Why the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Matters:
Instead of asking why the new 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid matters, perhaps the question is this: Why doesn’t it matter? Right now, as I write this 2014 Highlander Hybrid preview, which debuted to quiet fanfare at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show, the reason is obvious. Gas is cheap. And the Highlander Hybrid costs thousands of dollars more than a comparable V-6 model.
For 2014, the Highlander Limited V-6 with all-wheel drive sees a 4.3 percent increase in price over last year, rising to $41,100. The Highlander Hybrid Limited, which includes all-wheel drive, costs $47,300. Note that these prices do not include a destination and delivery charge of $860.
Now, I’m no math whiz, which is why I am a Microsoft Word super-user, but something tells me that the reason Toyota mentioned this vehicle as an aside during its press conference at the L.A. Auto Show is because there’s likely little appetite for paying a hybrid premium in many regions of the U.S. Nationally, according to GasBuddy.com, unleaded costs about $3.22 per gallon, down 23 cents from this time last year.
Will that change? Probably. Always has, always will. And when it does, Toyota will be ready with the 2014 Highlander Hybrid.
What’s New for the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid:
- Redesigned inside and out
- Increased cargo space
- Standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Standard Entune connectivity with App Suite
- Standard navigation system
- Standard JBL Green Edge speakers
- Available heated steering wheel
- Available panoramic sunroof
- Available Blu-Ray rear-seat entertainment system
- Available automatic high-beam headlights
- Available Dynamic Radar Cruise Control with Pre-Collision System
- Available Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert
- Available Lane Departure Alert
- Available Safety Connect with Automatic Collision Notification
New 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid: Styling and Design
I’m having some trouble warming up to the Highlander’s new front styling. It definitely looks better in person, but until people start buying this thing in droves and it becomes a common fixture on American highways, the 2014 Highlander’s funky face is likely to cause double-takes. Once you get past the front end, though, the Highlander is attractive, if somewhat generic.
Nobody is going to make ugly-stick jokes about the Highlander’s new interior. Toyota says the new Highlander delivers a premium look and feel, and compared to the hose-me-out previous-generation model, that’s undeniably true. The instrument panel adheres to Toyota’s new rectilinear design forms, and because the Highlander Hybrid comes standard with Limited trim and a number of upgrades, it looks and feels upscale.
Able to seat seven people, the 2014 Highlander Hybrid is equipped with second-row captain’s chairs and a 3-person, 60/40-split third-row seat that has 34 percent more cargo room behind it than before, rising from 10.3 cu.-ft. to 13.8 cu.-ft., measured from the floor to the ceiling.
New 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid: What’s Under the Hood
Don’t look for anything fancy when it comes to the new Highlander Hybrid’s powertrain. It employs tried-and-true technology, pairing a 3.5-liter V-6 engine with two electric assist motors, one for the front wheels and one for the rear wheels, effectively creating an all-wheel-drive system. Combined, these components are good for 280 horsepower. A nickel-metal hydride battery pack, a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and regenerative brakes complete the package, and the Highlander Hybrid is able to travel for short distances at low speeds operating purely on electricity.
New 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid: Features and Technology
The new Highlander Hybrid is offered only in Limited ($47,300) and Limited Platinum ($49,790) trim levels, not including a quite reasonable $860 destination charge. Standard equipment includes perforated leather seats, a premium JBL sound system with Green Edge speaker technology, a navigation system, and an uplevel version of Entune connectivity with App Suite technology. An 8-inch color touchscreen accesses the Highlander Hybrid’s various infotainment features.
The Platinum model upgrades the SUV with a heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats, a panoramic power sunroof, a Dynamic Radar Cruise Control system with Pre-Collision technology, Lane Departure Alert, automatic high-beam headlights, and subscription-based Safety Connect services including Automatic Collision Notification. Both models can be optioned with a Blu-Ray rear-seat entertainment system that includes input jacks for video game consoles.
New 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid: What Autobytel Thinks
The new Highlander Hybrid commands a premium of $6,200. If it delivers similar fuel economy improvements as last year’s model did, it will extract nine extra miles of travel for every gallon of gas it swallows. If you drive 15,000 miles every year, you’ll burn 254 fewer gallons with the hybrid model, saving $817.88 annually at the current nationally averaged gas price of $3.22 per gallon. Therefore, it will take a 2014 Highlander Hybrid owner 7.6 years to break even, before factoring in additional interest for a larger loan.
You can probably tell where we’re going with this. Unless gas prices skyrocket again, the main benefit of buying the Highlander Hybrid is to enjoy a clean and green feeling as you drive.