2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid – Chasing Colors and MPGs [Roadtrip]

2014, toyota, highlander, hybrid, mpg, economy, roadtrip
2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Gasoline electric hybrid powertrain is one way to improve efficiency, and the redesigned 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid continues the bloodline of Toyota’s efficient three-row people carrier. The Highlander gets new styling, picks up usable interior space, but retains the same Hybrid Synergy Drive system that is rated at 28 MPG combined. How does the largest of Toyota’s Hybrids handle a long road trip across the Rocky Mountains of Colorado?

STATS Starting Retail Price As Tested Price HP / Lb-Ft
2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid $47,500 $50,875 280 /
EPA Rating MPG As Tested MPG Curb Lbs
Rating: LEASE IT!
 27 / 28 / 28 30.0 4,861


The power comes from a combination of a 3.5L V6 gasoline engine and two electric motors for a combined 280 horsepower. Toyota does not mention the torque rating, but when maximum power is required the power comes one immediately. The power is sent to all four wheels via a continuously variable transmission that tries to find the best balance between power delivery and efficiency.

There is a battery pack on board that feeds juice to the two electric motors. The charge is replenished when coasting, braking, or when the gas motor is acting as the generator. The Highlander is capable of EV-only motoring for very short distances and at low speeds. Think of going about two miles on electricity in slow traffic. The electric mode cannot be sustained if you need to accelerate or go faster than about 25 mph. Of course, EV mode can also be available when you are coasting at higher speeds.


This road trip consists of crossing the Continental Divide and covering nearly 800 miles on the way from Denver, CO to Telluride, CO and back. The city of Telluride is planning a premier Festival of Cars and Colors for September of 2015, a concours to rival Pebble Beach. What a great time of year to be in the small picturesque ski town of Telluride, nestled among some of the most rugged peaks of Colorado. The turning aspens light up the mountain side in multitude shades of yellow and orange.

So, how does the Highlander Hybrid handle some of the highest mountain passes in search of beautiful fall colors and highway efficiency? The plan is to adhere to the speed limits and not to attempt any special hyper-miling techniques.


The cargo area behind the second row easily swallowed our (my wife and I) weekend cloths, cameras, tripods, and even a couple of directors folding chairs. There was plenty room to spare.

The Highlander had no power issues tackling the steepest climbs of I-70. The grade up to the Eisenhower tunnel, Loveland Pass, and Vail Pass were taken in stride and at the speed limit. The batteries got plenty of replenishment on the long downhills. The was about two hours of stop-n-go traffic on the way back to Denver on Sunday.

The result? As you can see from this blurry image – the 2014 Highlander Hybrid scored a round 30.0 MPG after 447.3 miles of the return trip. The first leg of the trip was nearly identical. The big Hybrid surprised with a better than EPA highway MPG result.

2014, 2015, toyota, highlander, hybrid, mpg, economy, roadtrip

There is only one competitor that comes to mind and it is the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid. The competing hybrid has a total of 250 horsepower, is rated at 25 / 28 MPG, and starts at $35,300.

On the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy it!
  • Lease it!
  • Rent it!
  • … or Forget it!

I give the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid a Lease It! 

I came away from this problem-free road trip very impressed. The Highlander was comfortable, full of technology, and economical for its big size and AWD capability. However, the $50,875 final retail price gave me thought. The base V6 AWD Highlander LE starts at $32,180 and is rated at 25 MPG on the highway. The Hybrid comes only in the top-of-the-line Limited trim. Yes, you can pick up the extra efficiency, but it comes at great cost (over $15,000). I am sure Toyota did a lot of market research and studied customer feedback and purchasing patterns to come up with this decision. However, having the Hybrid option exclusive to the Limited trim does not make a lot of sense. My wish is that the Hybrid technology could be more accessible.

More videos of the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid are coming up, but here is the TFLcar “Almost Everything You Wanted To Know” video about Toyota’s latest three-row crossover.

Andre Smirnov
Andre Smirnov

Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, writer, reporter, and software engineer. He has been writing and reporting at TFL since 2011.