Vehicles

Toyota Highlander Injects Max Value Into The SUV Mix

Martin Romjue
Posted on October 13, 2014
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.
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.

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.

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.
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

SIDEBAR: Toyota Tech System Strives For Concierge Level
The Highlander retains one of the most advanced onboard technology systems available on the OEM market. To get an accurate picture of it, LCT had its resident tech whiz, web producer David Broyles, test out the system. In the interest of full disclosure, we must admit that David drives a Toyota Prius (luxury version) as his personal vehicle and knows the tech system inside and out.

Chauffeurs and clients alike can get full access to information, entertainment and GPS, and sync devices. Used properly, the system can serve as a mobile, tech concierge: “The Entune in-dash navigation system on the 2014 Toyota Highlander is an intuitive system that delivers helpful turn-by-turn navigation with real-time traffic routing and alerts. The onscreen map is simple to understand, even when glancing at it, and the learning curve time for first-time use is minimal. Accompanying the destination input options is a voice recognition system that is one of the standouts tested. It understands natural voice tempo and inflections 90% of the time. The inclusion of the Bing app is useful as it will quickly find addresses and businesses that are newer than those included in the map data loaded into the system. If a new restaurant or hotel opens up, then the Bing app is the best way to find the address or phone number while using Entune.

“To go beyond the basic navigation/map use and explore the secondary pre-installed apps, a new Entune account must be setup on the Toyota website or on the Entune smartphone mobile app. The final step in the registration process links the Entune app to existing Pandora, Facebook Places, Yelp and OpenTable accounts. The one-time Entune registration and app linking process can take 20 minutes or more, but once all is setup, use of the apps becomes seamless while driving. You can connect your smart phone via USB to get a data connection while charging or connect via bluetooth/mobile hotspot if available.”

General stats:
Engine models: FWD, 6 cyl, 3.5L; AWD 6 cyl. 3.5L
Transmission: electronic, 6-spd. automatic w/overdrive
Tires: P245/60R18
Fuel tank: 19.2 gallons
Passenger capacity: 8

Performance:
Horsepower: 270 @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 248 @ 4700 rpm
Curb weight/GVWR:
FWD: 4,310 lbs. / 5,480 lbs.
AWD: 4,464 lbs. / 6,000 lbs.
FWD/AWD fuel economy: 19/18 city; 25/24 hwy; 21/20 comb.
Source: fueleconomy.gov

Second Row Seating Area:
Headroom: 39/6 in.
Legroom: 38.4 in.
Shoulder room: 59.6 in.
Hiproom: 57.1 in.
Minimum ground clearance: 8 in.

Chauffeured-related amenities:
Deep tinted glass, power lift gate rear cargo access, rear HVAC w/separate controls, three 12V DC power outlets and one AC power outlet, side impact beams, rear camera, cargo space lights, 60/40 folding split-bench front facing manual reclining second row leather seats, rear seat fold-down digital screen w/DVD player, second row center armrest with cupholders.

Warranties:
Basic: 3yrs/30,000 mi.
Drivetrain: 5yrs/60,000 mi.
Corrosion: 5 yrs/unlimited
Roadside assistance: 2 years/25,000 mi.
Maintenance: 2yrs/25,000 mi.

 

Related Topics: new vehicles, OEMs, product reviews, SUV, Toyota, Toyota Highlander, vehicle purchasing, Vehicle Reviews

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