Roadshow Video Reviews
2014 Toyota Highlander HybridIs the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid just a big Prius or much more? Brian Cooley drives the sleek new SUV and checks the tech.
[UNKNOWN] of course, will hybridise almost anything in its line if you give them enough time, and you might think of this Highlander hybrid as just basically a Highlander with some Prius technology grafted. But it's actually quite different. Let's drive this 2014 Highlander Limited Platinum, all-wheel drive and highly electrified, and check the tank. [MUSIC] Now if you haven't a Highlander lately, hybrid or otherwise, you haven't seen a Highlander. They've done quite a bit of plastic surgery on it for this very fresh third edition, and as you can see it's gotten a lot less boxy and square shouldered than it used to be, that's part of the big trend in its category. If it looks bigger, that's largely an optical illusion by them drawing the line. Lengthwise. Although it is about two inches longer. But that's not really meaningful .Wheel base is about the same as it was before. Seats eight they tell me. Now I counted seven. Unless there's a different back seat option. Or someone's gotta sit on that little cup rack. That doesn't sound comfortable. And one of the big headlines on this car is no longer that it's a hybrid. That's not even exotic any more. But this is a very different hybrid, as we're gonna find out. With not one, not two. But three electric motors. Now the first thing you're going to notice inside the Highlander hybrid, the new Highlander in general, is this package tray. It's basically a stuff tray for your mobiles and such. I admire the idea finally giving us a shelf to put things, not a lot of cars do this. Unfortunately you know it's crap. You're kids are gonna put in there. I see this being just like an open sewer. This is what they call a cable management system. All it seems to do is take the mess of a cable and split it between the shelf and the console. I don't call that management, it's just a pass through. Let's talk about screens. You've got a helper screen here about a four inch. We've seen this before, in between the two what they call Optitron, very nicely detailed. Analog gauges. The one on the left, gives you your charge, power, and eco swing, pretty common stuff, and your temp. On the right is your speedo and your traditional fuel level. Notice what's missing here though. Most hybrids,. Have this huge battery level indicator at all times, showing you how much charge you've got. They kinda make that go away. It's available. It's over here under your home screen. But it's not one that screams at you all the time. It's an interesting piece of psychology to say, look, don't worry about your battery level. Worry about how economically you're driving. That does make more sense. Inside this big screen is a lot of proven Toyota technology. It's laid out a little differently you've got a lot of touch buttons alongside here, they are, they are physical buttons as you can see but they don't move they're just using actual pressure sensitivity. Nothing new in the navigation system to speak of we've seen that before. Let's go into your audio sources, where you have many. AM and FM with HD radio. XM Radio is standard. Your CD above here. Still have optical disk. iPod USB connector. That's where this snarly mess is down here. Bluetooth streaming. Auxiliary jack. You can also play DVDs. Two particular media apps come in via NTUNE. It's iHeartRadio for Clear Channel stations and Pandora for predictive internet radio. All of that comes out through what's called a JBL GreenEdge amplification system. The speakers around the car, the amps that drive them are all built of efficiency. So they don't tap any more power out of the cars electrical system then they have to. Cohesive and. But, it makes sense for a hybrid. Now, let's go to the apps. Notice, how they make everything an app, and that's a little bit of a cheat. I mean, navigation is not an app, it's a function build into the car, same thing with phone. The more interesting stuff comes over here on the right, were you find your end tune array. Mostly things we've seen before. Bing, iHeart radio, Pandora, Open Table, MovieTickets.com, Yelp and then Sports and Stock from Satellite radio that you probably don't care about. Traffic is provided by HD Radio broadcast, by the way. So even if you let your satellite radio subscription lapse you should still have good traffic data on the map. Voice command for the Bing search tool is a welcome technology now. Just say what you're looking for, and it'll return results that are navigation-oriented. Now speaking of the audio system, if you're like me, and you still like to grab the volume knob once in a while just to get the sound right where you want it or quickly turn it down. You're gonna hate this car. Look at these knobs, get a side angle there. IT's kind of like a round, nice edge. There could not be a worse designed knob for the human hand. It's uncomfortable, it's a sharp, chrome ring, and it's slippery. What were they thinking? Our backup camera is standard as you can also hear are the rear. Sonar, I like how sharp this one is, it's a wide angle lens but not ridiculously so, so the world behind you is not too distorted and you've got prediction of direction and distance. But most importantly you've got really good detail on the screen so you can make things out with some, with some real precision, you'd be surprised how much that helps. The most interesting technology on this car could be that one, Driver Easy Speak. I've never seen this on a car before. It akes a little bit of your voice from the Bluetooth microphone system and pipes it to the rear speakers of the car. Not real loud, it's not like a PA system, it's more like just a subtle enhancement. So you're not having to yell to the back row and tell them to stop punching each other in the face. You can say, hey, little darlings stop punching each other in the face. It also works with the auto system so it's not fighting it all the time. It's rather [UNKNOWN]. Now, an unusual story about how this vehicle runs, starts here in the engine bay. First of all, you've got a three and a half liter. Clean burn vee six. Not a terribly powerful beast, although total system horse power is two hundred and 80. But that combines a bunch of electric motors. By a bunch I mean three. Motor number one is primarily a generator, and a starter, and it's also part of the ratio control, with the cee vee tee gear box. Motor number two is your front wheel drive. Traction motor and captures brake energy from the front to the back of the battery. Motor number three is on the rear wheel, and also captures brake regen from them. Now while this is complex and novel arrangement for an all wheel drive vehicle, it's also rather clean. Elimination a slew of almost. Torian era drive shafts and transfer cases that other all wheel drive cars use. Now we're looking at nearly 4900 pounds of Highlander here in this hybrid. Hello big battery. But it still gets up to 60 in 7.2 seconds, that's pretty sprightly. Hello torque. MPG all in complete blended system is 27/28. The driver operation of the car is pretty straightforward. The all-wheel drive system is basically transparent. You're not seeing a bunch of all-wheel drive controls. In fact, basically none. You put this guy in drive, or over here on the sports side for shifting. Stability, no paddles on this vehicle, and off you go to the races. You have a couple of buttons up here, underneath our cable management. One is called the Eco Mode, and that will bias the car toward more green running, particularly less. Response on acceleration, and you've got the EV mode, which will [UNKNOWN] in another way, which will say, run on pure electric as much as you can, given your battery state. So jumping in, this Highlander doesn't have anything terribly all-wheel drive about it. It doesn't. That sort of rugged off-road DNA. What happens is, the vehicle is largely front-wheel drive biased, but can send as much as 50% of total system torque to the rear wheels when needed. But it'll figure that out on its own. That's why they call it all-wheel drive-i. It does the thinking, you do the driving. The overall impression is one of very good. Linear power, hybrids tend to do that even when you're in eco mode it doesn't become a non-responsive slug. I like that. And the braking is similarly linear. A lot of hybrids have kind of multi stage brakings between the service brakes and the rejam but this one's a nice linear smooth application. That's a bit of an achievement. My concern here is that there are a lot of noises I don't like. I get a lot of power train noise on acceleration that. They'll just become a vehicle like this. When you come to a stop, there's a whole lot of, sort of gear noise as the drive line settles or gnashes its teeth or whatever it's doing, and when you turn on the seat coolers, this is the loudest thing I've ever heard in a car that isn't the audio system. If you live in a hot climate you need to check this out. If you test drive one of these cars. I thought I had a window open in the back for like the first five minutes I drove this car until I realized it was the seat fan, not well done. The lane departure is calibrated pretty well. Although it's late by some people's standards. It doesn't come into effect until, in my experience, you're actually on the line not approaching it. The blind spot tech is very ordinary. It puts a tiny little indicator on the mirror when there's someone in your blind spot and it's passive like the lane departure. But in sum, it's a nice driver. It knows it's role is what I would say. Okay, let's price our Highlander. We're nearly. Top of the stack, in fact we are, because it's a hybrid, and all hybrids are limited and also that as a platinum package on top of that, where it's just under 51 thousand base. The platinum is about $25 hundred dollars of that price and adds the safety connect, sort of On Star features, adaptive radar cruise control, the forward collision warning and lane departure warning, automatic high beams, and that very spacious panoramic room. About the only thing I can find to add to this to make it fully CNET style, is remote start, which is an odd factory leave-out. It's $500 dealer installed. All in, we're at about $51,400 on this car, for a vehicle that is rather heavily revised. Has a great new look. A very innovative, ambitious hybrid system. And it does some really interesting things inside the cabin to keep the technology high, as well as the creature comforts. [MUSIC]