2017 Toyota Highlander SE Test Drive

2017 Toyota Highlander

This week I am behind the wheel of one of the most popular SUVs on the road, the 2017 Toyota Highlander.

We first saw the Highlander in January 2001, and this is the third generation version.   The big updates Toyota did for 2014 has paid big dividends for them, 2016 was by far the best sales year in history for the Highlander.

Starting under the hood, my review vehicle has a 295-horse, 3.5-liter V6.  There is also a 4-cylinder. I really like this 6-cylinder, it has nice acceleration and gets really good fuel economy for an SUV this size.  My test vehicle has an 8-speed automatic transmission, and it is front-wheel drive, but 4-wheel drive is available.

Highlander comes in 10 different models. 

This one is the SE model, which falls just about in the middle of the lineup.  There are hybrid models as well, and our reviewer Terry Box recently reviewed the 2017 Highlander Hybrid which you can find here.

Highlander has a distinctive exterior with memorable lines and a large grill that wraps into the headlights. Toyota is finally offering some attractive 19” alloy wheels, and this SUV has 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 though this is not the top-of-the-line Limited version, this SE model has 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 of 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 unless you have really long arms, 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 audio system, the navigation system, Bluetooth, and suite of apps that gives you real-time information like traffic info, gas prices, and 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 lets you store things like your cell phone.  Highlander comes with a total of 5 USB ports.

The Highlander SE comes with second-row captain chairs that have 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 for the third-row occupants is ample, especially if the second-row folks slide their seats forward slightly.  One neat feature is called Easy Speak that allows the driver to amplify his or her voice to talk to people in the 3rd row through the radio speakers.  It’s a great feature if you have rowdy kids in the far back.


The SE comes standard with the following: pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic high-beam headlights, power moonroof, and heated front seats.

Other items at no charge include: power liftgate, fog lights, power seats, 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.  This is a small thing but something that is getting harder to find.

This particular vehicle only has one option, and that is a 9” color BluRay DVD player that comes with wireless headphones.  This system runs you $1810.

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.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Highlander was the fuel economy. 


It is rated at 23 miles per gallon combined, and I am often getting over 30 miles per gallon.  I am very surprised how well it does.

MSRP on this one is $42,440, which is comparable to other well-equipped SUVs on the market.

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.

2017 Toyota Highlander SE
  • What I liked best:  Interior quality and fuel economy.
  • What I would change:  The operation of the tailgate is very slow.
  • MSRP: Base price $39,690.   As equipped $42,440.
  • Fuel Economy: 21 City, 27 Highway, 23 Combined.
  • Fuel Tank: 19.2 gallons with filler on the driver’s side.
  • Dimensions: 192.5” long/75.8”wide/68.1” high.
  • Weight: 4380 Pounds.
  • Official Color:  Salsa Red Metallic.
  • Other available colors:  Celestial Silver, Midnight Black, Blizzard Pearl White, Pre-Dawn Gray Mica, Oh La La Rouge, Toasted Walnut Pearl, Alumina Jade, and Shoreline Blue Pearl.
  • Miles When Tested: 2400 miles.
  • Trailer Towing:  5000 pounds.
  • Final Assembly Point:  Princeton, Indiana.
  • 2017 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.
  • Manufacturers website: Toyota
Photo Credit: Toyota
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