Toyota introduced the all-new 2014 Highlander at the New York Auto Show, marking the third generation of this mid-size SUV.
U.S. buyers will still be able to get a base four-cylinder model. In Canada, it’s strictly V6: a 3.5 L that will be used by itself the regular Highlander, and paired with an electric motor in the Highlander Hybrid.
While the current V6 Highlander only comes with all-wheel drive, the 2014 version will offer both front- or all-wheel with its V6. There’s also a new six-speed automatic transmission that replaces the previous five-speed.
The new model is slightly larger on the outside, and has been reconfigured inside for more passenger and cargo space. Part of that is due to a new rear double-wishbone suspension that replaces the struts that intruded into the cargo area and ate up space. Three-row seating will carry seven or eight passengers, depending on whether you opt for second-row captain’s chairs or a bench seat, and there’s more room when the seat slides for access to the very back chairs.
I drove a Highlander on a long-distance trip a couple of years ago and quickly discovered that the seats aren’t meant for that. Here’s hoping that’s been addressed with the new interior, which has gone upscale with more soft-touch panels, standard contrasting stitching on the seats, and my new “must-have” feature: an available heated steering wheel.
The new Highlander will go on sale at the beginning of 2014, with the Highlander Hybrid coming on board shortly afterwards.