Review: 2015 Toyota Highlander Limited Is Nearly Automotive Perfection
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.
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.
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.
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.
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). 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).
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
- 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