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2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

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2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Expert Review

By Joe Tralongo, Contributing Editor

KBB Expert Rating: 8.9

The 2018 Toyota Highlander continues to be the choice for families seeking a safe, secure and comfortable 8-passenger crossover SUV, but one that isn’t boring or lacking modern amenities. After a complete refresh last year, the 2018 Highlander is again poised to take on rivals like the Honda Pilot, Chevrolet Traverse and Nissan Pathfinder. To accomplish this, the Highlander offers a standard suite of driver-safety assists including pre-collision warning and braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning. And, while its various infotainment systems lack Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, they are up to date in every other aspect. Those concerned with fuel economy can opt for the Highlander Hybrid that delivers class-leading city-fuel-economy figures.

You'll Like This Car If...

In a segment where family values equal safety, room, comfort and reliability, the 2018 Toyota Highlander SUV is bound to please. A powerful standard engine, an optional hybrid model and an enviable resale and repair history make the 2018 Highlander a very tempting prospect.

You May Not Like This Car If...

While the 2018 Highlander can fit up to eight passengers and some gear, it’s not as spacious as a Honda Pilot or Chevy Traverse. Those seeking to tackle modest off-road challenges might be happier in a Chevrolet Tahoe or Dodge Durango, both of which can tow more than the Highlander’s 5,000-pound limit.

KBB Expert Ratings

  • 8.9
  • 9.0
  • 8.8
  • 8.5
  • 8.6
  • N/A
How It Ranks

#2

out of 24

Fuel Economy

#17

out of 25

Horsepower
View all rankings
2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Low/wide front photo What's New for 2018

The Toyota Highlander sails into 2018 with no major changes or upgrades.

Driving the Highlander Hybrid
2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Front angle view photo
Driving Impressions

Powered by a recently revised 3.5-liter V6 mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, the 2018 Toyota Highlander is both powerful and fuel-efficient. Although the standard engine is a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder,...

... its 185 horses haven’t kept up with the Highlander’s growing dimensions. Trust us, if you carry more than two people, need power for passing and merging or pull a small trailer, the V6 is the engine you’ll want (and need). Still thinking you need 4-cylinder fuel economy? Check out the Highlander Hybrid. It’s combined electric/gasoline motor output reaches 306 horsepower, yet it can travel nearly 30 miles in the city on a single gallon of gas. Regardless of engine choice, the Highlander makes a great family carrier, with good steering feedback, a tight turning radius, comfortable yet controlled ride and excellent crash-test scores. The sporty SE trim delivers the best handling and looks without any noticeable impact on ride comfort.

DRIVER EASY SPEAK SYSTEM
With the Highlander’s Driver Easy Speak, cries of “DON’T MAKE ME PULL THIS CAR OVER” are reduced to a mere vocal warning via an intercom system that allows the driver’s intention to be conveyed loud and clear to 3rd-row-seat occupants.

FLIP-UP REAR HATCH WINDOW
The Highlander’s 2-piece rear hatch offers the convenience of a flip-up glass window. This design makes it easier to load and unload items without valuable cargo rolling out the back, or the family pooch making a break for freedom.

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Details
2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Dashboard, center console, gear shifter view photo Interior

The 2018 Toyota Highlander interior is largely unchanged from the previous iteration. We like that there are numerous USB ports, attractive seat upholstery, and a few other selective trim upgrades. All things considered, the Highlander's interior is one of its strong points. The comfortable front- and 2nd-row seats are great for long drives, and little ones in the third row will be satisfied, although adults should skip it. The dash-width shelf up front is perfect for your wallet, smartphone, keys or whatever else, and the huge center console bin can easily swallow anything too big for the shelf.

Exterior
2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid photo

The 2018 Highlander's grille is huge, following the big-grille trend that's been stylish for the past few years. Yet it emphasizes the already blunt nose of this midsize SUV, with different models getting different trims, seeming to shrink the headlights in the process. The rest of the Highlander isn’t as dramatic, although the sporty Highlander SE features a blackout trim package that tones down the grille and ultimately looks pretty good. The latest styling trend further emboldens a design that was already a departure of sorts from the Highlander's bland predecessors, and although the grille won't appeal to everybody, it's certainly distinctive.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The base-model 2018 Highlander LE still comes with the 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission, a combo good for fuel economy but not much else. However, it also comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense Plus (TSS-P), which bundles high-tech safety gear like active cruise control, forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, and lane-departure alert and warning. There's 8-passenger seating, standard rearview camera, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, day/night rearview mirror, and three 12-volt auxiliary power outlets (two up front and one in the second row), and a 6.1-inch touch-screen display with Toyota's Entune audio system, Bluetooth and voice recognition.

Optional Equipment

Most options are added by trim level; the LE Plus adds 3-zone automatic climate control, an 8-inch touch-screen display and faux-leather seats; the XLE gets real leather and better infotainment that includes navigation; Limited and Limited Platinum get even better audio systems, heated and ventilated front seats, and even an around-view camera, heated steering wheel and heated 2nd-row seats in the Limited Platinum. A panoramic moonroof is available, plus rear-seat entertainment including Blu-ray and DVD, Driver Easy Speak, and of course the V6 or Hybrid powertrains.

Under the Hood
2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Engine photo

Three basic powertrain choices face 2018 Highlander buyers. Base LE models come with a 185-horsepower 2.7-liter 4-cylinder powering the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission. We say skip it unless budget is your biggest priority, because the 295-horsepower V6 with 8-speed automatic not only has 110 more horses, but actually gets better highway fuel economy as well (27 mpg vs. 24 mpg). Then there's the hybrid, which combines a version of the V6 with electric motors for a total of 306 horsepower. All-wheel drive (AWD) is an option on all Highlander V6 models, including hybrids, but unless you need the extra traction for foul weather, we suggest skipping it in favor of the better fuel economy you get from front-wheel drive (FWD).

2.7-liter inline-4
185 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/24 mpg

3.5-liter V6
295 horsepower @ 6,600 rpm
263 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27 mpg (FWD LE, AWD LE Plus), 19/26 mpg (LE AWD), 21/27 mpg (FWD LE Plus, XLE, SE, Limited, Limited Platinum), 20/26 mpg (AWD XLE, SE, Limited, Limited Platinum)

3.5-liter V6 + AC 650-volt permanent-magnet motors
306 hybrid system net horsepower
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 30/28 mpg (LE), 29/27 mpg (XLE, Limited, Limited Platinum)

Despite the equipment upgrades, the 2018 Toyota Highlander Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) doesn't change much, with a base 4-cylinder FWD Highlander LE costing about $32,000 including the $995 destination charge; a V6 will add about $2,000 to that price. On the other end of the lineup is the V6-powered Limited Platinum AWD, which runs about $47,700. Then there's the Highlander Hybrid lineup, which now ranges from about $37,700 for the base LE to just under $49,300 for the Limited Platinum version. Those prices are in line with competing midsize SUV models like the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder. We think the best value is the nicely equipped mid-level Highlander XLE at about $40,000. Be sure to check your pick against the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid, and note the Highlander has excellent resale value.

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