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2015 Toyota Highlander

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2015 Toyota Highlander Review

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KBB Expert Rating: 9.2

The 2015 Toyota Highlander is the standard bearer for midsize SUVs. More refined than ever, this newest Toyota Highlander goes up against tough competitors like the Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder and Ford Explorer. Yet Toyota isn't resting on its segment leader's laurels. The 2015 Highlander seats up to eight passengers, offers a choice of 4-cylinder, V6 or hybrid drivetrains, and comes in either front- or all-wheel drive (FWD, AWD). It also comes with a cleverly laid-out interior with a pass-through cable organizer for your various devices, and Easy Speak, which amplifies the driver's voice so rear passengers can hear better. With a Top Safety Pick + crash-test rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Toyota Highlander's an obvious choice for families.

You'll Like This Car If...

The 2015 Toyota Highlander is a safe choice, for all the right reasons. Comfortable, accommodating and feature-packed, with a variety of models for all budgets, the Highlander's a tough act to follow.

You May Not Like This Car If...

The Highlander is a popular choice, and the me-too nature may be a turnoff for some. Additionally, if you find you often tow more than 5,000 pounds, or need real off-road capability, then you might want to take a look at the refreshed Toyota 4Runner.

What's New for 2015

The Toyota Highlander was all-new last year, so there aren't any really meaningful changes on deck for 2015.

Driving the Highlander
Driving Impressions

Toyota says up to 90 percent of Highlander models will leave the lot with the 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine, and it's easy to see why. The V6 offers considerably better...

... acceleration than the 185-horsepower 4-cylinder, and only gives up a little in fuel economy. Of course, nobody buys the Toyota Highlander because it's a hot rod. Instead, Highlander buyers are looking for a solid, dependable vehicle that can handle a variety of road surfaces, from smooth suburban asphalt to concrete Interstate highways, to even the occasional light off-road duty. In each of these situations the Highlander excels, although any off-pavement driving should be reserved only for AWD models. At speed on the highway, the Toyota Highlander is relatively quiet, especially compared to the Honda Pilot, or even the previous-generation Highlander. Around town, the Highlander's relatively tidy proportions make it easy to maneuver in parking lots.

IN-DASH SHELF WITH EASY CABLE MANAGEMENT
The 2015 Toyota Highlander features a shelf on the dash that's deep enough to hold even the biggest smartphone. Stretching from the front-passenger door to the driver's right knee, there's a clever pass-through to the charging and audio inputs below, keeping the cables organized and out of the way.

FLIP-UP REAR HATCH WINDOW
Opening the rear glass separately from the hatch is one of those small touches that we love. You can quickly pop open the glass to toss in something small, or grab your groceries when you're parked facing uphill so they don't roll out onto the ground.

2015 Toyota Highlander Details
2015 Toyota Highlander photo Interior

The 2015 Toyota Highlander follows the company's latest design trends for its interior, and we definitely approve. Not only are the front seats comfortable, but there are numerous features that make life inside the Highlander easier. A horizontal theme pervades, drawing your eyes from either end to the centralized multimedia screen. There, you'll find easy-to-use controls, including knobs for the main radio functions, and for the climate controls below them. A huge center console can hold 58 standard-size juice boxes, perfect for keeping anybody seated in the comfortable second row or kids-only third row adequately hydrated.

Exterior
2015 Toyota Highlander photo

This 3rd-generation Toyota Highlander represents a departure from the somewhat anonymous styling of its predecessors. With a bold grille opening and more chiseled flanks, it's a sharp-looking take on the modern family wagon. If you think it's showing a little more machismo, that's no mistake, as Toyota is looking to attract more male drivers to its midsize crossover SUV. It also offers a fresh face among the more familiar faces of the Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer, with a bit more character than the Nissan Pathfinder.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

If you opt for the base Toyota Highlander LE, you'll get the 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine, 8-passenger seating, a 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. Outside, there are projector-beam headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels and color-keyed mirrors. Standard safety features include eight airbags, Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children (LATCH) points, stability and traction control, and anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution.

Optional Equipment

As you move up the model ladder, the Toyota Highlander offers more and more features. Depending on what you're willing to spend, you can get high-end features like lane-departure warning, dynamic radar cruise control and automatic high beams. Heated 2nd-row captain's chairs are available – although you lose the 8-passenger capacity – plus a panoramic moonroof, heated steering wheel and a rear-seat Blu-ray and DVD entertainment system. There are also features like Driver Easy Speak, which helps amplify the driver's voice so rear-seat passengers can hear better, and 3-zone automatic climate control.

Under the Hood

Buyers of 2015 Toyota Highlanders have multiple drivetrain options before them. Base models come with a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine putting out 185 horsepower, but most Highlander buyers get the 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine. Not only is it more powerful, but highway fuel economy is the same as the 4-cylinder, and you lose only 1 mpg in the city. Both engines are connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission, but only the V6 is available with AWD. True to Toyota's nature, there is a Highlander Hybrid available, but only on the top-tier Limited model. The hybrid pairs the same V6 engine with two electric motors to produce a total of 280 horsepower. It's more expensive, but the payoff is an EPA-estimated 28 mpg on the highway.

2.7-liter inline-4
185 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/25 mpg

3.5-liter V6
270 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
248 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/25 mpg (FWD), 18/24 mpg (AWD)

3.5-liter V6 + AC 650-volt permanent-magnet motors
280 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
215 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/28 mpg

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