The automaker’s giving its midsize SUV a refresh inside and out, but the most notable change is a more powerful engine under the hood. A new direct shift 8-speed automatic transmission will replace the previous six-speed. It will be mated to a new 3.5-liter direct injection V6 which will increase horsepower and fuel efficiency over the last model. We’re still waiting for exact numbers.
The new V6 will be available on all gas models – including the new sportier SE model – and come standard on a growing lineup of Highlander hybrids.
In terms of design, the front fascia and taillights of the third-generation model are redesigned for 2017. The grill is tweaked from trim to trim, and the Limited and top-of-the-line Platinum models get a painted chrome finish. New color offerings include Celestial Silver Metallic, Toasted Walnut Pearl, and, exclusively on the new sportier SE, Salsa Red Pearl.
The new sportier SE model also gets 19-inch wheels, a dark finish for the grille and headlamps and a suspension designed for a sportier feel. It features unique black leather- trimmed seats with silver stitching and pattern seat inserts, a black front tray, and matching dash and door inserts.
The Highlander continues to offer all-important three-row seating good for seven- and eight-passenger seating options.
Tech upgrades include an available stop/start system. The 2017 model also comes standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense suite of driver assist technology that includes things like automatic braking. lane-departure warning, auto high-beams and pedestrian pre-collision. If you want the Bird’s Eye View Camera you’ll have to spring for the Platinum model. The Highlander also offers five USB ports.
There are also two new offerings in the hybrid department – the LE and XLE grades. (It’s already available in the Limited and Platinum hybrid trims.) All hybrid models will continue with CVT and all-wheel-drive. The gas models will be available in both front-wheel and AWD.
We’ll look for numbers and possibly pricing information when the 2017 Highlander makes its official debut in a few weeks.
Photo Credit: Toyota