Drivetrain: Same four-cylinder and V6 engines return, both using six-speed automatic transmissions; hybrid version also returns basically unchanged.
Despite the Sienna taking the unofficial “Lexus Of Minivans” crown, those big toasters still have a serious stigma. So, the Highlander is a popular alternative, especially when equipped with available third-row seating; it has lots of room for those who adorn their car windows with stick-people characterizations of their broods. For the 2014 model year, Toyota upped its styling game with more dramatic look that was far less boxy and boring. The overall size didn’t change much from the previous wagon, but a nearly three-inch extension in overall length and a bit more width helped improve interior packaging to the point where rear stowage space behind the third row increased by a claimed 34 percent. Up front, the styling is equally pleasing as well as practical with an enlarged floor-console bin for swallowing laptop ‘puters, large purses and the like. The new dashboard and control panel are swathed in soft-touch materials and the gauge cluster has also been given a complete updating. Mechanically, the Highlander follows a familiar tune: a 187-horsepower four-cylinder earns base-engine status, while a 270-horse V6 is optional, but necessary if all-wheel-drive is your pleasure. A six-speed automatic is the sole transmission for both engines. Back again to save the day by saving fuel is the Highlander Hybrid all-wheel-drive model that uses a 3.5-liter V6 working with front and rear electric motors to produce a combined 280 horsepower. The Hybrid is equipped with a unique on-demand four-wheel-drive setup that operates through a continuously variable transmission with no set gearing. All Highlanders arrive with the expected air conditioning and power-operated controls. The three-place second-row bench can be swapped for captain’s chairs that reduces passenger seating to seven from eight.