Best Buy Awards Midsize SUV/Crossover 2015
Our Midsize SUV Best Buy of 2015 demonstrates the category's most appealing mix of quality, value, features, driving dynamics, fuel economy, safety and more, as informed by yearlong vehicle testing, back-to-back comparisons and our industry-leading pricing and resale value insight.
Comfortable, capable and feature-packed, the 2015 Toyota Highlander rolls off with our Midsize SUV Best Buy crown.
Following an impressive redesign for the 2014 model year, the 2015 Toyota Highlander picks up where it left off, offering buyers a superb combination of contemporary charm and practical capability. In a segment filled with excellent alternatives, Toyota's well-crafted, well-styled and well-sorted midsize SUV simply does the best job of seamlessly mixing and matching the things that count most into a single engaging package that we deemed "the standard bearer for the class" in our 2015 Toyota Highlander full review.Beauty That's More Than Skin Deep
Longer, lower and wider than its predecessor, the 3rd-generation Highlander stepped up its game on every level starting with a bolder, more contemporary exterior design. That air of upscale elegance carries over to a spacious, user-friendly cabin that provides standard room for eight. Quiet, comfortable, well-finished and largely leather-lined even in mid-level XLE guise, the Highlander boasts numerous user-friendly touches from a convenient under-dash shelf and a huge, covered center console to numerous well-positioned ports/inputs and Toyota's impressive Entune infotainment system. When not carrying people, the Highlander's easily configurable 60/40-split 2nd- and 3rd-row bench seats fold near flat to create a large cargo bay conveniently accessed through its 2-piece liftgate that's power activated in all but the base LE model.
Competent and Confident
Save for the LE and dedicated Hybrid models, all Highlanders share a 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine and smooth shifting 6-speed automatic transmission -- a combo that allows it to tow up to 5,000 pounds and delivers solid straight-line performance even on versions equipped with optional all-wheel drive. Biased towards comfort, the Highlander's fully independent suspension balances compliance and control in a manner that ensures relaxed travel wherever you go.
Safe and Smart
The 2015 Highlander has earned a 5-Star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as well as a Top Safety Pick+ ranking from the IIHS. Those stellar marks reflect both its excellent built-in passenger-protection capability -- including Toyota's comprehensive STAR Safety system -- as well as available high-tech features like blind-spot monitoring with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, Lane-Departure Alert with automatic high-beam adjustment, and a Pre-Collision System with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control on the top-line Limited/Limited Platinum models.
A Value for Today and Tomorrow
The 2015 Toyota Highlander lineup starts around $30,000 for a 4-cylinder, front-drive LE, which puts it right in the heart of the midsize SUV mix. With its V6 engine, all-wheel drive and optional rear-seat Blu-ray DVD entertainment system, the impressively appointed mid-range XLE we drove still came in at a very competitive $40,395. In keeping with a longstanding Toyota tradition, the Highlander also does an excellent job of retaining a comparatively large percentage of its original purchase price over time. That, plus an attractive 5-year Cost-to-Own stat, means more return on your original investment when the time comes to sell or trade.
More Toyota Highlander
If you want to see how the Highlander stacks up against its competition, head over to our Midsize SUV Buyer's Guide for more in-depth information on the entire segment.
We've made it easy to build and price a 2015 Toyota Highlander that best suits your needs as well as find its Fair Purchase Price, 5-year Cost-to-Own and more.
2015 Toyota Highlander Photo Gallery
Because needs and priorities differ widely among individual buyers, no single midsize SUV can be the absolute perfect solution for everyone. Thankfully, this segment encompasses a broad spectrum of high-quality choices that are eminently capable of meeting all of these diverse requirements. To that end, we selected three other outstanding midsize SUVs for consideration in this year's Best Buy awards program. Each possesses its own unique appeal and each is the best midsize SUV for someone. In alphabetical order:
2015 Chevrolet Traverse
Number One in the Space Race
Although not the newest design in the midsize-SUV segment, the Chevrolet Traverse remains a formidable player in this arena, particularly for those who prioritize passenger space and cargo capacity. Offering more of those two critical commodities than any of its segment rivals, this roomy crossover-style SUV actually has greater total interior volume than its larger Chevy Tahoe sibling.
Well-styled and well-finished, the Traverse underscores its basic mission with standard seating for eight -- including a clever Smart-Slide 2nd-row bench that offers easy access to its surprisingly accommodating 3rd-row perches. With a potent 3.6-liter V6 engine under the hood of every version, this capable Chevy SUV also can tow up to 5,200 pounds when properly equipped.
Despite its slightly above-average scale, the Traverse is relatively easy to live with on a day-to-day basis, in front-drive or all-wheel-drive configuration. A quiet, comfortable cabin and near-car-like ride and handling make it an amiable traveling companion in town or on the road, as we noted in our 2015 Traverse full review. Those user-friendly personality traits plus the availability of 4G LTE Wi-Fi connectivity helped earn it a spot on the latest versions of both our 10 Best Midsize SUVs and 12 Best Family Cars lists.
2015 Ford Explorer
Crowd Pleaser with a Performance Twist
The iconic Ford Explorer may not dominate the field as it once did, but there's good reason why the latest and most sophisticated iteration still sits atop the segment sales charts and holds a place in our latest 10 Best Midsize SUV rankings. Boasting ruggedly handsome styling, a finely-polished character and numerous upscale comfort/convenience/safety touches, the Explorer crowns its multifaceted model lineup with an enthusiast-grade Sport variant that raises the fun-to-drive index to entirely new level.
While the Explorer's standard 290-hp V6 lets it tow up to 5,000 pounds, available 4-cylinder and V6 EcoBoost options -- the former delivering superior fuel economy, the latter, making a class-leading 365 horsepower -- allow buyers to create a version of this smooth-riding 7-passenger SUV that best fills their particular needs.
As our Explorer review observed, "the 2015 Ford Explorer feels much more like a car than an SUV" out on the road. That refined character is appropriately complemented by its quiet, well-isolated cabin and standard/available features that range from a Sony premium audio system and Ford's Sync with Wi-Fi connectivity to class-exclusives like inflatable rear shoulder belts and a power-fold capability for its adult-accommodating 50/50-split 3rd-row seat.
2015 Nissan Pathfinder
Stylish, Spirited and Sophisticated
Brought into its current highly refined iteration two years ago, the Nissan Pathfinder continues to evolve in ways that make it an ever more attractive player in the midsize SUV arena. The V6-powered 7-passenger hauler added a new hybrid variant last year to complement an energetic 3.5-liter V6 that's standard in all other models and bolsters its available, class-exclusive 360-degree Around View Monitor system with new Blind Spot Warning and Rear Cross Traffic Alert systems for 2015.
The Pathfinder's smartly styled exterior and interior, matched with a well-tuned suspension that deftly blends ride comfort and a dash of sportiness, helped earn this engaging Nissan runner-up ranking on our latest 10 Best Midsize SUVs list. An attractive starting price and patented EZ Flex Latch and Glide 2nd-row bench seat that allows effortless access to the third tier even with a child seat installed contributed to our naming the Pathfinder one of our 12 Best Family Cars, as well.Solidly built, impressively equipped and complementing multiple trim grades with well-focused premium options/packages, the Nissan Pathfinder clearly pushes loads of the right buttons in what's become an intensely competitive realm. For an in-depth look at all it has to offer, check out our 2015 Nissan Pathfinder review.