2018 Highlander New Car Test Drive
The Toyota Highlander is a smooth midsize crossover with a third row for kids, front-wheel drive with all-wheel drive available. It's bigger than the RAV4 and less rugged than the 4Runner. It can be compared with crossovers such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, Honda Pilot, and Chevrolet Traverse.
Last redesigned for 2014, it got a revision in 2017, including a facelift, more tech, and more power with an eight-speed transmission. It's unchanged for 2018.
The base Highlander LE uses a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine making 185 horsepower. Mated to a six-speed automatic transmission, it gets 22 combined miles per gallon. The available V6 has more power and gets better fuel mileage.
The 3.5-liter V6 with direct injection makes 295 horsepower. Mated to an eight-speed automatic, it gets 23 combined miles per gallon, helped there by the standard start/stop system. On the highway, it gets 3mpg more than the four-cylinder engine.
There is a sporty Highlander SE, with 19-inch wheels and a firmer suspension.
Also a Highlander Hybrid LE or XLE. It uses an Atkinson-cycle version of the V6 with direct injection. There are two electric motors, one for the front wheels and another for the rears. It makes a combined 306 horsepower and brings 30 City, 28 Highway and 29 Combined miles per gallon. We got seat time in a 2017 Hybrid XLE, all of it relaxed city driving, and it returned considerably less than that. Much the same with our 2016 Highlander Hybrid.
With the forward-collision warning system, the IIHS gives the Highlander its Top Safety Pick+ rating, with top Good ratings in every test. The NHTSA gives it five stars overall, with four stars for frontal crash and rollover.
The 2018 Toyota Highlander lineup includes SE, LE, LE Plus, XLE, Limited, and Limited Platinum models. The Highlander Hybrid comes as LE, XLE, Limited and Limited Platinum.
Highlander LE includes cloth upholstery, 4.2-inch multi-information display, six-way manually adjustable driver's seat and four-way passenger seat, 60/40 split-folding and reclining second-row seat, 60/40 split-folding third-row seat, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, five USB ports, LED taillamps, and 18-inch alloy wheels. It also comes with the Toyota's Entune AM/FM/CD audio system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen, six speakers, an auxiliary input jack, Bluetooth phone connectivity and music streaming, and Siri Eyes Free. Also standard are a rearview camera, hill start assist, and eight airbags, including a driver knee airbag and a front passenger seat cushion airbag.
The sporty SE gets a dark grille, headlamp housings, and roof rails. Inside it gets black leather with silver stitching and patterned inserts.
The fully loaded Limited Platinum gets heated and ventilated front seats, driver's seat memory, a 12-speaker JBL audio system, a surround-view camera system, heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats, panoramic sunroof, and front park assist. It also gets Toyota's Safety Connect system, which includes emergency assistance, a stolen vehicle locator, roadside assistance, and automatic collision notification.
Toyota's upgraded Safety Sense P system is standard, with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane departure alert, a pedestrian pre-collision system, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams.