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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Quick Drive: 2017 Toyota Highlander XLE AWD

    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

    Year: 2017
    Make: Toyota
    Model: Highlander
    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)

    Options:
    Rear Seat BluRay Entertainment System - $1,810.00
    Carpet Floor Mats & Cargo Mat - $225.00
    Body Side Molding - $209.00

    Edited by William Maley


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    Nice ride, over all I am sure a solid CUV competitor and of course the Toyota loyal Lemmings will love it.

    For me I usually like the brick on wheels look but this is just a Meh to me. Weird.

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    I will say ditto to pretty much what dfelt wrote.  Nothing too exciting and it is a Toyota, soooooo..... unless you get in the "Wayback" machine a few decades, you are getting a competent and either poorly styled or. at the very least, mundane looking vehicle.

    And this Highlander is all of that and the proverbial "bag o' chips".

    Edited by lengnert

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    I am not a huge fan of the big grill, but I think it looks overall pretty good considering how everything else in the segment looks.

    It is not sporty but what other 3 row CUV in the segment, maybe besides CX-9, can claim to be sporty?  

    Nice interior, excellent V6 , great reliability.  No wonder Toyota sells boatload of them.

    5-year reliability data from true-delta

    image.png.92e2ef26557d3f1f0c669d0a440edfbe.png

    Edited by ykX

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    Sounds like that XLE Highlander is trying to be a cheaper version of the Lexus RX, if the RX were a 7 seater rather than a 5 seater.  Then again, in some respects it looks like an Enclave competitor without the Buick curves or presumably the personality.

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    A good friend who had 2 crv's in the past (and hated them) just got their second highlander. They love them. He gives them glowing review. Right size for them with 2 kids in college. Good performance and as good of mpg as the crvs. Basically he has nothing bad to say about them. 

    I drove the cx-9 and it's chic but the turbo four is an epic fail compared to this since the v6 here will prob get the same or better mpg. 

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    12 minutes ago, regfootball said:

    A good friend who had 2 crv's in the past (and hated them) just got their second highlander. They love them. He gives them glowing review. Right size for them with 2 kids in college. Good performance and as good of mpg as the crvs. Basically he has nothing bad to say about them. 

    I drove the cx-9 and it's chic but the turbo four is an epic fail compared to this since the v6 here will prob get the same or better mpg. 

    Yeah.  Turbo 4cyl do not belong in a CX-9 or a Highlander.  The V6 is still useful.  Mazda better buy a clue or dump the CX-9.

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    Highlander are boring to drive and on par with everything else. People who have never driven a performance auto thinks there great when in fact they are just boring lemming mobiles.

    This will sell to the same lemming crowd but is far from a performance fun CUV to drive.

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    8 hours ago, dfelt said:

    Highlander are boring to drive and on par with everything else. People who have never driven a performance auto thinks there great when in fact they are just boring lemming mobiles.

    This will sell to the same lemming crowd but is far from a performance fun CUV to drive.

    Which exactly performance CUV you are talking about that would have three rows and will cost around $40k?

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    5 hours ago, ykX said:

    Which exactly performance CUV you are talking about that would have three rows and will cost around $40k?

    True, we no longer have any reasonably priced performance SUV/CUV's that cost $40K.

    Trailblazer SS was the last reasonable performance SUV that was out on the market.

    Durango has them but far from the $40K price.

    Still I would not use performance to describe the Highlander AWD CUV.

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    5 minutes ago, dfelt said:

     

    Still I would not use performance to describe the Highlander AWD CUV.

    No one did...it's a midsize 3 row family hauler like the Explorer, etc..

    Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar

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    10 minutes ago, dfelt said:

     

    Still I would not use performance to describe the Highlander AWD CUV.

    I don't think anybody did describe it as such.   Nor any other CUV in the segment

    Edited by ykX

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    On 10/13/2017 at 8:28 AM, William Maley said:

    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.

    I wonder if/when the Tacoma will take over these power numbers with that 8spd. it could desperately use both that hp/tq tune and 8spd(although more tq would be better yet). Heck, even the hybrid system would be great for it. I wonder who will be the first to throw a hybrid system in their mid size trucks. 

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    2 hours ago, ccap41 said:

    I wonder if/when the Tacoma will take over these power numbers with that 8spd. it could desperately use both that hp/tq tune and 8spd(although more tq would be better yet). Heck, even the hybrid system would be great for it. I wonder who will be the first to throw a hybrid system in their mid size trucks. 

    Agree on the Hybrid for mid size trucks, Hopefully GM will be first and continue to lead the way. Here is to positive thinking.

    3 hours ago, Cubical-aka-Moltar said:

    No one did...it's a midsize 3 row family hauler like the Explorer, etc..

     

    2 hours ago, ykX said:

    I don't think anybody did describe it as such.   Nor any other CUV in the segment

    True no one came out and said it was a performance version, but Riviera74 said good performance and even that I am not so sure as the engine has to rev like crazy to product torque to move it's ass.

    In that regards I do not consider it good performance or any performance but then I admit my view is skewed as I see things as one that has nothing but big and small block V8's.

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    5 minutes ago, dfelt said:

     

    True no one came out and said it was a performance version, but Riviera74 said good performance and even that I am not so sure as the engine has to rev like crazy to product torque to move it's ass.

    In that regards I do not consider it good performance or any performance but then I admit my view is skewed as I see things as one that has nothing but big and small block V8's.

    Your are confusing 'good performance' with 'high performance'...a semantic disconnect.   Engines can perform to spec and be class-competitive (perform well within their product class) without being considered high performance.  

    Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar
    • Like 1
    • Upvote 1

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    12 minutes ago, Cubical-aka-Moltar said:

    Your are confusing 'good performance' with 'high performance'...a semantic disconnect.   Engines can perform to spec and be class-competitive (perform well within their product class) without being considered high performance.  

    Yes it is a semantic of words, Perform well in it's class is fine for this auto. Performance is another thing altogether. :) 

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    26 minutes ago, dfelt said:

    as the engine has to rev like crazy to product torque to move it's ass.

    In that regards I do not consider it good performance or any performance but then I admit my view is skewed as I see things as one that has nothing but big and small block V8's.

    Yeah welcome to modern n/a V6's... That's basically just what they're like in comparison to turbo 4s and V8s, let alone tubo V8s.

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    3 hours ago, ccap41 said:

    Yeah welcome to modern n/a V6's... That's basically just what they're like in comparison to turbo 4s and V8s, let alone tubo V8s.

    Modern engines suck in many regards as well as have some cool tech, like my NA V6 and V8 Pushrod engines over the cam crap engines and especially the turbos. Would rather have a supercharger that goes with the flow of the engine helping out from low to high rpm than a turbo.

    EV will address all those shortcomings in the near future. ;) 

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