IT’S A BEST BUY BECAUSE:

Highlander provides excellent passenger and cargo room, fine road manners, a quiet cabin, and a good selection of family-friendly features.

BUT…

Acceleration is a bit sluggish with the base 4-cylinder engine.

WORTH NOTING:

The Highlander is the only mainstream-brand midsize SUV to offer a hybrid powertrain.

WHAT IS IT?

The Highlander is Toyota’s 3-row midsize crossover SUV. It can seat eight passengers when equipped with the available second-row bench seat. It is available with 4-cylinder, V6, or gas/electric hybrid V6 powertrains, and offers trim levels ascending through LE, XLE, Limited and Limited Platinum models. Available features include a Blu-ray entertainment system and Toyota’s “Driver Easy Speak” feature, which amplifies the driver’s voice through the rear-seat speakers for easy communication with passengers in the 3rd row.

WHAT’S NEW?

The Highlander undergoes a substantial refresh for 2017 that includes updated exterior styling, an updated V6 powertrain, expanded model lineup, and a host of newly available safety features. The base LE model’s 2.7-liter 4-cylinder/6-speed automatic transmission powertrain is carried over, but the 3.5-liter V6 on other Highlanders is revised for improved horsepower and fuel economy. The V6 also gets fuel-saving start/stop technology and an 8-speed automatic transmission in place of a 6-speed. The V6 powertrain is now rated at 295 horsepower, besting the previous 273-hp rating. The newly standard Toyota Safety Sense P package includes automated pre-collision braking; TSS bundles safety technologies including Pre-Collision System (with Forward Collision Warning and automatic emergency braking), Lane Departure Alert, Automatic High Beams, Pedestrian Pre-Collision System and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. The XLE adds standard blind-spot alert, and the Limited gets a standard 360-degree surround-view camera. A sporty SE model, with a sport-tuned suspension, 19-inch wheels, and a dark-finished grille, is a new addition to the model lineup. The Highlander Hybrid was previously available only in Limited and Limited Platinum trim, but is now offered in LE and XLE trim as well. The Hybrid also benefits from a horsepower bump, to 306 from the previous 280-hp rating.

FUEL ECONOMY

EPA-estimated fuel economy is 20 mpg city/24 mpg highway with the 4-cylinder (which comes only with front-wheel drive), 20/27 with the front-drive V6 in LE form, and 19/26 with all-wheel drive V6 in LE form. (Choosing a higher trim level increases the EPA estimate by 1 mpg in city and/or highway driving.) The Highlander Hybrid (which comes standard with all-wheel drive) is rated at 30 mpg city/28 mpg highway.

VALUE IN CLASS

Toyota’s midsize SUV was already a solid Best Buy pick, but the raft of enhancements and updates it receives for 2017 make it an even better choice. The Highlander excels at delivering the traits that SUV-buying families want most. It offers excellent passenger/cargo room and versatility, and the cargo space behind the 3rd-row seat is among the best in the class. Add in Highlander’s decent maneuverability for the size, comfortable ride, and nicely finished interior, and you have a standout midsize SUV.

BASE PRICE RANGE $29,765 – $50,340
BODY STYLES 4-Door Wagon
AVAILABLE ENGINES 185-HP, 2.7-Liter 4-Cyl.; 295-HP, 3.5-Liter V6; 306-HP 3.5-Liter V6/Electric
DRIVE WHEELS Front Or All-Wheel Drive
BUILT IN USA
EPA FUEL-ECONOMY RANGE 19-30 MPG

Other Best Buys in this Class