2017 Toyota Highlander

It’s the first major refresh for the Highlander in years. The company has significantly enhanced the Highlander’s value as part of an effort to remain competitive with it. The third-generation SUV will hit dealerships in the middle of November and offers more power, safety features and model choices.

The Highlander’s V6 has been updated and comes with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. There are additional trim models with a new sporty SE grade for the 2017 Highlander and two additional entry-level grades, LE and XLE, for the Highlander Hybrid. All models receive revised front and rear styling. They also offer more comfort.

The Highlander comes in LE, LE Plus, XLE, SE, Limited and Limited Platinum grades. The Highlander Hybrid is now available in LE, XLE, Limited and Limited Platinum grades. All are available in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

Exterior

All grades for 2017 have a more elegant presence. The front grille on LE, LE Plus and XLE grades comes with a silver-painted finish while Limited and Platinum grades feature a painted chrome finish. The taillights now have a sleeker look and feature standard LEDs. Chrome garnishes on the rear bumper also come with Limited and Platinum grades.

The company describes the look of its new SE grade as unique and sporty, “Its trim-specific dark paint treatment for the front grille, headlamp housings and roof rails, combined with unique 19-inch wheels, give the SE an athletic stance and stunning style.”

Interior

The sporty new SE grade features unique black leather-trimmed seats with silver stitching and pattern inserts. It also has matching dark dash and door accents. It has room for seven passengers. While the Limited and Limited Platinum grades also previously offered room for just seven passengers, a bench-style middle row seat is now being offered to fit eight. Customers can choose to keep the captain’s chairs, however, if seating for seven is enough. Accessing the third row is easy thanks to a second-row sliding seat function on both driver and passenger sides.

One of the cabin’s highlights is the roll-top center console. It functions as a nice armrest for the driver and passenger. Its inner storage box can also fit a large handbag. The LE grade features a 6.1-inch touchscreen display in the dash. Higher grades get a larger, 8-inch display monitor. There’s also an LCD display within the gauge cluster that puts vital information in the driver’s line of sight. It’s a slightly larger display from 2016. It’s now just over 4 inches in size and comes in color.

Several features make this three-row SUV family-friendly. It will be easy to fall asleep in on long trips as three hydraulic engine mounts, acoustic-type windshield glass, a dash silencer and extensive body sealing help keep the interior quiet. The panoramic moonroof was also designed to reduce wind noise. If you have children in the third-row who are fighting or being noisy, there’s no need to yell at them. That’s because XLE grades and above come standard with Driver Easy Speak. You can speak to your passengers through a microphone located in the overhead console. The best part? They can’t talk back! There are also more USB ports. That means the kids won’t have to fight over who gets to charge their phone.

As for cargo, there’s 13.8 cubic feet behind the third row. When the third and second rows are lowered, carrying space increases to 83.7 cubic feet.

Performance

The V6 engine for the 2017 Highlander packs more power and is teamed with a new transmission. The new 3.5-liter V6 direct-injection engine churns out 295 horsepower. That’s an increase of 25 horsepower over the 2016 Highlander V6. It also offers more torque. While the V6 is optional on the LE, it’s standard on all other trims.

The V6 now employs a new eight-speed automatic transmission, replacing the six-speed gearbox of the 2016 Highlander. The company says the new transmission benefits the Highlander’s acceleration and passing abilities.

In all trim levels except for the LE, the Highlander V6 features a new stop and start system.  It allows the engine to shut off when the vehicle comes to a complete stop and then restarts when the driver takes their foot off the brake. It’s designed to save fuel and provide a quieter environment for passengers.

All Highlander V6 models have a maximum towing capacity of up to 5,000 pounds.

The base LE front-wheel drive model comes standard with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with a six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.

The Highlander Hybrid pairs the new 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine with a high-torque electric drive motor-generator. The system produces 306 horsepower. All Hybrid models come with an AWD-I system.

Safety

All Highlander models come with a back-up camera, eight standard airbags and Toyota’s Star Safety System. The system includes enhanced vehicle stability control, traction control, brake assist, hill-assist control and more. Also standard is Toyota Safety Sense. That system includes forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and automatic high beams.

The XLE grade and above receive a standard blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert while Limited Platinum grades come equipped with a bird’s eye view camera system. The system features a function that provides a live rotating 360-degree view around the vehicle.

Our Take

Toyota recently released manufacturer’s suggested retail prices for its 2017 Highlander and Highlander Hybrid. The MSRP for the 2017 Highlander gas models will range from $30,630 for the LE four-cylinder 2WD model to $46,240 for the Limited Platinum V6 AWD model. That’s an increase of 3.0 percent from 2016. The MSRP for the Highlander Hybrid models range from $36,270 for the LE V6 AWD to $47,880 for the Limited Platinum V6 AWD, reflecting an average decrease of 5.5 percent.

If you’re looking for a family vehicle, the 2017 Toyota Highlander is a good choice. It packs more power, features a quiet interior and has space for eight. While the third-row seat doesn’t offer as much room as some of the Highlander’s competitors, it’s good enough for the kids. Families will have a chance to test it out when the 2017 Highlander rolls into dealerships in mid-November.

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