What Is It?
The 2014 Toyota Highlander is a midsize crossover with three rows of seats. Like the outgoing 2013 model, it will offer two drivetrain choices: a gas-powered engine or a hybrid powerplant. Toyota unveiled the Highlander Hybrid at this year's Los Angeles Auto Show.
On the outside, the Highlander Hybrid boasts few surprises. It shares its basic styling with the regular Highlander, which Toyota showed earlier this year at the New York Auto Show. Expect a bolder look and slightly larger dimensions compared to the current model. Inside, the Highlander is also redesigned with a new dashboard that prominently features Toyota's available Entune infotainment system. New features include rear cross-traffic alert, a lane-departure warning system and a blind spot monitor.
Of course, the Highlander Hybrid's most important feature is under the hood. That's where you'll find a 3.5-liter V6 paired with an electric motor for a total of 280 horsepower. It's the same engine used by the outgoing Highlander Hybrid, and it touts the same 28 miles per gallon in the city and on the highway.
While the base-level Highlander starts at $32,840 with shipping, the base-level Highlander Hybrid is $48,160. Choose the top-level Highlander Hybrid Platinum and prices start around $51,000.
When Can You Get It?
The Highlander goes on sale in January 2014, while the Highlander Hybrid reaches dealers the following month.
Add It to Your Shopping List Because...
The Toyota Highlander remains a perennial favorite for shoppers interested in a midsize SUV, and the latest model is expected to be no different. Although the outgoing Highlander has lagged behind several newly updated rivals, the new model will likely bring the SUV back to its present status as a class leader. As for the Highlander Hybrid, the Highlander remains the only car in its class to offer a hybrid powertrain, so it will be the default choice for many shoppers who wouldn't consider driving a non-hybrid.
Other Cars to Consider
Ford Explorer -- While Ford's latest Explorer is larger than the Highlander, it offers three usable rows of seats, a powerful V6 engine and many features. There's no hybrid, but Ford offers a 4-cylinder for drivers looking to maximize gas mileage.
Hyundai Santa Fe -- Hyundai offers two versions of the Santa Fe: a 5-passenger Santa Fe Sport and a 7-seater Santa Fe. Both boast a lot of equipment, powerful engines and a famously long warranty.
Jeep Grand Cherokee -- Although the Jeep Grand Cherokee doesn't offer 3-row seating, it does boast one feature Highlander Hybrid drivers may find interesting: a diesel engine. The new 3.0-liter diesel boasts 240 hp, 420 lb-ft and an expected highway fuel economy rating of around 30 mpg.
Used Lexus RX 450h -- The Lexus RX 450h rides on the same platform as the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and it uses the same engine and transmission. But it offers a longer list of equipment, both standard and optional, plus the cachet of the Lexus brand. With pricing well in excess of $50,000, however, you may have to consider a used one.