First launched almost 20 years ago, the Highlander is Toyota’s entry in the highly competitive mid-size SUV/crossover class. It’s larger than the RAV4, but not quite as big as Toyota’s full-size Sequoia and competes with rivals like the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Honda Pilot, Ford Edge and similar offerings.
The current Highlander is the third generation model and for 2019, Toyota has enhanced the product in various ways to make it even better value for money than it was before. One thing that potential buyers will notice about the Highlander and it’s rivals is that they seem to get more luxurious each model year and if one of these Toyotas is well-optioned, it really slots into the luxury class.
You can buy your Highlander with either a conventional or a self-charging hybrid powertrain and the vehicle can be configured for seven or eight adults. The conventional engine is a 295-horsepower, 3.5-litre V-6 and this can be spec’d with two or four-wheel drive. The transmission for this unit is an 8-speed automatic. The hybrid power unit develops 306-horsepower and is also based on the 3.5-litre V-6. Mated to this is a CVT transmission that drives all four wheels.
Trim levels with the conventional powertrain range include LE, LE AWD, XLE AWD, SE AWD and Limited AWD. The hybrid comes in Limited and XLE variants.
Toyota places great priority on safety in its vehicles, so it’s no surprise that the Highlander has an impressively long list of features to protect not only the driver and passengers but also nearby pedestrians. The vehicle has Toyota’s Safety Sense bundle of advanced security systems and these include a pre-collision function with pedestrian detection that incorporates collision warning and associated emergency braking. There’s a lane departure alert with steering assist function along with automatic high beams and dynamic radar cruise control. Added to all this are eight air bags, a backup camera (something all vehicles should have) and a tire pressure monitoring system. The hybrid models, which can be driven in almost silent mode, have an audible warning to alert people around the vehicle that it’s moving.
The cabin of the Highlander offers a wonderful combination of comfort and convenience. As mentioned earlier, a well-optioned Highlander is edging into the luxury category, though even a basic model is very lavishly equipped too. I’ve always believed that Toyota does some of the best seats in the industry for long road trips and the Highlander doesn’t disappoint in that respect.
While this vehicle is not offered by Toyota as a serious off-road product (the 4Runner fulfils that role) owners should have no problem whatsoever with taking an AWD variant on gravel or dirt roads. Highlanders also perform exceptionally well in snow or other winter conditions and this makes the rig an excellent choice for year-round, all-weather duties.
SPECS AT A GLANCE…
BODY STYLE: 4-door (plus rear hatch) seven or eight-place SUV /crossover
ENGINE: Choice of standard or hybrid powertrains
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic (conventional).
TOWING CAPACITY: 5,000 lbs (depending on model)
FUEL ECONOMY: 8.3-litres/100 km combined (hybrid)
PRICE: Highlanders start at $37,000