Last week, Toyota brought us out to Northern California to drive the all-new 2014 Toyota Highlander. Now in it’s third generation, the Highlander has been completely redesigned with bold new exterior styling, family friendly features, and the latest in advanced safety and audio technology. All while maintaining its Toyota DNA of quality, durability, and reliability.
While the Highlander was primarily marketed to families in the past, they’re also targeting baby boomers with this new vehicle. As such, it was important for the new Highlander to have attractive styling and a luxurious interior, while still delivering the features important to families, such as reliability and safety. After spending a day with the Highlander, I can say with confidence that they’ve achieved this goal without compromise.
The 2014 Toyota Highlander was designed to be accommodating for the whole family, with seating for up to 8 (up from 7), increased cargo capacity, and smart storage areas around the interior cabin (including a center console with a 24.5-liter capacity, large enough to swallow a large purse, tablet, or 50+ juice boxes). It can accommodate the whole family on a road trip, or just the parents on a date night. You won’t feel embarrassed pulling up to a fancy restaurant in the new Highlander.
Another clever feature in the Highlander is in-dash shelf with soft-touch padding (so things don’t slide around) that’s angled to allow for easy storage of your phone or MP3 player, and there’s a pass thru to USB/12V that allows you to keep your devices charged up without wires in your way.
Not only does the 2014 Highlander have bold, eye-catching exterior styling (made more aggressive to attract more male buyers), but it also has premium interior amenities and upgraded materials similar to a luxury vehicle. A 6.1-inch touchscreen is standard, with an 8-inch touchscreen in XLE and Limited models. Limited models also have heated and ventilated front seats, with a heated steering wheel and heated second row seats available.
Soft-touch interior materials and satin chrome metallic accents can be found throughout the cabin, and more light can be brought in with the available panoramic moonroof. 18-inch alloy wheels fill out the wheel wells nicely, and Limited models get stunning 19-inch Chromtec wheels.
These days, car companies load their cars up with as much technology as possible, and Toyota is no exception in this department. The 2014 Highlander comes with a backup camera and next-generation Entune Audio systems, which includes hands-free Bluetooth streaming technology and advanced voice recognition as standard.
Limited models also offer advanced safety features including Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Rear Parking Assist Sonar, and an available Driver Technology Package that includes a pre-collision system with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert, and Safety Connect.
While these features are on-par with the safety offerings from other manufacturers, Toyota has developed something called Driver Easy Speak that’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Rather than turning your head behind you to yell at your kids while driving, you simply turn on the system, and a microphone in the overhead console amplifies your voice and broadcasts it through the rear speakers. There’s also a flip-down mirror, so you can see what’s happening behind you without looking away from the road. Very cool!
Of course, all the features in the world don’t make a difference if the performance isn’t there. Thankfully, the Highlander doesn’t disappoint in this area. The 2014 Highlander has three different engine options to choose from, a 2.7L 4-cylinder engine that puts out 185HP and 184 lb-ft of torque (only available on the LE model), a 3.5L V6 engine that puts out 270HP and 248 lb-ft of torque, and a 3.5L V6 Hybrid that delivers 280 net HP.
We spent the day driving a Highlander with the 3.5L V6 engine that most buyers will opt for, and it had plenty of get-up and go, while still returning respectable mileage. (19/25/21 for FWD / 18/24/20 for AWD)
Pricing for the 2014 Toyota Highlander starts at $29,215 for the LE grade, and tops out at $49,790 for a top-of-the-line Hybrid Limited with the Platinum package. We imagine most people will be shopping for the XLE and Limited grades, which are priced beginning at $36,040 and $39,640 respectively.
With more standard equipment than comparably priced competitors, bold new styling that sets it apart, and Toyota’s continued commitment to quality, we think the 2014 Highlander will be a huge success.
If you’re in the market for a mid-size SUV, be sure to check out the all-new 2014 Toyota Highlander. Visit http://www.toyota.com/upcoming-vehicles/ for more information.
Sell Your Car And Buy a One-Way Ticket To One Of These Cities
You’re probably not ready to pack up your entire life and move to another city just because it’s more walkable than your current area. However, if you’re on the lookout for opportunities to move to a different climate, make an improvement in your career, or get a change of scenery, then you might want to focus your research on some of these walkable and bikeable cities.
Why Ditch Your Wheels?
If you play your cards right, you might save money while getting a better standard of living. Without a car, you can subtract that major line item from budget and use the money for funding various other expenditures. For example, you could subsidize a higher cost of living in a place like New York City, or else give yourself a bigger party budget in a more affordable metropolis, such as Chicago.
Made in America
We excluded cities in Europe and Asia, such as Copenhagen, Paris, Tokyo, and London — but feel free to dream about moving there too. We left these great candidates out because the USA is the country of the automobile, and many other countries in the world that don’t share this vehicular passion boast major cities that are, on average, a lot easier to navigate on foot, on a bike, or on public transportation.
An Unlikely Candidate
If you know anything about the sprawling west-coast city, you probably know that Los Angeles has a lot of cars and a lot of traffic. In decades past, the city’s name was a byword for air pollution, with a massive amount of vehicles pumping out exhaust while they sat jammed onto the collosal superhighway system. More recently, the city has been building bicycle infrastructure. It’s also introducing some enhancements to public transportation.
A Dense Metropolis
Obviously, you can live without a car in New York City. In fact, it’s prohibitively expensive to own a car in the Big Apple. High gas prices, skyrocketing land prices that drive up parking rates, and the never-ending traffic in the busier areas all contribute to NYC’s love-hate relationship with taxis and the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Bike-share systems and bicycle lane conversions sweeten the deal for New Yorkers who go car-free.
Many other dense cities in the United States are also easy to navigate without a car, and the Windy City certainly qualifies. The Chicago Transit Autority serves every corner of the city with busses and the L. Metra trains and Pace buses take care of the suburbs, all the way out to Wisconsin and Indiana. Even people who live in fairly distant suburbs tend to go with mass transit for their daily commutes.
A Country of Cyclists?
As you’ve probably noticed, biking is a growing trend across the USA. In Chicago, for example, the city has been building new bike lanes all across the central area in the past few years, as well as rolling out a bike-share program.
A great street bike costs more money than you might expect, but you have options if you’re a little strapped for cash at the moment. There are plenty of places that offer a good amount of cash for cars in Chicago. If you’re in a major city with expanding bike accessibility and you’re considering ditching your automotive option, then you might be able to subsidize that fancy street bike with the money you get from your clunker.
On Track With The 2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2
There’s no question about it, the mid-cycle refresh that the 2018 Ford Mustang received was a total game-changer, with the iconic pony car getting a host of upgrades in the styling, power, and handling departments, making the world’s best-selling sports car even better than before.
With 460 horsepower on tap, a 0-60-mph time of under four seconds (with the new 10-speed automatic transmission, which shifts lightning-quick), and the optional MagneRide active suspension system, this new Mustang performs like no other pony car before it, save for the track-ready Ford Mustang Shelby GT350.
But the passionate Mustang team couldn’t leave well enough alone, curious to see just how far they could push the performance of the new ‘Stang, focused on improving the car’s handling capabilities. To achieve this, they started by adding an aggressive front splitter (inspired by the Boss 302 Laguna Seca Mustang) and rear spoiler to deliver more downforce and gives the car more grip in the corners.
From there, they added a set of 305/30R19 Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires (1.5 inches wider than the wheels on Performance Pack Level 1) wrapped around 19×10.5-inch front and 19×11-inch rear wheels. These sticky tires provide a firmer grip and work with the retuned chassis to put the car more than a half-inch closer to the ground.
Custom tuned MagneRide dampers and quicker steering calibration provide better response. Other improvements over the Mustang Performance Pack Level 1 include a 67% stiffer rear stabilizer bar, a 12% stiffer front stabilizer bar, 20% stiffer front springs and rear springs that are 13% stiffer, all of which contribute to a more stable ride around corners with less body roll.
The results of their skunkworks efforts? The 2018 Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2, a $6,500 package for the Mustang GT that transforms the already-capable pony car into a true sports car, one that you can take to the track on the weekends.
To prove that point, Ford invited us up to Monticello Motor Club for a track day with the Ford Mustang GT Performance Pack 2, and I was giddy with excitement, as this would be the perfect setting to showcase what this car could really do, as this challenging track will really highlight a car’s strengths and weaknesses. This was going to be a fun one!
The only problem? Rain. 🌧
Yes, Mother Nature decided to rain on our parade… literally, cutting short our time with the Performance Pack 2. Still, we managed to get in one session on the track (one warm-up lap, two hot laps, and one cool down lap) before the rain started coming down. I hoped that we’d be able to continue driving in the rain (at a slower pace), but unfortunately the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires are not suitable for rain the least, with very little tread to speak of.
While I would have loved more time to really explore the Mustang PP2’s capabilities, from my brief time behind the wheel, I can tell you that this car felt right at home on the track, ripping through the course with surgical precision, with nary a squeal from those meaty tires, the Cup 2’s keeping the car glued to the road.
On the road, the Mustang was surprisingly comfortable, and one could realistically make this their daily driver (assuming they live somewhere where it doesn’t rain). The only issue is that those massive 305s up front lead to some tramlining on less than perfect roads. Still, it is a small price to pay for the handling benefits they provide on the track and in the twisties.
Mustang chief engineer Carl Widdmann says it best: “We wanted to do a car that maximized the ability to put the power down, to create a car that you’d love driving up through, say, the canyons around L.A. It’s not the ultimate track Mustang, it bridges the gap between the Performance Pack and the track-ready GT350.”
And that’s really the best way to describe it. Ford has built a number of different Mustang GT variants (base GT, PP1, PP2, Bullitt), all with different customers in mind. For most folks, the Mustang GT Performance Pack 2 is overkill. But if you’re an enthusiast like me who plans on driving your car hard, I think this $6,500 package is a no-brainer.
Game on, Camaro SS 1LE.
Review: 2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T
In general, the midsize sedan world is about as sexy as a Billy Bass with Alexa’s voice. Where supercars with curvy looks get all the credit for automotive sexiness, though, midsize sedans actually do the work of being realistic. The good news is that being pragmatic and going for the 2018 Hyundai Sonata doesn’t mean you have to settle for frumpiness, as this is a really sleek-looking sedan.
For the 2018 model year, Hyundai didn’t do much to change the already well-done Sonata. A few tweaks to the interior design, some added suave to the exterior, and a lot of extra safety features make up most of the changes for this model year. The 2018 Sonata is otherwise the top-shelf sedan it’s been for some time.
From the outside, curb appeal is eyebrow-lifting with the 2018 Hyundai Sonata. The signature Hyundai diamond-shaped grille is flanked by a curved, beautifully sculpted hood and long, narrow LED headlights. Tapered fenders and a sporty lower intake and aero baffle are set off by large intake/fog lamp bezels. The bodywork on the Sonata features a strong upper beltline groove and edge, a well-defined and curved running board cut below, and an aggressively sporty roofline and fastback rear end. Noticeably on this new Sonata, the deck lid has an integrated spoiler replacing the add-on aero from before.
The rear wheels of the 2018 Hyundai Sonata are pushed to the corners’ edge while the front wheels feature some overhang ahead that promises smooth handling. Ground clearance is a sporty straight line that matches the beltline above.
This is a great look for the 2018 Sonata and it’s really set apart in the crowded midsize market. Once inside the Sonata, we found, the exterior’s beauty continues with intelligent and well-done interior design.
A new three-spoke steering wheel is fitted to the Sonata to emphasize a driver-centric feel for the cabin. The dashboard and center console have been reworked to make them less bulky and more modern. Seating is very comfortable with a lot of creature comforts available to add to that. The rear bench can seat three across and has excellent outboard positions with plenty of head and legroom despite the sloped roofline and smaller appearance of the rear doors.
Many of the additions to the 2018 Hyundai Sonata are in the technologies found behind the beautiful design work. Updated suspension and handling mean better ride quality and more engagement at the wheel. Technologies now standard in the Sonata include advanced options like blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and lane change assist.
The Sonata has a host of trim level options (seven in all). Three four-cylinder engines can be chosen from, each with either a six-, seven-, or eight-speed automatic transmission on offer. That’s a lot to choose from, sure, but it means that the Sonata can be tailored to meet needs without sacrificing looks and comfort.
The base model is the SE, followed by the SEL, the Sport, and the Limited. These four models are powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that outputs 184 horsepower to a six-speed automatic transmission. A much more interesting turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder (245 hp) and an eight-speed automatic transmission are found on the Sport 2.0T and Limited 2.0T trims. Finally, the Eco trim has its own 1.6-liter turbocharged four that outputs 178 horses into a dual-clutch, seven-speed automatic.
Prices vary based on which trim level you choose, of course, but the base model’s price tag is lower than all but one of its competitors in the segment, and the Sonata comes with more standard equipment than almost all of the others. The Eco model is only $600 more than that, upgrading just the powertrain to improve fuel economy.
We drove the Limited 2.0T trim and would highly recommend the turbocharged two liter for its peppy drive quality, fast responses to the throttle, and smooth-shifting transmission. This combination brings a whole ‘nother level of sexiness to the 2018 Sonata and is well worth the extra money spent.
It is possible to have everything in one package and the 2018 Hyundai Sonata certainly does a good job of offering just about the whole shebang in one car.