2017 Toyota Highlander Review


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2017 Toyota Highlander Overview

Last year saw minimal changes to the Toyota Highlander, the only notable update being that its towing package now comes as standard equipment on select trims. For 2017, however, Toyota promises sweeping changes to its three-row SUV. A new engine and transmission, refreshed exterior styling, and a brand-new trim are the highlights for the latest generation of Toyota’s competitive midsize SUV.

The base engine in previous Highlanders has been a 2.7-liter inline 4-cylinder paired with a traditional 6-speed automatic transmission. That combination is sticking around for 2017, but will be standard only on the front-wheel drive (FWD) LE trim. All others will benefit from Toyota’s new 3.5-liter V6, boasting direct injection, a stop-and-start engine system, and reportedly significant power and efficiency gains (though Toyota has yet to release specific figures). The new engine is accompanied by an also-new 8-speed automatic transmission, which is certain to play a role in improving those fuel-economy numbers.

Up to 8 people can squeeze into a Highlander, and thanks to the Toyota’s downright copious allocation of 5 USB ports (4 more than on the 2016 model), most of them will be able to charge their iPhones. If your phone doesn’t need a charge, you can still sit back and enjoy the new brown leather upholstery in the Highlander Limited Premium, and if you’re too busy driving to use your phone (and we sincerely hope you are), you’ll enjoy Toyota’s 360-degree parking cameras once you reach your destination.

This model has been on the market since 2001, and for all intents and purposes, it’s retained the same overall look and feel. We’ve seen some tweaks to the front fascia and an overall growth in the Highlander’s dimensions, sure, but the overall design language has remained constant. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—BMW, for instance, has utilized the same general style for decades—and the 2017 model will receive another aesthetic refresh. The grille will feature trim-specific finishes, with the higher trims receiving a special painted-chrome treatment. The rear taillights also earned an update, and three new colors arrive: Celestial Silver Metallic, Toasted Walnut Pearl, and Salsa Red Pearl. That last color is available only on the new SE trim. In addition to an exclusive shade of red, Toyota is shooting for a sporty Highlander with the SE, marketing its tightened-up suspension and 19-inch wheels.

While a quick turn-in and big wheels are certainly nice, the majority of Highlander shoppers are going to be far more interested in its safety reputation. Luckily, Toyota packs its midsize SUV to the gills with advance safety technology, in the form of Toyota Safety Sense. This suite of technology comes standard on the 2017 Highlander and includes forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure alerts, radar cruise control, and a pedestrian-detection system capable of braking, in case the driver doesn’t.

The 2017 Toyota Highlander is expected to pass both National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests with flying colors, as past models have received top marks from both, the only blemish coming in 2015, when the Highlander received only an Acceptable rating on the IIHS small-overlap frontal-offset test. Prices haven’t been released for the 2017 model, but in 2016 it ranged from just under $30,000 for the 4-cylinder LE to $44,490 for the Limited Platinum all-wheel-drive Highlander.


When it comes to cars, Matt's curiosity extends well beyond the powertrain. From Ford to Porsche, he's as interested in the history behind the machine as he is the view behind the wheel. Matt writes exclusively for CarGurus.

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