The Toyota Highlander is a midsize, three-row crossover offering room for seven or eight. Introduced in 2001, the current-generation Highlander rolled out in 2014. The 2017 Highlander benefits from several important updates that keep it in the top tier of this highly competitive segment.
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2017 Toyota Highlander Overview
What's New for 2017
Numerous changes and upgrades mark the 2017 Toyota Highlander. For starters, a new SE grade rolls out, bringing with it a dark paint treatment for the grille, headlight housings, and roof rails. Special 19-inch machined-face alloy wheels with black finish, black leather-trimmed seats, and a sport-tuned suspension are also included.
The most significant change for 2017 is the introduction of an upgraded powertrain. The 3.5-liter V6 engine now makes more power. This engine comes paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, replacing the previous six-speed unit.
The Toyota Safety Sense P package is now standard, including a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams.
Choosing Your Toyota Highlander
The Toyota Highlander offers three rows of seating and optional all-wheel drive. Five trims are available: LE, LE Plus, XLE, SE, and Limited.
Standard equipment includes five USB ports, an integrated backup camera, space for eight, and 60-40 split-folding second- and third-row seats. All models are equipped with an active safety package and Entune Audio. Keyless entry, a rearview camera, and cruise control are included.
The lone available package, depending on trim, is a rear-seat Blu-Ray disc entertainment system ($1,810). Accessory items sold individually include all-weather floor liners, a cargo cover, a protection package, and a towing hitch receiver with a wiring harness.
The base model is the only one powered by a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine making 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. This engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The Highlander LE is EPA-rated at 20 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway when equipped with the four-cylinder engine.
Available on the LE and standard elsewhere is a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. Now paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, the front-drive versions offer the best efficiency in the line: 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.
Unless you live in snow country, front-wheel drive is sufficient. The updated powertrain and the standard driver assist package only enhance this model. We see the Highlander LE Plus trim as offering the best value, as it includes a long list of standard features and brings in navigation.
2017 Toyota Highlander Review
The 2017 Toyota Highlander has gone through a heavy refresh, bringing in a new look, a new SE trim level, a more powerful and fuel-efficient V6 engine, and additional safety, but is this enough to make it one of the top three-row crossovers?
Pricing and Equipment
The 2017 Toyota Highlander comes in at a base price of $31,590 for the LE trim. Because this three-row CUV caters to more established families, the better-equipped LE Plus is the likely starting point for most buyers. This trim, which starts from $36,020, comes standard with:
- 18-inch alloy wheels
- Heated mirrors
- Rearview camera
- Upgraded cloth upholstery
- Six-speaker audio system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen
- Fog lights
- Three-zone climate control
- Power driver’s seat
While the Highlander is available in the low $30,000 range, it caters to a broad swath of price points, topping out with the fully loaded Limited Platinum, which starts from $47,220.
- The improved 3.5-liter V6 has plenty of power to get the Highlander moving.
- Its new eight-speed automatic transmission delivers smooth and precise shifts.
- The Highlander is comfortable to drive, thanks to its balanced chassis and smooth ride.
- Fuel economy with the V6 engine is actually decent at 20 miles per gallon city, 27 highway, and 22 combined.
- The 185-horsepower 2.7-liter engine is very underpowered for this size of a crossover, and its fuel economy isn’t a benefit at 20 mpg city, 24 highway, and 22 combined.
- Handling is not very impressive, as it’s wobbly and tends to lean in turns.
- The optional 19-inch wheels negatively affect the ride.
- Pleasing cabin with cues that take from cars and pickup trucks.
- Plenty of hard buttons make operating various features simpler than if they were integrated into the touchscreen.
- Feels more like a luxury vehicle inside, thanks to its high level of equipment and low noise level.
- The first and second row seats are roomy and comfortable.
- Its 83.7 cubic feet of max cargo room more than enough for a trip to the home-improvement store.
- Easy-to-access third row.
- The third row is tight, making it useful only for very young children.
- Only 13.8 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third row.
The Most Pleasant Surprise
With its Top Safety Pick Plus designation from the IIHS, the Toyota Highlander was one of the safest crossovers on the market in 2016, but 2017 brings about even more safety. Now, the once-optional Toyota Safety Sense package, which includes automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, and automatic emergency braking, is standard on all trims.
The Least Pleasant Surprise
The base four-cylinder engine, while potent for its size, just doesn’t fit in a three-row crossover that weighs more than 4,000 pounds. It really struggles under a full load. Speaking of a full load, the Highlander can tow just 1,500 pounds with the four-cylinder engine.
The Bottom Line
Its V6 engine has plenty of pop, its cabin is wonderful, and there are enough options that families can easily customize it to their needs. Though it’s not without its flaws – the four-cylinder engine is a big one – the 2017 Toyota Highlander has a lot to offer.
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