Toyota’s vast and lengthy experiences producing hybrids has resulted in an SUV that does it all.
Its Highlander has all-wheel drive, room for eight, a plethora of safety equipment, high resale value, an MSRP of $42,030 and the government rates it as 29 mpg. In fact, according to the government, almost all SUV hybrids with superior mileage figures are Toyota products.
The main reason the Highlander is rated so highly by reviewers is that it is a solid option for those looking for a multi-tasking transportation option for commuting, vacations, bad weather, or just taking a litter of dogs to the vet.
This Toyota is the equivalent of your top employee who does what he/she is asked and does it well. Call it a hero for the middle class who need a versatile three-row seated SUV with formidable cargo capacity, easy to arrange seating and a quiet ride. Add to that, high resale, especially for the XLE hybrid version. Of course, there are some complaints mainly concerning the long reach to the center dash mounted touchscreen monitor and the lack of some extra audio set-ups.
We have owned several Toyotas and have found them handy and economical to own and quite pleasing. The Highlander is no exception.
In addition to numerous accident-avoidance and safety features, Toyota has added a high seating position with the availability of selecting either a seven or eight seat version. By choosing the second row captain style chairs, you have room for seven, whereas a second row bench seat provides room for eight passengers.
The feeling through the brake pedal on any hybrid takes a while to adjust to the regenerative braking, but the results are still a robust stop.
Toyota’s Safety Sense is magnificent. It helps keep you in your lane applies the brakes in emergency situations and has adaptive cruise control among other features, but I highly recommend ordering the optional blind-spot monitoring and parking sensor if your version does not come with them.
The Highlander earned the highest safety awards from both the government and the insurance institute.
The cargo floor folds flat, and the easy open rear power hatch makes loading larger items simple. The front seats did not suit my husband well, but I found them ideal with the optional heating feature. The interior could be a bit more upscale, but considering the price, it is practical as opposed to opulent. The pull up shades on the back door windows are very useful, and there is an abundance of cupholders and storage areas that make the Highlander a class leader in that regard.
All told, the Highlander truly brings utility into the SUV nomenclature. It is easy to maneuver, gets exceptional gas mileage, has a large cargo bay and can hold most families with ease. I like it, especially, the optional Easy Speak intercom system that conveyed a driver’s warnings to those in the third row should a message be needed for those inhabitants.
Although you can get a 2.7-liter inline-4 on the base Highlander, the hybrid with its 3.5-liter V6 and electric motors is what we recommend. Our fuel economy in town and highway was always around 29 mpg with a range of close to 400 miles.
The 2019 Highlander Hybrid is priced just over $38,000, and it can climb to nearly $50,000 when fully optioned. If you don’t need the hybrid, the XLE at about $40,000 is a good buy as it has valuable blind-spot monitoring, sunroof, navigation, cross-traffic alert, and leather seating. All-wheel drive is extra.
The hybrid uses the Toyota V6 engine as well as two electric motors to produce 306 horsepower running through a continuously variable automatic transmission and all-wheel drive that results in a smooth, but don’t expect Porsche style acceleration.
In a word, the Highlander hybrid is competent and efficient. Exciting, not so much.
However, it is a family vehicle with good resale, safety features, and ride are foremost in any discussion of this fuel sipper. Add to that the ability to tow up to 5000 pounds, and you have a jack of all trades type of transportation.
My opinion is shaded due to my trust in Toyota products over the years. No, the Highlander is not perfect for all families, but for someone interested in an efficient and useful utility vehicle with a myriad of uses, this Toyota must be a consideration.
Young Working Woman’s View
The hybrid Highlander had an eight-inch touch screen for audio and information and Entune an infotainment system that was clear and worked quickly. To reach the screen was another matter and you had to take your eyes off the road until you got used to the many features that help you in that regard.
The engine stop/start system saves fuel and is seamless. You can turn it off, but I saw no advantage in doing that.
Inside the Highlander, I found the second-row seats very comfortable with a lot of leg room. You can move them forward to gain access to the third-row seats where legroom is at a premium. However, it is fine for those who are limber or young, and the second row seats are easy to move to allow entry to the third row.
If you are considering the Highlander take the time to explore the difference between the two options for second-row seating. I prefer the captain chairs, although you lose the ability to carry an eighth with that option. There is front and rear climate control and a three-zone system that helps keep the interior cozy. The rear seat passengers can enjoy their own entertainment system too.
I would strongly consider the XLE models, both hybrid and regular versions as they come with plenty of such family-friendly extras.
My opinion is mixed. It is easy to park and maneuver in traffic, but it always feels big. The hybrid version is the way to go if you travel a great deal and don’t mind not being the fastest at the stoplight. It is easily the best three-row SUV on the market.
The good news is that IT is user-friendly and adaptable to most any situation. The bad news is that it isn’t as handy as one of my Toyota favorites, the RAV 4 hybrid.
Young Working Males View
Our hybrid Highlander had the larger 8.0-inch monitor, as well as Bluetooth phone and audio, an abundance of USB ports and the always useful auxiliary-input jack. Adding to that is a trial subscription for SiriusXM satellite radio and a link that makes smartphones compatible with the display. There is also navigation. Toyota still does not offer Apple Car Play or onboard Wi-Fi, but with the correct use of a smartphone that can be alleviated.
Toyota products have been at the top for quality, and the Highlander is no exception. It has a husky look, rides smoothly, and provides exceptional fuel mileage all the while holding its residual value and offering valuable safety features.
Although other makes may offer more interior space or a longer warranty, overall the Highlander is consistently the winner when it comes to seven or eight-passenger SUVs in terms of reliability and dealer service.
For more reviews go to Car Family Car Reviews
*** Photo courtesy of Caricos
* * *
The Car Family Car Review is sponsored by the NMA Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting your interests as a motorist and citizen through the multi-faceted approach of research, education, and litigation. The Foundation is able to offer this assistance through tax-deductible contributions.