Toyota Highlander

The 2014 Highlander is powered by one of three different drivetrains. Base models make due with a 2.7L 4-cylinder engine making 180 hp. In this guise, the Highlander is rated at 20 mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway. The mid-level V6 displaces 3.5L and makes 270 hp, while the top of the line hybrid uses an electric motor in conjunction with a V6 to make 280 hp. The hybrid Highlander returns 27 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, extremely impressive numbers for a vehicle equipped with third-row seating. The Highlander comes standard in front-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive is an option for those who need it.

There are four trim levels offered on the 2014 Toyota Highlander: LE, LE Plus, XLE and Limited, which offers buyers plenty of options.

LE is the most basic trim, and is the only trim to feature the smaller 4-cylinder engine. However, it still comes loaded with 18-inch wheels, an Entune stereo with a 6.1-inch touchscreen, a backup camera, Bluetooth streaming, heated mirrors, a couple of USB ports and third-row seating.

Stepping up to LE Plus adds a number of desirable items. Highlights include a height-adjustable power rear liftgate, an 8-way power adjustable driver's seat, satellite HD radio, 3-zone automatic climate control, fog lamps and a leather wrapped steering wheel.

The XLE trim includes a smart key and push button start, leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, roof rails to help secure extra luggage, rear window shades, an 8-inch touch screen, Homelink, a navigation system and a moonroof.

The top spec Limited trim offers buyers 19-inch wheels, LED daytime running lights, various parking aids and a blind spot monitor, perforated leather seating, heated and cooled front seats, and a powered passenger seat. The Limited Highlanders are also the only trim that can be equipped with the optional hybrid powertrain.

Options include a Technology package with radar-controlled cruise control, a Lane Departure system and automatically dimming high beams; as well as a Platinum package, which includes everything in the technology package along with a heated steering wheel, heated second row seats and a panoramic moonroof. A Rear Seat Entertainment system is also optional.

Safety is aided by anti-lock brakes, stability control and traction control, as well as optional items like a blind-spot monitor. Of course, should an accident occur, the Highlander is equipped with eight airbags in order to minimize any possible damage to its occupants.

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Editors' First Take

Since its inception at the turn of the century, the Toyota Highlander has tucked several versions of a V6 gas engine under its hood. But change comes for everyone, even a mass-market brand as generally conservative as Toyota. Now, with a downsized engine and a much-needed tech upgrade, the 2023 Highlander is better positioned to remain a segment go-to.

Powertrain: Doing more with less

The Toyota Highlander remains available with an optional hybrid powertrain, but the biggest change this year belongs to the base gas version. The old 3.5-liter V6 has been sent off into the sunset, replaced with a smaller 2.4-liter turbocharged I4. Output is now pegged at 265 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, and while it's down 30 horsepower, torque is up by 47 pound-feet, and it's that kind of low-down grunt that makes an impact in daily driving more than top-end power ever will.

After a brief drive loop outside Nashville, that is my biggest takeaway. At no point in my drive am I thinking the Highlander's 2.4-liter is coming up short. It provides more than enough motive force when puttering around town, and while the sound profile is a little different than a naturally aspirated V6, it's not buzzy or annoying by any stretch. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, and it's nice and inoffensive, firing off shifts without making a fuss about it.

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