Review: 2015 Toyota Highlander Limited Is Nearly Automotive Perfection

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Last year when I got my hands on my first Toyota Highlander, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had seen it at various auto show events, but never taken the time to really check it out. Now, I know exactly what to expect. I would strongly argue this is the 3rd best vehicle in Toyota’s lineup (behind the Tundra and Tacoma of course). Here’s why.

2015 Toyota Highlander Limited

A stylish exterior with a roomy interior are a prescription for a great SUV. The 2015 Toyota Highlander Limited has them both.

When it comes to mid-size SUVs, most consumers think of the Ford Explorer, Honda CR-V and Dodge Durango. Frankly, the Toyota Highlander doesn’t have a lot of name recognition among consumers and this is largely due to its non-descript previous generations. Starting with the 2014 model, the Highlander transformed so much, it probably should have been renamed.

Besides, the vast exterior changes with its much more interesting and appealing styling, the third-generation Highlander is much better. It offers a sloping side-profile (aka GMC Yukon), a somewhat up-scaled feeling front-end and very nice finish in the rear. While some of the exterior features varies by trim, I have seen many Highlanders roaming the streets in my area. In all cases, whether base model or the top Limited trim, the styling works really well.

One other note on the exterior is the lights. It uses a similar style that the 4Runner employs, yet, I would argue the Highlander does a better job of making them look good. Probably due to its wider stature, the headlights don’t seem as rigid as they do in the 4Runner in my opinion.

2015 Toyota Highlander Limited

Spacious, yet not so big things are hard to reach, the driver’s position in the Highlander is pretty ideal. Our only gripe is the infotainment screen should be recessed a bit to avoid sun glare.

Inside, the Highlander just works really well. There is nearly perfect symmetry of space between the driver and passengers without feeling like there is too much. All the knobs and switches are well within use and easy to use.

Second-row seating is also done really well. Our young kids are able to climb in and out without issue and have plenty of room between them. My test model also came with the second-row DVD player which was a big hit. Also, there are integrated side-window sunshades. With the sunshades covering the windows, our kids were able to relax quite comfortably and the darkened second-row made movie watching ideal.


Comfortable, roomy and shaded thanks to integrated window sunshades, the second-row seating is really nice. I would even consider sitting back there!

Lastly, you may have noticed a small sunroof above the driver seat. Toyota also offers the Highlander with an excellent panoramic moonroof that spans through the second-row. Naturally, you can’t have the DVD player along with the moonroof.

Necessary for any SUV is the amount of cargo room it is capable of providing. With the second-row folding flat and the optional third-row also folded down, we fit a lot of groceries in this SUV.


Lots of cargo space in this SUV.

Also, the optional third-row is, as you would expect, large enough for children under 16. However, the seat does offer a 60/40 split which we found made entry and exit easier when using it. It is also pretty nice to be able to reclaim storage room when only carrying 5 passengers. Note: total passenger capacity is 8 with certain trim levels offering two rows of bench seats. In the Limited tester, it was offered with second-row bucket seats.

If you have ever gotten in a vehicle and just felt like the powertrain was perfect, this is exactly the feeling provided by the Highlander. It is equipped with a 3.5L, V6 engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain provides 270 horsepower and 248 lb.-ft. of torque with an admirable towing capacity of 5,000 lbs (like an 18-foot, fiberglass boat). Wanna have some fun? Click and enjoy online bingo right now. Keep in mind, this towing weight is figured with an empty vehicle and a single driver. This means, you will need to add up all your cargo and subtract it from the total towing capacity.

Driving the Highlander is a breeze with the ample engine power and nimbleness. Also, thanks to its front independent McPherson strut and rear double wishbone suspension, it minimizes road noise to the point, you think you are in a Lexus. Really, it is responsive to driver input and corners sharper than you would assume (trust me, I almost got in a bit of trouble it cornered so well).

2015 Toyota Highlander Limited Review

The rear wraps exceptionally well in this SUV and it is pretty darn stylish.

Fuel economy isn’t that bad either with 18/24/20 MPG city/highway/combined. However, I think this vehicle is ripe for a turbo-charged option and with Toyota’s push to offer more of them, I can see this getting one in 2017.

In the end, I found a LOT to like with this Highlander and anybody who asks, I name this SUV as a great buy. While, sure it could be better with hands-free lift gate operation like the Ford Explorer or better fuel economy in a turbo-charged option, it is a much stronger competitor than consumers give it credit for.

Test Model: 2015 Toyota Highlander Limited

  • Engine: 3.5L, V6
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • MPG: 18/24/20
  • Options:
    • Rear-seat BluRay DVD entertainment – $1,810
    • Driver Technology Package – $1,400
    • Towing Receiver Hitch and Wiring – $699
    • Running Boards – $599
    • Remote Engine Start – $499
    • Carpet Floor Mats and Cargo Mat – $225
    • Paint Protection Film – $395
  • Price as Tested – $47,812


Filed Under: Featured Vehicles


RSSComments (6)

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  1. breathing borla says:

    Looks real nice except the price, 48k is way too much truck 🙂

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      Remember, this is the fully loaded version and doesn’t have any discounts. You know about trim levels right? LOL!

      Sorry, I couldn’t resist. 🙂


  2. BrianJ says:

    My wife has a 2015 XLE. Nice car with a lot to like. It handles wash board roads much better than my truck. However the nannies on this thing are so annoying. It will chime and beep feverishly for little things all the time. The navigation system is awful. It’s so useless my wife uses her phone for GPS, and this was one thing she had insisted upon when she bought it. I don’t really care for the on board electronics and information system as much as I do on my F150. I think Toyota could do better. For a family car it is hard to beat. My kids find a lot of comfort in the back seats and getting in and out beat every other SUV we test drove. We took a long trip with 5 kids to Florida recently and no one complained about the ride or comfort. I’m not sure I would use perfection to describe the Highlander, but it’s very good compared to the competition.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:

      Hi Brian,

      Yeah, I said “nearly” perfect. Navigation systems, by and large, are difficult to use compared to our smartphones. With the new Siri integration, I would skip the navigation completely and just use my iPhone. Well, that is what I do normally anyway. 🙂


  3. DJ says:

    I honestly didn’t think the ride was THAT much better than my 14′ Limited 4runner. Also was a little disppapointed in the road noise personally. And I wasn’t a fan of what I call “mini-van” styling inside and out. Still a great option in it’s class though.

    • Tim Esterdahl says:


      Our “butt” sensors must be different. LOL. I think the ride quality is substantially different between the two models.

      Road noise is interesting. Toyota is starting to take a closer look at this issue for sure and it is a fair criticism to say it could be quieter. I would expect changes in a mid-cycle refresh to make it quieter.


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