2017 Toyota Highlander review with video

 

The basics:

Base price: $35,500 + taxes
Hybrid starts at: $49,985 + taxes
As tested: $45,590 (SE package) + taxes
Average economy over our week of testing: 12 L/100 kms (3.5 L V6) or 19.6 US MPG
Competitors: Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Kia Sorento, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder

The Highlander fits in that category of three row SUVs for people who don’t want a huge beast of a car. It means the third row will be a squeeze, but hey, you’ve got one if you need it in a pinch. Since its introduction in 2001, the Highlander has developed a loyal following – which puts it at the top of the mid-size SUV pack in terms of resale value. This third generation Highlander was released in 2013 and while the 2017 model isn’t totally new, there are some significant changes – a new V6 engine and transmission, the arrival of the new sportier SE trim, a suite of impressive safety features now comes standard and, if you opt for the hybrid, a more powerful, fuel efficient powerplant is now on that model as well. Take a look at our full video review above and then check-out our rapid fire list of pros and cons below.

Pros:
– Toyota reliability continues to be class-leading and the Highlander also has amazing resale value because of the brand’s loyal following and long-term reliability
– The new 3.5 L V6 comes standard with an 8 speed automatic transmission – which has improved fuel economy and gives you a very similar powerplant to the much more expensive Lexus RX
– The Highlander has a solid 5,000 lb towing capacity (in both FWD and AWD models). But perhaps more impressive is the still respectable 3,500 lbs in the hybrid models of this car
– All Highlander trims now include adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, automatic pre-collision braking, pedestrian detection and auto high beams as standard – a very impressive addition to the basic kit you get on this SUV
– This is also a very safe car in general with a Top Safety Pick + rating from the IIHS
– The rear window lifts independently so you don’t have to open the full tailgate for quick access to the cargo area
– And the 1197 litres of capacity behind second row (when the third row is down) is very impressive – especially when you consider that those third row seats are stowed below the cargo area
– Second row leg and headroom is deceptively generous
– While the third row is very tight, you can slide the second row seats forward to offer up a little bit more legroom
– And if you’re regularly taking your car seat in and out, you’ll be pleased to know the Highlander offers far easier access to the car seat latching system than many other Toyota vehicles


Cons:

– Even with the new sportier SE trim in our tester, don’t expect a zippy drive. It’s also noisy under acceleration, the new transmission searches a little too much on hills and the interior is rather noisy at highway speed (67 dB at 100 kms/h with winter tires mounted)
– The steering feel is also rather light compared to more premium brands
– As we’ve found on many Toyota interiors, random switch placement, an old fashioned digital clock, and hard plastics throughout the interior cheapens the feel of the Highlander
– While the running lights and tail lights are LED, halogen headlamps are on all trims and are pretty dim compared to more advanced LED headlights available in the competition
– It’s great to see adaptive cruise control standard but it is pretty jerky and unrefined
– Higher level trims have no panorama moon roof option – just a small sun roof
– Heated front seats are only on the highest trims while we’re seeing them as standard equipment in many vehicles now
– In the second row, captain’s chairs are mandatory in the SE and Limited trim. That bumps down your passenger capacity from 8 to 7. And while you can opt for 8 passenger seating in these trims in America, you can’t in Canada. The Captains chairs in the second row also mean keeping groceries or your dog contained to the very back of the car would be trickier
– The higher level trims include an automatic lift rear tailgate but it is VERY slow and would get irritating over time

The Takeaway:

Family Wheels driver comfort score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels interior layout score: 3/5
Family Wheels infotainment system score: 4/5
Family Wheels interior noise score: 3.5/5 (67 dB at 100 kms/h)
Family Wheels performance score: 3/5
Family Wheels rear passenger score: 4.5/5 (second row)
Family Wheels trunk test score: 4.5/5 (third row down)
Family Wheels fuel economy score: 3.5/5
Family Wheels build quality score: 4/5
Family Wheels value score: 4.5/5

Family Wheels overall score: 38/50= 76%

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