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 midsize crossover that’s offered in four trim models (LE, LE Plus, XLE, Limited) and a hybrid version.
Personally, the sport utility vehicle offerings by Toyota have always been a favorite. Whether shopping for a compact SUV or a super-sized model, there is something in the Toyota lineup for everyone. If one includes the Venza, which some folks consider a wagon, Toyota has seven SUVs overall.
The Toyota SUV list includes the RAV4, 4Runner, Highlander, Land Cruiser, Sequoia, Venza, and the somewhat quirky FJ Cruiser. And if one desires a more upscale SUV, Lexus (Toyota’s luxury division) has a variety of options as well.
The Highlander was redesigned last year and the new changes included a chiseled, beefy exterior look that gives it a bolder appearance than previous models. The new Highlander, which is essentially unchanged for 2015, is not as rounded and its more aggressive exterior styling is more appealing to men than its previous bland look.
Answering its critics, Toyota responded with more cabin and cargo room, styling changes, and added some premium amenities to the Highlander.
Toyota Highlander Major changes
- New dashboard. Toyota upgraded from its previously hard panels to curvier surfaces.
- Extra 3.7 inches of width added to third row, making Highlander one of the few midsize crossovers that seats eight people.
- Refined driving experience, thanks to new six-speed automatic transmission.
- Height-adjustable power liftgate with memory height settings
The Highlander provides two engine choices – we prefer the V6 option. The V6 Highlander is a 3.5-liter with 270 horsepower that generates 248 pound-feet of torque. It’s been clocked at 7.3 seconds going from 0-60-mph, which is about a second faster than many of its segment rivals.
The base Highlander (LE) is a front-wheel drive, 2.7-liter, four-cylinder engine with 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.
The Highlander hybrid also has a 3.5-liter, V6 gas engine, but gets assistance from a pair of electric motors to produce 280 horsepower and 215 pound-feet of torque. The gas mileage is an estimated 27-28 mpg.
Toyota predicted that 90 percent of all 2014 Highlander models sold will have the V6 engine and 60 percent of those will be equipped with the optional all-wheel drive.
2015 Toyota Highlander
- Performance: 2.7-liter, four-cylinder, 185 horsepower; 3.5-liter, V6, 270 horsepower
- Mileage estimate: 24-25 mpg; 18-20 mpg
- Estimated price: $29,765 to $41,140
- Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance: 2 years/25,000; corrosion: 5 years/unlimited
Interior changes are impressive with the Highlander. The gauges now feature a more contemporary look and are clustered together in a sensible fashion. A dashboard shelf is a great innovation and the storage box under the console can occupy a sizable purse. Another positive change is increasing the space to 13.8 cubic feet behind the third row.
We also admire the optional “driver easy speak” that utilizes a Bluetooth microphone to broadcast your voice to third-row folks, the underlying reason is to get the attention of misbehaving kids.
Thanks to the numerous changes, the Highlander remains one of the primary choices in this crowded field of midsize crossover SUVS that includes Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Ford Flex, Mazda CX-9, and Dodge Durango.