For years, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid has been the go-to hybrid crossover for well-heeled suburbanites who were too embarrassed to drive a minivan. Or too efficient to commute in a fuel-gulping SUV. It was typically fitted with three rows of seats, although the far perch was only suitable for small children, pets, or stuffed bears. It drove with authority too, with 280-hp coming from a 3.5L V6, and an electric motor on each axle to provide 4-wheel traction when needed. Fuel consumption was respectable, at 28 mpg combined. But its $40k starting price made it a low-volume seller.
Looking to improve the marketshare of its uber-efficent family wagon, Toyota unveiled a completely redesigned 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid at this year’s New York Auto Show. Set to go on sale sometime in late 2013 or early 2014, the new Highlander was designed to be “a mid-size SUV with No Sacrifice”. Toyota says that current Highlander customers loved their truck’s easily maneuverable size, but wanted a bit more cargo and passenger space. To that end, the 3rd generation Highlander Hybrid grew another 3 inches in length, while keeping its ‘easy to wield’ footprint. On the inside, space grew considerably, thanks to a more compact rear suspension.
By doing away with the old model’s invasive rear strut towers, the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid can now (finally) be optioned to seat 8 people. The reclining third row seat is 4.5 inches wider than before, allowing it to accommodate adults for short trips. There’s 3 more inches of 3rd row access room too, thanks to a second row with generous seat travel fore & aft. 8 people can ride, when a middle bench seat is fitted. Otherwise, twin sliding / reclining captain’s chairs are used, with a hinged cup-holding tray between them. With the cup-holding tray folded down, a convenient pass-through is created to the back row, providing minivan like room and versatility. Maybe Toyota really did think of everything this time around?
In keeping with its upscale image, the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid will come standard with Display Audio and a backup camera. The options list will include amenities like heated / cooled front seats, heated second row seats, power sunshades, a power tailgate with programmable lift height, a panoramic roof, ambient lighting, adaptive cruise control, and touchscreen navigation. All versions of the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid will get soft padded inserts at the top of the door panels, french stitching around the padded dash, and a ‘roll up’ center console with padded edges for your elbows, and a roll up lid that conceals 24 liters of room, which is enough to swallow a large purse or bag.
Rumors suggest that the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid drivetrain will be the same as before. But Toyota hasn’t released any concrete details on the price, the powertrain, or the gas mileage. Expect more details to emerge as we near the late-2013 – early-2014 launch.
Here is our review of the 2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV just in case you want to buy a new one before the redesign happens. And here’s a great place to sign up for more updates as they become available. For a limited time, you can even register on that site to win a new Highlander by creating a SpongeBob SquarePants “spungey utility vehicle”. (That might just be the craziest sentence I’ve ever added to a hybridsuv.com review!)
Are you planning to be first in line for this new green people hauler?2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Sneak Peak