12 Best Family Cars: 2018 Toyota Highlander
As philosophers and businessmen are fond of saying, it’s hard to argue with success. Appropriately enough, Toyota’s three-row Highlander SUV is a perennial best-seller and a staple of our Best Family Cars lineup. That’s no surprise to anyone who owns one because while the 2018 Toyota Highlander is certainly not the newest kid on the 7/8-passenger SUV block, it still commands respect as one of the most solid choices in the class.
Well-rounded, and we mean that as a compliment
If you have even the slightest doubt about the Highlander, ask somebody who owns one. They’ll tell you they appreciate driving an SUV that has such easy, comfortable driving manners. They’ll no doubt recommend the 3.5-liter V6 model since it delivers significantly more power than the 2.7-liter 4-cylinder (295 horsepower vs. 185) and better fuel economy thanks to an 8-speed automatic transmission – about 20 miles per gallon in the city for both engines, but as much as 26/27 mpg on the highway with the V6. The Toyota Highlander gasoline/electric hybrid model gives both of the gas-only engines a run for their money, achieving 306 horsepower and as high as 30 mpg in the city and 29 on the highway.
The hitch to the V6 and hybrid Highlanders is that pricing starts at $4,500 and $5,700 premiums over the 4-cylinder Highlander LE’s $32,000 base price.
Essentially -- no, make that “literally” -- unchanged from last year’s model, the 2018 Toyota Highlander requires no effort to keep you and your family satisfied. The ride is compliant and the interior is attractive and civilized, with excellent materials offered at every level. You get good room in the first two rows, and the kids should be more than happy in the third row. Cargo room is good, though not exceptional for the class. Do we wish that Toyota would get around to offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto? Yes, we do, but other chances to spoil yourself exist at the Limited and Limited Platinum levels, and all-wheel drive is offered at all but the base level.
Treating safety as an essential
If your job is to parent and you’re not obsessed with safety, then you’re fired. Toyota takes this family priority into account with every 2018 Highlander, going well beyond a standard backup camera and equipping even the base model with Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) which includes pedestrian and vehicle detection combined with automatic braking, plus the significant driver-assistance benefits of:
- Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, which alerts you if it senses your Highlander drifting out of its intended lane and will add steering corrections to keep you safely within your lane.
- Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, a system designed to automatically adjust your Highlander’s speed in order to keep you from birddogging (or running into) the vehicle ahead of you.
- Automatic High Beams, which keep you better apprised of the road ahead by automatically coming on in low-visibility conditions and dimming when they sense oncoming headlights or taillights.
Classic value comes standard
Smart families save money by spending it in smart ways. The Toyota Highlander plays perfectly into that philosophy by having terrific word of mouth and a reputation for long-term quality and reliability. Kelley Blue Book’s own research on the Highlander always comes back with the reassuring conclusion that over time, Toyota’s midsize SUV consistently maintains excellent resale value and a lower 5-Year Cost to Own than most of its competitors.
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