This week, I’ve been tooling around in a 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited, technically a mid-sized SUV but one that I find to be larger than most in its class. We first saw the Highlander in January 2001, and the current one is the third generation version. I reviewed the Highlander hybrid in 2014. 2015 was the best sales year ever for Highlander, and about halfway through 2016, it looks like sales will be even better this year.
Starting under the hood, my review vehicle has the 280-horse, 3.5-liter V6 that is rated at 280-horses. There is the hybrid version available as well, and Highlander also comes in a 4-cylinder, but I really think this 6-cylinder is the way to go. It has nice acceleration and gets good fuel-economy for an SUV this size. No matter which gas engine you get under the hood, it comes with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The hybrid has a CVT. My tester has all-wheel drive, but front-wheel drive is standard.
Highlander has a distinctive exterior with memorable lines and a large, chrome grill that wraps into the headlights. Toyota is finally offering some attractive 19” chrome wheels, and a rear spoiler gives this SUV a bold, athletic, look. Toyota is also doing an excellent job with exterior paint with rich tones, and a lot of luster when you look at it in the sun.
Moving inside, the interior is crisp and clean. Even in this top-of-the-line Limited version, you don’t get a super-luxury feel, just a very neat and high-quality feel of premium materials. Everything looks soft, practical, and inviting.
As you sit behind the steering wheel that has controls for everything, you see a bright and colorful instrument cluster as you hit the pushbutton start. In the center of the instrument cluster, you get all the vehicle information you could want from the steering wheel controls, as well as changing many of the settings from there.
To your right from the driver’s seat, you see a large center console that also serves as an armrest, and has roll top accessibility to a cavernous area. Above the gear shifter, is the touchscreen that houses the Toyota Entune infotainment system, one of the simplest systems I have ever operated. If I have a complaint at all, for some people it will be a little hard to reach and unless you play for the Lakers, odds are good you’ll have to lean forward. Still, for the simplicity and intuitiveness of the system, it is well worth it.
From the screen, you operate the JBL audio (that sounds great), the navigation system, Bluetooth, and suite of apps that gives you real-time information like traffic info, gas prices, and Doppler radar weather. Not to be repetitive, but I cannot stress how simply all this operates. The screen also serves as the backup camera with rear cross-traffic alert. Just under the radio is a cool tray of sorts that allows you to store your cell phone and even plug in a charger.
The Highlander Limited comes with second row captain chairs that has a nifty fold-up cup holder, that also folds out of the way, and a 60/40 split third-row seat that folds flat into the floor manually. I have the 7-passenger version, but with a center row bench, it will seat 8. Room is good for the third row occupants, especially if the second row folks slide their seats forward slightly. One neat feature is the driver can amplify his or her voice to talk to people in the 3rd row through the radio speakers.
Talking trim levels for a moment, you start with the LE, move up to the LE Plus, then the XLE, and finally the Limited. The Limited also has an upgrade to the Limited Platinum, which is what I am driving.
The Platinum adds to the Limited: pre-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam headlights, panoramic moon roof, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front seats, and a few other nice options.
Other items at no charge include: power lift gate, fog lights, power seats, power tilt wheel, second row sunshades, power mirrors, blind spot monitoring, and keyless remote. I love, too, that Highlander has an opening rear window in the tailgate so you can put things in the rear without opening the entire hatch.
The rear double wishbone suspension gives Highlander very good handling, and a soft and cushy ride. Toyota did a good job with interior quietness in the Highlander, also.
Let’s be honest, there is nothing overly exciting about Highlander, but if you want a super nice, great quality SUV, this may be the answer for you. It is priced right, too, and very competitive in the segment. This is a most enjoyable and roomy SUV.
- What I liked best: Interior quality and overall value.
- What I would change: Actually, nothing.
- MSRP: Base price $46,390. As equipped $46,390.
- Fuel Economy: 18 City, 24 Highway, 20 Combined.
- Fuel Tank: 19.2 gallons with filler on the driver’s side.
- Dimensions: 191.1” long/75.8”wide/68.1” high.
- Weight: 4354 Pounds.
- Miles When Tested: 4100 miles.
- Trailer Towing: 5000 pounds.
- Final Assembly Point: Princeton, Indiana.
- 2016 Highlander in a few words: Solid, enjoyable, high quality SUV.
- Warranty: 3-year/36,000 mile bumper-to-bumper, 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain with roadside assistance, and two years of free maintenance.
- Manufacturer Website: Toyota