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New York 2013: 2014 Toyota Highlander Designed With Customers In Mind

New Toyota SUV Debuts.

Toyota group vice president Bill Fay is, perhaps unsurprisingly, very confident the 2014 Toyota Highlander SUV will be a hit when it goes on sale later this year. "Between the efficiency, the technology, the safety, the utility, it's really going to appeal to the consumer," he said at the launch of the new Highlander in New York.

Fay explains that the 2014 Toyota Highlander was designed with buyer feedback in mind. They wanted more cargo and passenger room, more efficiency, extra technology, but the same exterior dimensions as the outgoing Highlander. "Our goal was to create a midsize SUV with no sacrifices," he says. "We wanted to make the new model the ultimate SUV."

We'll have to get behind the wheel to see whether that lofty promise holds true, but for now the new Highlander looks like a smart, attractive car. Its wide-mouth front grille, inset foglights, and two-tone taillights give make the Highlander look a lot like the 2014 Subaru Forester -- not necessarily a bad thing. It's a pleasant design overall, but there is little to make this SUV stand out from all the others in the school parking lot. It is at least a big leap from the dated design of the outgoing Highlander.

Improvements include more interior room, revised suspension claimed to reduce body roll, better electric power steering, a standard LCD display in the instrument cluster, and the latest version of Toyota's Entune connectivity suite. Fay says that more than 50 percent of shoppers are opting for Entune, and he expects that number to grow as more people become aware of the technology.

The 2014 Toyota Highlander will be built exclusively in Indiana. The outgoing model was also built in Japan.

Fay said that later this year, Toyota will announce a marketing deal linking the 2014 Highlander to the Nickelodeon cartoon Spongebob Squarepants, a move designed to lure in family shoppers. He also hinted that the new Highlander will be followed this year by an updated version of the Toyota 4Runner SUV.