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2018 Toyota Highlander Overview
The Toyota Highlander has been steadily climbing the sales charts for almost a decade. It’s easy to see why the Highlander fits that sweet spot of being spacious for a family while offering up refined performance and ride characteristics. Toyota gave the Highlander a refresh in 2017 that included updated styling, a revised V6 engine, and more safety equipment. For 2018, Toyota’s leaving the Highlander alone.
While many of its rivals have become sleeker, the Highlander sticks with the quintessential SUV look. Its boxy shape features rounded corners and a large glass area. Toyota tweaked the front with a new trapezoidal grille, deep cuts in the bumper, and headlights that extend into the fenders. Those wanting to stand out slightly with their Highlander should check out the SE, as it comes with a gloss-black grille, black housings for the headlights, and a set of 19-inch wheels.
Toyota didn’t change the Highlander’s interior with the refresh—and that’s a good thing. The interior is pleasant thanks to a modern design and high-quality materials. It has some clever touches, such as a shelf underneath the infotainment system where you can store small items and a massive storage bin for the center console. A downside many reviewers bring up is that some of the controls are not within easy reach for the driver and passenger.
Depending on trim, the Highlander can seat up to eight people. The front seats provide excellent support and can be optioned with power adjustments to make it easier to find the right position. The second row offers a copious amount of head- and legroom for adult passengers. The third row is best reserved for small passengers due to limited legroom. With both rows of rear seats up, the Highlander is toward the bottom of the segment in terms of cargo space with 13.8 cubic feet. Fold the third row to have 42.3 cubic feet, which is about average for the class. With both rows folded, the Highlander provides 83.7 cubic feet.
Toyota’s Entune infotainment system is standard on all models. Depending on the trim, drivers can choose either a 6.1- or 8-inch touchscreen. All trims except the base LE get navigation as standard. Entune pales in comparison to other infotainment systems, but Entune stands out from the rest by being easy to use and featuring snappy performance. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are not supported, but the system will now include 5 USB ports; the Driver Easy Speak system, which allows the driver to speak to those in the backseat via a microphone; and an optional Blu-Ray backseat entertainment system.
The base Highlander LE comes with a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine with 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a 6-speed automatic and front-wheel drive (FWD). The 4-cylinder Highlander’s acceleration is lethargic. A 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque is standard on the LE Plus and above, and optional for the LE. This is paired with an 8-speed automatic and the choice of FWD or all-wheel drive (AWD). The V6 moves the Highlander with authority. Drivers will have no issues merging onto a freeway or making a pass in a short amount of time. The 8-speed automatic needs a little bit more work, however, as many reviews note the transmission is slow to downshift and will hunt for gears in certain situations, such as going up a hill. EPA fuel-economy figures for the Highlander stand at 20 mpg city, 24 highway, 22 combined for the 2.7; 21, 27, 23 for the V6 with FWD; and 19, 26, 22 for the V6 with AWD.
Most buyers in the class are more concerned with a vehicle’s ride than how it corners, but the Highlander does very well in this regard. Over rough roads, the Highlander provides a smooth and relaxing ride. Around corners, the Highlander exhibits a fair amount of body roll. The SE does see less body roll thanks to changes to the suspension, but it still retains light steering.
Toyota equips all Highlanders with the Toyota Safety Sense P package that includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning with steering assist, and automatic high beams. Other safety equipment includes a full set of airbags, traction and stability control, and a reversing camera. Blind-spot monitoring is available only on XLE models and above, while parking sensors and a 360-degree camera system come only on the top-of-the-line Limited Platinum. The Highlander has a 5-star Overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Ask William Maley how he started as an automotive writer and he would say he just fell into it. Based in Michigan, William has driven vehicles of all sizes and shapes. His work has appeared on Autobytel, CARFAX, Cheers & Gears, and U.S. News Best Cars.
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