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For the SUV experience with the price of a chauffeured sedan and sans the identity crisis of a CUV, the Toyota Highlander connects all the right points on overall performance, balance and operating costs.
In the chauffeured luxury SUV market, the days of the Lincoln Navigator versus Cadillac Escalade two-way competition are done. Historically, chauffeured SUVs have commanded higher rates than sedans and SUVs, given their size and luxury cachet.
This year, Toyota, which splashed into the chauffeured market in 2011 with its all-around practical Avalon sedan, added to its fleet offerings with the 2014 Toyota Highlander, which brings a full-service SUV to the industry that can command sedan-level rates.
The economical SUV is priced at $32,905 (invoice) for the FWD version, and $34,238 (invoice) for the AWD. The Highlander officially debuted Feb. 16-18 at the 2014 International LCT Show in Las Vegas.
Our road test of the Highlander proves that while it’s not as refined as an ultra-luxury Escalade — priced now in the low $70,000s — it does bring a respectable, lower tier of SUV luxury to the limousine industry. Best of all, the combination of price, mileage, durability and amenities means operators can get a maximum value out of this SUV, just like with the Toyota Avalon sedan, provided chauffeured clients are open-minded about the Toyota label. Among the points of interest to the chauffeured transportation world:
- The shape and body style, while more reminiscent of a Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV), has the effect of obscuring its true size and volume. The Highlander provides ample legroom and headroom and fulfills the SUV traveling experience of sitting high and comfortable.
- Once inside, there’s no doubt the client rides high in black leather SUV seats and deep tinted windows. The 60/40 folding split-bench front-facing rear seats with manual recline endows clients with versatile and wide-ranging head- and legroom. Adequate lumbar and back support ensures long distance comfort as well as minimal impact from urban stop-and-go-lurch traffic patterns. Rear seat clients also enjoy a set of HVAC controls. A rear seat blue ray disc player and digital screen along with fold down center armrest with two cupholders completes the luxury cabin ambiance.
- The ride evens out to a luxury keel, competitive with the cabin experiences of other chauffeured fleet vehicles, and in some cases better than higher priced vehicles.
- A back-up camera with tracking will spare chauffeurs sudden scrapes and fender-benders, especially when maneuvering around airport curbsides and parking decks.
For the SUV experience with the price of a chauffeured sedan and sans the identity crisis of a CUV, the Toyota Highlander connects all the right points on overall performance, balance and operating costs. The Highlander enhances a new tier of affordable, practical, non-traditional chauffeured vehicles that was started with the Avalon sedan, and helps redefine the post-Great Recession limousine vehicle market.
TOYOTA HIGHLANDER LCT PHOTO GALLERY HERE