Toyota’s third-generation Highlander cross/utility vehicle, bowing at the New York auto show today, follows an emerging industry design trend in the segment toward a less-truck-like appearance.

The 3-row CUV features a rounder front end, complete with a new trapezoidal grille and a forward-raked C-pillar. Its roofline has been lowered for improved aerodynamics and A-pillars tweaked for better visibility, Toyota says.

To create a quieter cabin, the auto maker increased floor insulation 30%. Unwanted vibration is said to have been reduced via a larger dash silencer.

In keeping with a directive to improve interior quality, Toyota promises a more premium cabin in the ’14 Highlander, with such upmarket touches as standard contrast seat stitching, a knit headliner and soft-touch-covered instrument panel.

Second-row seats are available in bucket or bench style, while the third row gets a standard 40/60 split bench.

The CUV retains the same three engine choices from ’13: 2.7L 4-cyl. and 3.5L V-6 gasoline mills, plus a 3.5L V-6/electric motor combination in the hybrid variant. Full specs are not available, so it is unclear whether horsepower and torque ratings carry over as well.

The current Highlander’s 2.7L makes 187 hp, while the 3.5L V-6 tops out at 270 hp, and total system output for the ’13 hybrid model is 280 hp.

For ’14, the 2.7L and 3.5L gas mills are mated to 6-speed automatic transmissions; the 2.7L is paired with a 5-speed automatic in the ’13 Highlander.

Better fuel-economy and acceleration are promised with the 3.5L V-6/6AT combination.

Improvements in spring rates and shock tuning lead to a “more dynamic driving experience,” the auto maker promises.

Toyota’s Dynamic Torque All-Wheel Drive system, which automatically shifts from front- to all-wheel drive during acceleration or wheel slippage, will be available on the ’14 Highlander.

The CUV retains electric power steering, but standard wheels now are 18 ins. vs. 17 ins. in the current model. Optional Highlander wheels remain 19 ins.

Standard features include eight airbags, Toyota’s Entune multimedia system and a touchscreen. A larger touchscreen and a 12-speaker JBL audio system are optional.

The Highlander goes on sale in early 2014 in the U.S. It will continue to be assembled at Toyota’s Princeton, IN, plant.

WardsAuto data shows Highlander sales rose last year to 121,055 units. The No.1-selling 3-row CUV in the U.S. last year was Ford’s Explorer, at 164,207.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com