This is not one of those vehicles where you’re going to say, “Wow, it’s a Toyota Highlander!” But it is a family-friendly, seven- or eight-passenger SUV that does what it’s supposed to do which is why it’s one of the Toyota’s perennial best sellers.
The Highlander got a makeover in 2014 and gets some updates for 2017 including a new grille and new LED taillights, and the choice of a more powerful V6 engine. Toyota’s Safety Sense is now standard, which includes several driver assistance features described below.
It’s available in five trims: LE, LE Plus, XLE, SE, and Limited. Starting prices range from $30,630 to $43,140Pricing is about average for the class, but the Highlander is a good value when you consider some of the standard features. Front-wheel-drive is standard; all-wheel-drive is available on the V6 models. The 2017 Highlander is also available as a hybrid which starts at $36,270.
The LE gets the old 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. That’s really not enough power for an SUV that weighs more than 4,500 pounds.
New for 2017 is a 3.5-liter V6 that’s standard on the other trims. It makes 295 hp, 25 more horses than the outgoing V6, and 263 pound-feet of torque, paired with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. While the Highlander is certainly not sporty, The V6 provides enough power for accelerating on the freeway to merge or pass. The eight-speed shifts smoothly and at the right time. Road and wind noise aren’t very noticeable. All in all, it’s a pleasant ride, albeit a bit dull.
EPA mileage ratings for my tester are 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway with a combined rating of 22 mpg. I got 20 mpg during my week with much more city than highway driving.
The cavernous and attractive interior provides plenty of room for growing families. It accommodates seven passengers with captain’s chairs in the second row, or you can fit eight if you opt for the bench seat in the second row.
The first two rows of seating are comfortable and supportive, even on long trips, with plenty of leg- and headroom. As is usually the case with three-row SUVs, the third row is best suited for kids. It’s easy to talk with those in the third row thanks to the optional Driver Easy Speak system. It sends the driver’s voice through the rear speakers. “Kids, don’t make me stop this car!”
The interior is nicely finished with upscale materials. You might even think you’re in a Lexus.
Toyota’s Entune infotainment system works well. A 6.1-inch touchscreen is standard and an eight-inch screen is available. The system is user-friendly and you can use the touchscreen or buttons and knobs for most functions. One minor irritation is there’s no button that takes you directly to navigation which is standard except on the base trim.
Toyota’s Safety Sense is now standard and includes several driver assistance technologies: adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and automatic high beams.
Upper trims have many amenities that you’ll find on more luxurious vehicles including a huge panoramic sunroof and back seat DVD/Bluray entertainment system to keep the kiddies entertained on those long road trips.
Despite all of the tech that the Highlander has, it’s worth noting that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not offered.
The Highlander has 13.8 cubic feet of space with all three rows of seating in place, 42.3 cubes with the third row folded down, and 83.7 cubes with both rows folded. This is average for the class. Numerous bins, door pockets and a large center storage bin make it easy to stash smaller items throughout the cabin.
Pleasant and comfortable daily driver
Option of a more powerful engine
Toyota Safety Sense is standard
Accommodates seven or eight passengers
Nice cabin for the class
Good value for the money
Handling is a bit blah
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto not available
My tester starts at $41,150. The rear seat BluRay DVD entertainment system with nine-inch display is $1,810 and also includes RCA jacks, remote and two wireless headphones. Delivery fee is $940 bringing the grand total to $43,900.
It’s easy to see why the Highlander continues to be a popular family SUV. It’s a good all-around vehicle, comes with many standard driver assistance features, can seat seven or eight passengers and is a pleasant daily driver, all at a reasonable price.