2016 Toyota Highlander Road Trip: Driving and Putting
End of summer is prime time for an outing at one of Northern Michigan’s premiere golf resorts in Gaylord. Treetops Resort has earned its name and reputation for the elevated tee boxes that provide broad vistas of forests below, just waiting to explode in fall foliage. We recently made the three-hour journey from Detroit in a Toyota Highlander XLE V6 AWD, during which time it solidified its position as one of our favorite 3-row midsize SUVs.
Whether going solo or hauling several golf buddies (the 3-row Highlander has room for seven in this particular configuration, which featured second-row captain’s chairs), the XLE version has plenty of features and creature comforts to make the trip seem shorter. With the back bench folded down, there was plenty of space for clubs and suitcases and the power assist tailgate made loading and unloading a breeze. And while the Highlander offers nearly full-size SUV comfort inside, its exterior footprint is more in line with a midsize crossover, which makes it easy to park and maneuver in tight confines. Of course the high seating position is also key, offering excellent visibility.
Sliding behind the wheel, the 8-way adjustable driver’s seat makes it easy to settle in. There’s plenty of power from the 3.5-liter V6, which pumps out 270 horsepower, and the 6-speed automatic transmission provides quick and seamless downshifts for passing. Cruising at 70 mph is effortless and yet the Highlander was able to return a respectable 22 mpg in combined city and highway driving during a three-day excursion.
The Highlander XLE is equipped with a 4.2-inch color touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity and navigation. With a connected phone and good voice recognition, it’s simple to either place a call or find a destination. Redundant controls for volume, tuner and the climate control system add another level of intuitive operation of the vehicle’s systems. Another great feature is the cavernous center console with a clamshell-style opening that provides plenty of space to store iPads or laptops, which also can be recharged using the conveniently located USB port on the dash.
The 2016 Toyota Highlander XLE AWD carries a base price of $38,775 and for that you get such amenities as 3-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof, side window shades, leather seating and a backup camera. The only option on our test vehicle was the aforementioned second-row captain’s chairs featuring a cool fold-out center tray with integrated cup holders. And that’s just a $275 option. All in with $900 delivery and the Highlander XLE V6 AWD still comes in under $40,000. It offers great value, plenty of comfort and a high level of features that’s the perfect blend to deliver your foursome to the links in high style.