The Toyota Highlander is a three-row crossover that caters to the middle of the market with a versatile interior, decent fuel economy and benign handling. Although a bit dull, it's highly practical and available in efficient Hybrid form.
For the latest model year, Toyota has updated the Highlander with a new multimedia system and a new trim level.
The Highlander continues to ride on a car-derived unibody platform that gives it relatively nimble driving dynamics compared to old-fashioned body-on-frame bruisers. The standard engine is a four-cylinder - something of a rarity for the segment - that displaces 2.7 liters and produces 186 horsepower and 187 lb-ft of torque. Those looking for more power can opt for a 3.5-liter V6 with 270 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of twist.
The V6 pairs with a five-speed automatic, while the smaller mill uses a six-speed unit. The four-cylinder model, which comes exclusively with front-wheel-drive, returns 20 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. The six-cylinder manages 18/24 mpg in FWD form and 17/22 with AWD.
For those looking to tow, the Highlander V6 is capable of lugging up to 5,000 pounds.
Inside, the Highlander is marked by intuitive controls, excellent sightlines and an attractive overall design. There's plenty of passenger room, even in the third row, but cargo space is limited to a meager 10.3 cubic feet with all three rows of seats in the upright position. Fold the third row down and there's a commodious 42.3 cubic feet available, while folding down all but the first row unlocks 95.4 cubes.
Notably, the second-row seat reclines and can also slide fore or aft to make more legroom for either second- or third row occupants. The Highlander also has no less than 10 cup holders and four bottle holders in addition to three 12-volt auxiliary power outlets and cargo area tie-downs.
New to the Highlander is a "Display" Audio multimedia system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen in addition to a USB port and hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless technology.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Highlander is available in base, Plus, SE and Limited trim levels.
The base model comes standard with front and rear air conditioning, power windows and locks, an AM/FM/CD stereo system with an AUX input jack, cruise control, keyless entry and 17-inch alloy wheels
The new Plus trim brings a 3.5-inch multi-information display, a rear backup camera, metallic interior trim, one-touch fold-flat levers for the second-row seats, fog lights, roof rails and a cargo area cover.
Opting for the mid-grade SE will add leather upholstery, heated and power-adjustable front seats, a moonroof, a lift-up glass hatch and a power liftgate.
The Limited brings 19-inch alloy wheels, tri-zone automatic climate control, perforated leather upholstery, imitation wood trim, color-keyed power, heated and folding mirrors, chrome exterior door handles, silver roof rails, door scuff plate with Highlander badging and of course, Limited badging located on the exterior of the front doors.
All Highlander models are equipped with dual front, front side, front knee and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and a tire-pressure monitoring system.
The Highlander competes against a plethora of similarly sized three-row crossovers including the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse, Hyundai Veracruz and Mazda CX-9.