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.

Performance Pros

Toyota Highlander
  • 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.

Performance Cons

  • 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.

Interior Pros

  • 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.

Interior Cons

  • 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.