Toyota Highlander, highly-rated, sensible & well designed

Roseville, Calif.- One of the most highly-rated midsize sport utility vehicles is the Toyota Highlander, a sensible, well designed crossover.

The Highlander is a three-row, family-friendly SUV that’s offered in four trim models (LE, LE Plus, XLE, SE, Limited and Limited Platinum) and a hybrid version.

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The sport utility vehicle offerings by Toyota have always been a favorite here. Whether shopping for a compact SUV or a super-sized model, there is something in the Toyota lineup for everyone. The Toyota SUV list includes the RAV4, 4Runner, Highlander, Land Cruiser, and Sequoia. And if one desires a more upscale SUV, Lexus (Toyota’s luxury division) has a variety of SUV options as well.

The Highlander was given a complete redesign last year and the new changes include styling updates, improved performance and fuel economy, an eight-speed transmission, automatic stop-start system, and additional safety features.

2018 Toyota Highlander

* Performance: 2.7-liter, four-cylinder, 185 horsepower; 3.5-liter, V6, 295 horsepower; Hybrid 3.5-liter, V6, 306 horsepower
* Mileage estimate: 20-24 mpg; 19-27 mpg; 27-30 mpg
* Estimated price: $32,200 to $49,00
* Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance: 3 years/unlimited; corrosion: 5 years/unlimited

We drove the Hybrid version for a week and enjoyed it for a number of reasons, including its extremely quiet ride. It also has impressive performance, thanks to its 3.5-liter, V6 engine and AC 650-volt permanent-magnet motors that combine to generate 306 horsepower. There are fewer trips to visit the pumps because the Highlander Hybrid gets 30 mpg on average. The Hybrid price tag ranges from $37,900 (base LE) to approximately $49,500.

What makes the Highlander somewhat unique is Toyota continues to be the only non-luxury manufacturer to offer a three-row, midsize hybrid crossover.

The Highlander is a versatile SUV that can serve as the family hauler, thanks to its three rows of seating for seven or eight people, depending on the configuration. Yet it can also be very suitable for a smaller family that likes to have the third row folded down to create a larger cargo space. Although not as spacious as two of its rivals – Honda Pilot, Chevy Traverse – the Highlander is superior in other areas.

Interior comfort is one of the Highlander’s many strong characteristics. There is bountiful leg and head room for both front and second row occupants, who reside in extremely comfortable seats. Although the third row lacks the same comfort, it’s still sufficient for kids. Adults won’t like the third row because it will be cramped and the second row is an impediment for entry and exit.

Cargo space is 13.8 cubic feet behind its third row, 42.3 with the second row down, and expands to 83.7 cubic feet with all seats folded.

The interior has high quality material throughout and features numerous USB ports, a smart cabin setup, huge center console, and a touchscreen infotainment that’s relatively easy to master.

The basic Highlander engine is a 2.7-liter, four cylinder that generates 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. For folks who desire performance, the preference is the Hybrid model or the 3.5-liter, V-6 engine that delivers 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. The V6 model is quick off the line, going 0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds.

The Highlander provides a solid driving experience, combining good handling, reassuring steering and cornering, and moves in a seemingly effortlessly manner.

The Toyota Highlander has many fine traits and remains one of the primary choices in this crowded field of midsize crossover SUVs.

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