Preview by Mark Stevenson, photos by Jonathan Yarkony and courtesy Toyota

Toyota will soon be launching the 2014 Highlander, which they’ve announced is all new from the ground up, but the design changes are small and evolutionary. The mid-size CUV’s shape doesn’t change all that much and neither does it add much in terms of size, with the body stretching three inches in length and half-inch in width. Instead, the Highlander is a solid competitor refining its skills ahead of a new season of under-12 soccer.

Preview: 2014 Toyota Highlander toyota car previews auto shows 2013 ny 2013 autoshows Preview: 2014 Toyota Highlander toyota car previews auto shows 2013 ny 2013 autoshows Preview: 2014 Toyota Highlander toyota car previews auto shows 2013 ny 2013 autoshows Preview: 2014 Toyota Highlander toyota car previews auto shows 2013 ny 2013 autoshows
2014 Toyota Highlander. Click image to enlarge

Outside, Toyota has affixed a new face to the family hauler, giving it larger, more swept-back headlights and a newly designed trapezoidal grille. They’ve also redesigned the tailgate and rear quarter glass to give drivers an improved view of the surrounding environment. Overall, the Highlander keeps the same silhouette as before, though that’s of little surprise, as it’s very difficult to change the overall shape of a vehicle such as this without compromising functionality.

However, the main focus while developing the new Highlander came from current owners looking for better interior appointments and other upgrades. And, hopefully for them, the new vehicle won’t disappoint.

Preview: 2014 Toyota Highlander toyota car previews auto shows 2013 ny 2013 autoshows
Preview: 2014 Toyota Highlander toyota car previews auto shows 2013 ny 2013 autoshows
Preview: 2014 Toyota Highlander toyota car previews auto shows 2013 ny 2013 autoshows
2014 Toyota Highlander. Click image to enlarge

Instead of being limited to seven passengers as before, the new CUV is able to cram an additional kid in the back-most row, bringing the total count to eight when a second row bench is equipped. If customers opt for the second row captain’s chairs, those occupants can be treated to heated seats. Up front, seats are heated and ventilated when optioned appropriately.

Other improvements up front have also been made, including upgraded interior materials throughout and something Toyota calls “wood grain trim” that I thought was left back in the 90s. To combat this throwback feature, the Highlander has its standard multimedia screen upgraded to six inches, with the optional eight-inch touchscreen and 12 JBL speakers available for audiophiles. Drivers are also treated to a heated steering wheel and an automatic high-beam control system so as not to blind oncoming motorists.

To keep the music inside as crisp as possible, Toyota has gone to great lengths to keep out unwanted road noise nuisances. Use of noise reduction material is said to have increased some 30 percent and the Highlander makes use of fancy “acoustic-type” glass in the windshield to cut down on wind noise.

Moving back to the second row, the Highlander comes with integrated sunshades to protect those kiddies who have delicate skin, and also features a one-step sliding seat to make access to the third row much easier than when we were kids. Both second and third row benches are of the 60/40 split variety and space behind the third row has been increased 34 percent for additional bags of hockey gear.




About Mark Stevenson

Mark Stevenson is a former IT professional turned freelance automotive writer and news editor for Autos.ca. He's a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada and former member of the Texas Automotive Writers Association (TAWA). Mark spends an inordinate amount of time on motorcycles and resides in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia with his two dogs - Nismo and Maloo. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.