The Toyota Highlander may not be the flashiest or fun to drive. But it has many qualities to make it one of Toyota’s best selling models such as functional and spacious interior, long list of standard equipment, and high-reliability marks. Last year, Toyota unveiled an updated Highlander with tweaks to the exterior, revised V6, and more safety. Considering it has been a few years since we last checked out the Highlander, it seemed a revisit was in order.
The 2017 Highlander boasts new front and rear fascias to give it a more SUV-appearance and we think Toyota has mostly succeeded in this regard. The only issue is the front end reminding us too much of a Cylon from the original Battlestar Galactica TV. Thank the new grille design for this.
Move inside and the Highlander is the same as we last saw it back in 2014 when we did our original review. This is both good and bad. The good is that the controls for the various functions are easy to use. The center console features a huge storage bin that you can easily fit a large purse or a laptop computer. A shelf underneath climate controls provides a nice space to throw small items such as a smartphone. The bad is that the controls for certain functions are not in easy reach for the drive. We also not fans of the capacitive touch buttons around the 8-inch touchscreen as they didn’t always respond. There were times we found ourselves hitting the buttons two to three times to get something to happen.
The infotainment system itself is beginning to look somewhat dated with an interface that looks like it comes from the Windows XP era and the screen is somewhat dim. But we cannot argue that the system is easy to use thanks to a simple layout.
Passengers sitting in the front and second-row seats will appreciate the large amount of head and legroom on offer. Also, the seats themselves are padded quite nicely. We do wish the second-row was mounted slightly higher for better long-distance comfort.
The third-row seat as the seats aren’t that comfortable due to the thin amount of padding. Legroom is also quite tight with only 27.7-inches of space, meaning this is a space best reserved for small kids.
Most Highlanders like our XLE AWD tester will feature Toyota’s latest 3.5L V6 that comes with direct and port fuel-injection and an upgraded valve train. The end result is 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque - up 25 and 15 respectively. This is paired with a new eight-speed automatic. Other engines include a four-cylinder for the base LE and a hybrid powertrain.
Toyota’s V6 engine is one our favorites as it provides impressive acceleration and a steady stream of power up to redline. This updated engine is no exception as it feels slightly quicker than the last Highlander we drove.
The powertrain stumbles somewhat due to the eight-speed automatic’s programming. Toyota went for something that focuses on fuel economy which means the transmission is quick to upshift, but slow to downshift. This means you’ll be waiting for a moment or two for the transmission to get its act together when trying to merge onto a freeway.
You might be fooled into thinking that you’re riding in a Lexus considering the smooth ride of the Highlander. Bumps are turned into minor ripples. Little road and wind noise that come inside.
The Highlander is a vehicle you want to keep in its comfort zone when it comes to handling. Push it in a corner and you’ll experience excessive body roll.
One thing Toyota deserves credit for the 2018 Highlander is having a number of active features standard across the entire Highlander lineup. This includes adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic braking; and lane departure warning with lane keep assist. The only item we would like to see added to this list is blind spot monitoring. You can only get it on XLE models and above.
Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Highlander, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Trim: XLE AWD
Engine: 3.5L DOHC D-4S with Dual VVT-i V6
Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic,
Horsepower @ RPM: 295 @ 6,600
Torque @ RPM: 263 @ 4,700
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/26/22
Curb Weight: 4,430 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Princeton, Indiana
Base Price: $39,980
As Tested Price: $43,184 (Includes $960.00 Destination Charge)
Rear Seat BluRay Entertainment System - $1,810.00
Carpet Floor Mats & Cargo Mat - $225.00
Body Side Molding - $209.00