2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

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Key Specs
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Road Test
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Key Specs

of the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Base trim shown.

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Fuel economy
  • Power
  • Edgier styling for 2014
  • Second-row room
  • Interior materials and design

The Bad

  • Third-row legroom
  • Cargo room behind third row
  • No 8th seat option (unlike non-hybrid)
  • Hybrid not available on base or midlevel versions

Notable Features of the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

  • Redesigned for 2014
  • Gas-electric hybrid
  • All-wheel drive only
  • Seats 7

2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Road Test

Jennifer Geiger

You seldom get a second chance to make a first impression. I left the Cars.com $40,000 3-Row Challenge less than impressed with the conventional Toyota Highlander, but the 2014 Toyota Highlander's hybrid version turned me into a fan.

The 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is the best version of the three-row SUV, with strong, smooth power and excellent fuel economy — as long as you can afford its steep price.

The Highlander and Highlander Hybrid were redesigned for 2014, with edgier styling, more cargo room, higher-quality interior materials and a new standard touch-screen multimedia system. We cover the Hybrid in this review; click here for our review of the gas-only version.

The Highlander Hybrid's main competitor is the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid, the only other three-row gas/electric vehicle in the class. Because the Highlander's hybrid powertrain is available only in the top, Limited trim, it's similar in price (and size) to the two-row Lexus RX 450h; compare the three models here.

How It Drives
Although the Highlander took home a respectable third place in our 3-Row Challenge, it got a lot less love from me due to some bad habits: unruly road manners and the front-wheel-drive version's squirrely torque steer — a tendency to pull to one side or the other under heavier acceleration. In the all-wheel-drive-only hybrid, however, acceleration is more linear and immediate; it exhibits a surprising amount of gusto from a stop and still has strong, ...

You seldom get a second chance to make a first impression. I left the Cars.com $40,000 3-Row Challenge less than impressed with the conventional Toyota Highlander, but the 2014 Toyota Highlander's hybrid version turned me into a fan.

The 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is the best version of the three-row SUV, with strong, smooth power and excellent fuel economy — as long as you can afford its steep price.

The Highlander and Highlander Hybrid were redesigned for 2014, with edgier styling, more cargo room, higher-quality interior materials and a new standard touch-screen multimedia system. We cover the Hybrid in this review; click here for our review of the gas-only version.

The Highlander Hybrid's main competitor is the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid, the only other three-row gas/electric vehicle in the class. Because the Highlander's hybrid powertrain is available only in the top, Limited trim, it's similar in price (and size) to the two-row Lexus RX 450h; compare the three models here.

How It Drives
Although the Highlander took home a respectable third place in our 3-Row Challenge, it got a lot less love from me due to some bad habits: unruly road manners and the front-wheel-drive version's squirrely torque steer — a tendency to pull to one side or the other under heavier acceleration. In the all-wheel-drive-only hybrid, however, acceleration is more linear and immediate; it exhibits a surprising amount of gusto from a stop and still has strong, near-instantaneous reserves for the highway.

The hybrid pairs a 3.5-liter V-6 with three electric motors for a total of 280 horsepower; a four-cylinder hybrid isn't available. Like the previous-generation hybrid, it can cruise at low speeds solely on electric power, and I found it easy to sustain EV mode at around-town speeds. The transition from EV to gas is impressively seamless. In EV mode, the car gives off a subtle, futuristic whir. A continuously variable automatic is the sole transmission; it makes itself known with some engine drone, but it's not enough to be intrusive. In fact, I found the hybrid model much quieter overall, with better isolation from engine harshness and road noise.

Fuel economy is another high point, with an EPA rating of 27/28/28 mpg city/highway/combined; the regular all-wheel-drive V-6 model is rated 18/24/20 mpg. All-wheel-drive versions of the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid are EPA-rated 25/27/26, and the V-6-powered Lexus RX 450h comes in a touch higher, at 30/28/29 with all-wheel drive. During my 214-mile, mostly highway trip, I averaged an excellent 29.8 mpg.

The Highlander Hybrid performed solidly on the highway, with a firm but not uncomfortable ride and adequate bump absorption; overall, the ride was smoother than what you'll find in the non-hybrid V-6. In terms of handling, the Hybrid felt less buttoned-down while cornering, with light, dull steering and lots of body roll. Braking, however, was another surprising high point. The regenerative brakes are more responsive and have a more natural pedal feel than many other hybrids.

Interior
Because the hybrid powertrain's availability is limited to top-of-the-line Limited and Limited Platinum versions, the cabin finishes are appropriately upscale. Plush standard leather seats and convincing matte wood-like trim, mixed with chrome, replace the boring, cheap-feeling hard plastic in other versions, giving the Limited a Lexus-like look and feel.

A second-row bench seat is standard on the regular Highlander, making for a total of eight seats, but that's replaced by two sliding bucket seats and a seven-occupant maximum in the Hybrid. The buckets are separated by a pop-up cupholder and console tray; a storage bin would have been more useful, but the setup is still convenient. Families will also appreciate a couple other thoughtful features: the first row's conversation mirror and the second-row's pull-up sunshades. They're small touches, but they make the cabin more comfortable.

Headroom and legroom are plentiful, so even adults will be comfortable in the second row. The third row is another story. Getting back there is pretty easy: The second-row seats collapse and slide forward in one motion, opening a decent-sized walkway to the third row. Kids should also be able to fit between the bucket seats for third-row access. Sitting back there, however, is tough. Although it technically has three seats, not even one adult passenger can get comfortable without some contortions. The seat is firm and flat, and with just 26.7 inches of legroom, it trails the competition by several inches; overall, it's one of the smallest third rows in the segment.

Ergonomics & Electronics
The climate and audio controls mirror the non-hybrid version's and are a highlight of the cabin. The Entune Premium Audio with Navigation and App Suite is standard on Hybrid models. Its 8-inch touch-screen is clear and large, and apps like Pandora internet radio integrated seamlessly with my Android phone.

The system offers users plenty of control choices — knobs, touch-screen, touch-sensitive panels and buttons — but I found it easy to cut through the visual clutter. It was simple to use the audio present menu and input a destination in the navigation system. I found the navigation system's location presets especially helpful on a test drive filled with many new places.

A couple of oddities to note: The new available Easy Speak system is a strange gimmick. It transmits your (possibly stern) voice to the rear speakers, helping get your point across to your (possibly misbehaving) kids in back. The system worked, but required a deep dive into several menus — so the kids will probably laugh at you by the time you get there. Minus one point for mom.

More obnoxious were the issues I had with the standard power liftgate. It's a flexible system that allows you to adjust the cargo door's height depending on how tall your garage is or how short your arms are — when it works: After loading the crossover with luggage, I couldn't get the hatch to close using the power button. I just shut it manually, instead, but once inside the car warning lights illuminated and a tone sounded, alerting me that the hatch was still open. After a quick perusal of the owner's manual, I turned off the power function via a glove-box button and was never able to get it to work during my test.

Cargo & Storage
Many families opt for a three-row SUV in place of a minivan, but if you're thinking the Highlander offers as much cargo room as a minivan, think again. It even offers much less than its competitors: The hybrid model's cargo dimensions virtually mirror the gas version's, with just 13.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row — and that's more than 3 cubic feet more than last year. The Pathfinder Hybrid has 16.0 cubic feet of space behind the third row.

With the third row folded, space increases to 42.3 cubic feet — still short of the Pathfinder's 47.8 cubic feet but a touch more than the RX 450h's 40 cubic feet. The second-row buckets fold in two easy steps, and the resulting floor is flat enough for loading and comfortably hauling long items.

The Highlander outshines the competition when it comes to small-items storage, however. I flat out love the huge, purse-friendly center console. Toyota says it can hold up to 60 juice boxes, and it sure can. There's also plenty of small, shallow cubbies peppered throughout the first row, including a handy multimedia ledge for connecting and storing devices. If juice boxes aren't your style, there's also no shortage of cup- and bottleholders for all three rows.

Safety
The Highlander Hybrid received an overall crash-test score of five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the highest rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not yet tested the hybrid model, but the gas version earned the agency's highest score, Top Safety Pick Plus, thanks to an acceptable rating in the small-overlap frontal test and good scores in all other categories; it also received an advanced grade in front crash prevention.

Standard features across the Highlander lineup include a backup camera and hill start assist. A blind spot monitoring system and rear parking assist with cross-traffic alert are standard on hybrids. Newly available options include radar-enabled adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and a front precollision system that warns the driver of an impending crash and assists with braking. Click here for a full list of safety features.

The Highlander performed well in our Car Seat Check, and models with the bench seat can even hold three seats across the second row this year. The addition of a third-row tether anchor also means a forward-facing car seat can safely be used there.

Value in Its Class
The Highlander Hybrid is comfortable, refined and efficient, but that combination isn't very affordable. It starts at $48,160, quite a bit higher than the Pathfinder Hybrid ($37,760 with all-wheel drive) and much higher than the base gas-powered V-6 Highlander ($32,840 with all-wheel drive) — putting the Hybrid firmly in Lexus territory. The all-wheel-drive RX 450h starts at $48,720. All prices include destination charges.

Because the Hybrid setup is available only in the top two Highlander trims, loads of extra comfort and convenience features help soften its steep price premium, but Toyota is letting its customers down by not offering the hybrid's efficiency on less-expensive models.

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Latest 2014 Highlander Hybrid Stories

Consumer Reviews

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid currently has 1 recall

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited V6

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/thigh
good
Lower leg/foot
good
Overall evaluation
acceptable
Retraints and dummy kinematics
acceptable
Structure and safety cage
acceptable

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 60,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    24 months / 25,000 miles

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by Toyota

Program Benefits

24-hour roadside assistance, trip-interruption services, Carfax vehicle history report, travel protection and toll-free assistance line

  • Limited Warranty

    1 year / 12,000 miles

    Comprehensive: 12 months/12,000 miles from date of purchase. Powertrain: 7 years/100,000 miles from original in-service date ($50 deductible) Note: In AL, FL, GA, NC and SC, 7-year/100,000 mile limited warranty coverage begins Jan. 1 of the vehicle's model year and zero (0) odometer miles and expires at the earlier of seven years or 100,000 odometer miles. Hybrid: 8-year/100,000 mile warranty on Factory HV Battery for Toyota Hybrid Vehicles.
  • Eligibility

    Under 6 years / 85,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a 160 point inspection and reconditioning.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Highlander Hybrid received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker