it sends power from the front to the rear to stabilize the vehicle. It also works in conjunction with the vehicle stability control and electric power steering to improve the handling. All in all, I thought it was a great solution to having a vehicle with AWD and fuel economy.

Interior Features and Styling

2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Review - Interior Front

The interior has plenty of room and lots of storage options.

On the inside, I was really impressed with the quality of the materials and the fit and finish. It really felt more like an early model of the Lexus RX 350 with its quality and materials. In fact, I would honestly tell people when looking for an SUV to compare the Highlander with the current generation Lexus. In some ways, I think the Highlander is better.

Back to the interior, one of the great features my Highlander test model had was a panoramic moonroof. This thing is massive and extends all the way through the second row. My young boys loved having the powered, sliding shade retracted to watch the clouds as we drove. It also operated as a basic sun roof above the driver with the ability to open and close. I did drive a bit with the front open and the moonroof open. No vibration issues at all. Lastly, you can only retract above the driver and keep the middle row covered if you like (good for sleeping kiddos). Just lots of good functionality.

Speaking of kids, the middle row bucket seats were just the right width to install the car seats. Plus, my young boys found the cabin height to be low enough that it was easy to enter the Highlander while the seats were low enough for them to hop right in. Also, the third row was big enough for them (without a car seats). This SUV can seat up to 7, yet don’t be fooled into thinking that is seven adults. It is more of the four adults, three kids/teenagers type of SUV.

The Highlander also had the second-row passenger friendly retractable sun shades which make it a much more pleasant experience for them. These shades are perfectly matched to the window and easy to use.

Bottom Line

With most press loans, I immediately transfer car seats and prepare the vehicle for a week of driving the family around. This SUV was no exception, although, it was different. I haven’t had a vehicle yet that was so family focused and I really wished I had it for a long road trip. The ease of driving, loading kids and all the small features added up to one family-friendly SUV. Secretly, I thought about buying my wife one just so I could drive it more.


  • 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited
  • 3.5L V6
  • 6-speed transmission
  • Platinum Package
  • 18/24/20 City/Highway/Combined
  • Price: $44,675.00

Filed Under: TundraHeadquarters.com


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  1. Randy says:

    Oh wow, Crazy Beans, did we both come from Mars? The first experience I had with the 2014 Highlander was this last Tuesday!

    I spent about 30 minutes in the vehicle and 100% of my time was spent on the Entune system and hands free calling – Voice Commands. I really did not look at the rest of the vehicle. I want you to know I put it through its paces like no one else ever will.

    Let me just say that the hands free calling, Voice Commands, and Entune in this car is 100% bullet proof and it worked like a charm.

    Now if only the dealer can make it work in my Tundra?

    I am putting the Highlander on my short list to replace my wife’s Acura. Of course the Entune will have to be fixed in my Tundra before that will happen.

    Tim, thanks for this timely review of the Highlander.


    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      Ha! That is crazy. You should spend sometime on the rest of the vehicle, it is really great.

      BTW, I am currently driving a 2014 Highlander XLE. Look for that review and the comparison of the Limited vs. XLE trim packages.


      • Randy says:


        Good a top drawer XLE review too! Hope it will be an AWD too. Perhaps you will get to spend some time on exactly how the buttons operate; like “snow”, AWD with “x” on and off, and DAC? I know you will tell me more than a salesman by saying they are “push” buttons. LOL


        • Tim Esterdahl says:


          You don’t like just push buttons?? LOL.

          I can tell you what the buttons do. Snow mode makes the transmission start in second gear, so the torque isn’t as great as in first gear. This helps to not have the tires spinning in the snow. Also, it adjusts the braking and gas pedal to be less responsive in the snow.

          The Highlander has a dynamic torque-control system. The button is a “lock override” feature to keep the AWD system engaged. This is helpful if you are stuck in the mud. It will turn off after you apply the brakes (engages ABS braking system) and when you exceed speeds like 25 MPH.

          DAC is downhill assist control. This is a bit like CRAWL control in the 4Runner. It keeps the vehicle locked in a slow rate of speed when going downhill. It is nice that it allows you to sit back and relax while descending. I experienced this with the 4Runner and all you need to do is sit back and steer. The system uses the brakes and transmission to keep a constant rate of speed. Really nice when you need it. Although, you may never need it.

          Shoot, maybe I should sell cars. LOL.


          • Randy says:

            Thanks Tim,

            Ok let me see if I got this right about the “lock override” for the AWD?

            I get the AWD part, so no problem there; with normal open diff’s and transfer I suppose?

            When you hit the lock override button does that “lock” the transfer case?

            If that is true then is it like the A-Trac on my Tundra forcing the 50/50 balance with open diff’s on each end controlled by computer and I can drive on ice, just like the Tundra?

            Or have I misunderstood again? I may not yet fully grasp the dynamic torque control is and what the lock override button is doing etc. For example is the lock override turning the AWD into a traditional 4×4? Etc.

            Yes you should sell cars.


          • Tim Esterdahl says:


            I’m not an expert on differentials, so let me try to explain it how I know how. 🙂

            Yes, the locking button “locks” the AWD “on.” However, it only remains on for speeds up to 25 mph or if the brakes are engaged. Engaging the brakes turns it off to ensure the ABS and VSC systems work effectively. These last two parts are via the owners manual.

            My understanding of AWD and 4×4 is that they are similar in that you have power at each wheel. However, that is about where the similarities end. With a 4wd system, you engage different gearing that provides more low-end torque. An AWD system merely transfers the same torque and gearing to each wheel.

            For the Highlander, it uses a dynamic system which means it sense which wheel needs more torque and it send the power to it. It also works in conjunction with the ABS and VSC system to further help stabilize the Highlander.

            Yes, you can drive on ice with AWD. However, ice is ice. I mean, AWD and 4×4 will both help on ice, yet you can still get into trouble. I would say with the Highlander’s dynamic system that a lesser experienced driver can handle the ice better. However, any vehicle and driver can get in trouble on ice.

            The key points on the AWD system really boil down to: it is nice to have when you need it; it can be locked at low speeds; with it not being a full-time AWD system, you will get better fuel economy.

            Here is a good link that explains it better than I. Haha!! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.c.....ferential/

            Hope that helps.


  2. mk says:

    yes, the highlander is nice but decided instead on the 5-10K cheaper in price 2014 hyundai santa fe LWB FWD 3.3L base GLS 28K out the door price. Doesn’t have leather nor AWD nor sunroof nor NAV nor Entune radio system, but has all I want and need even has standard dual front heated cloth seats and power drivers seat. Seats 7 and middle bench seat is adjustable upward and yes, you can get 7 full sized adults in there comfortably as long as rear 2 are under say 5’7″ tall otherwise your head will hit ceiling. Rides nice (although probably not quite as nice as the highlander) and can tow 5,000 lbs. and still save 5-10 grand over the highlander. The 3.3L has 290 hp and will easily keep pace with the 3.5L highlander as well, very peppy.

    Not saying the highlander isn’t nice, it is, but you are paying more as well for not gaining much more. Even a fully loaded santa fe is around/under 40K msrp apples to apples pricing. Plus, the santa fe has a 5/60K bumper to bumper warranty for the most part vs. only 3/36K for toyota.

    Not knocking the highlander at all, is a nice SUV, but the santa fe by Hyundai is nearly just as roomy and in my opinion, looks nicer inside and out.

  3. mk says:

    by the way, we are averaging 25 avg mpg mostly hwy on the 3.3L V6 FWD 2014 santa fe LWB and if it is anything like our former 2011 santa fe 3.5L V6, we have averaged on longer hwy. trips going 72-75 mph on average believe it or not 28.5 avg mpg. Not too shabby for a powerful V6 when you can get at least 25 avg mpg overall.

  4. Mike T says:

    The 2014 Highlander provides lower anchors and tethers on outboard second-row seats for child-safety seats, but only a tether anchor on the middle third-row seat.

    Advanced safety features are available, though only on the pricey Limited trim level where a blind spot monitoring system and rear parking assist are standard, and pre-collision, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning are optional.

  5. Will says:

    Agreed with your Mike T….you know seating is much comfortable in the first and second rows with soft, wide front seats and a highly adjustable second row that slides and reclines with two captain’s chairs or the standard three-seat bench configuration — captain’s chairs are available on the XLE and standard on the Limited.

  6. mk says:

    MikeT, I sure hope the pricier Limited trim level ONLY keeps those higher end gadgets instead of making them standard on the base models to keep pricing down on these overpriced vehicles. I had the same issue when I bought my base GLS 2014 santa fe LWB FWD 3.3L V6. There was only 2 packages available as options and basically the ONLY options and each package was 3 grand msrp each – OUCH.

    The only thing I wanted that I didn’t get which I can still as a stand alone option for 300 bucks is the auto dimming/homelink/compass rearview mirror. Other than that, nothing of any value to me in the other two 3 grand packages.

  7. Tony says:

    Hi All,

    For someone has the version with the optional Heated Steering Wheels, Parking Assit…, I still don’t know what one of those buttons does. Can you please let me know?!

    In this picture:

    which is the last pictures above, in this article, about the optional buttons can be turn on or off.

    There are 2 rows of optional buttons. The button I’m asking is the one on the left button on the bottom row, next to the Heated Steering Wheels button.

    Is it the Heated Windshield Wiper?!

    Thanks very much!

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