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2019 Toyota Highlander Overview

Introduced in 2000, the Toyota Highlander underwent its most recent update for 2017. This popular 3-row crossover enters 2019 mostly unchanged, with the exception of a few exterior tweaks and, more notably, a new limited-edition version. It competes is a red-hot segment, going up against other 3-row crossovers like the Mazda CX-9, Honda Pilot, and the Chevy Traverse.

Visually, the 2019 Toyota Highlander is a mirror copy of the 2018 model it replaces, accented by an aggressively styled front end featuring smoked headlights, stylish 18- or 19-inch alloy wheels, and LED taillights. New for 2019 are black rocker panel covers on LE, LE Plus, and XLE trims, while the top-of-the-line Limited keeps body-color rockers and gets its own upgrade with chrome-trimmed LED fog lights.

The Highlander SE is sportier with its retuned suspension and abundance of black exterior accents. Building on that foundation is the new Nightshade Special Edition, limited to 5,000 units and boasting even more black details in an effort to make this the most intimidating Highlander to be seen in the school drop-off lane.

A 3.5-liter 6-cylinder engine, generating 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet, powers the Highlander. This engine, standard on all but the front-wheel-drive (FWD) Highlander LE, is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and returns up to 20 mpg city, 27 highway, and 23 combined for all FWD versions and the all-wheel-drive (AWD) LE trim. Add AWD to the XLE, SE, or Limited, and those figures dip to 20, 26, and 22.

The FWD LE’s standard 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine offers 185 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The 8-speed automatic transmission is employed here, too. In terms of fuel economy, drivers can expect 20, 24, and 22.

Inside, standard amenities abound. Even the base LE is fitted with features like front and rear air conditioning, though the LE Plus may prove more inviting thanks to a power liftgate, a flip-up rear window, leather and leatherette accents, triple-zone automatic climate control, and a power driver’s seat. For a standard moonroof, shoppers will need to step up to the 2019 Highlander XLE, where they’ll also get an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, heated leather front seats, and second-row captain’s chairs that drop seating capacity to seven. The SE is largely a cosmetic upgrade from the XLE, but the Limited pulls out the stops with ventilated front seats, a JBL audio system, and a host of memory functions.

All Highlanders include Toyota’s Entune touchscreen infotainment system featuring Bluetooth and Siri Eyes Free technology. Upgrades such as satellite radio, navigation, and a 120-volt power outlet are reserved for the pricier models. Unfortunately, neither Apple CarPlay nor Android Auto is available. Buyers can opt for a rear entertainment system with a 9-inch display and wireless headphones.

On the safety front, the Highlander can hold its head high. The nearly identical 2018 version was named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and earned a 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA). Toyota has equipped all 2019 Highlanders with a pre-collision warning system, lane-departure warning with steering assist, and intelligent cruise control. Move up to the LE Plus and the list grows to include a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, while the Highlander Limited goes one step further with rear parking sensors, emergency assistance, stolen vehicle tracking, and automatic collision notification.

Since it hit the market years ago, the Toyota Highlander has delivered a desirable blend of functionality and comfort, bundled with decent fuel economy and attractive styling. That recipe, now with an extra available dose of black, helps the 2019 Highlander maintain its position among the market’s best crossovers.


Thom is a lifelong car nut, owning cars ranging from Datsuns to Mustang GTs and, currently, a Hemi-powered Ram 1500. He has spent the past 15 years writing objective, thorough vehicle reviews and consumer-focused feature articles for Autobytel.com, Kelley Blue Book, The Boston Globe, Cars.com, and other leading websites and publications.

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