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2017 Toyota Highlander

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2017 Toyota Highlander Expert Review

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KBB Expert Rating: 9.0

A thorough refresh keeps the 2017 Toyota Highlander ahead in a very tough game. Under the hood, a new V6 engine puts out more power and connects to a new 8-speed automatic transmission. A new suite of standard safety systems includes active cruise control and automatic collision avoidance, combining with Top Safety Pick + crash-test rating from the IIHS for peace of mind. There's also seating for eight passengers, with decent cargo space behind the third row. The interior design includes tons of clever features to make living with the Highlander easier, and the exterior gets a new grille that's, well, really big. Put it together, and Toyota's midsize SUV will continue to be a best-seller for all the right reasons.

You'll Like This Car If...

The 2017 Toyota Highlander's emphasis on safety complements its existing strengths of comfort, economy, reliability and resale value. The new engine gets more power and better fuel economy, and the exterior styling is sure to turn heads.

You May Not Like This Car If...

The Highlander can haul eight passengers, and it can carry a decent amount of stuff, but it lags competitors like the Honda Pilot in both. Additionally, if you need real off-road capability, or towing capacity greater than 5,000 pounds, check out full-size SUVs like the Chevrolet Tahoe or Toyota Sequoia.

KBB Expert Ratings

  • 9.0
  • 9.1
  • 8.9
  • 8.6
  • 8.7
  • N/A
How It Ranks

#26

out of 37

Fuel Economy

#26

out of 38

Horsepower
View all rankings
2017 Toyota Highlander Low/wide front photo What's New for 2017

There's a new face, a new and more powerful V6 engine and a new 8-speed automatic transmission, a new SE model, and a new suite of advanced standard safety equipment for the 2017 Toyota Highlander. The Highlander Hybrid is also available in more trim levels, making it less of a budget-breaker.

Driving the Highlander
2017 Toyota Highlander Front angle view photo
Driving Impressions

The new V6 under the hood of the 2017 Toyota Highlander puts out more horsepower and torque than its predecessor, and it's now connected to an 8-speed automatic transmission. Though...

... most people will need a stopwatch to tell the difference in acceleration, the 8-speed does make finding that power easier. Around town or on the highway, the suspension is set up to be smooth and creamy; if you're hoping for a sharp-handling midsize SUV, you've come to the wrong place. Truth is, most people want that comfortable ride, and they'll be perfectly happy with the Highlander's blend of control and smoothness, even in the "sporty" new SE model. The Highlander Hybrid also benefits from the new V6, and with a combined total of 306 horsepower, it's actually the hot-rod of the Highlander family. Go ahead and ignore the 4-cylinder model, as its meager fuel savings aren't worth the sacrifice in power.

DRIVER EASY SPEAK SYSTEM
"DON'T MAKE ME COME BACK THERE!" becomes a whisper, thanks to the Highlander's Driver Easy Speak system. This intercom lets your voice be heard loud and clear even in the third row, making driving a shout-free affair, to the benefit of everyone's stress levels (therapeutic screams notwithstanding).

FLIP-UP REAR HATCH WINDOW
Whether you need to retrieve or add a single item from the cargo area without the dog escaping, or if you just need to grab that pickle jar so it doesn't smash on the pavement when you open the hatch, the Highlander's flip-up rear glass is the gift that keeps giving.

2017 Toyota Highlander Details
2017 Toyota Highlander Dashboard, center console, gear shifter view photo Interior

The 2017 Toyota Highlander interior is largely the same as last year, with the exception of additional USB ports, new seat upholstery, and a few other selective trim upgrades. That's fine with us, as 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
2017 Toyota Highlander photo

The 2017 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 is pretty much untouched, although the new Highlander SE gets a blackout trim package that tones down the grille and ultimately looks pretty good. The styling updates further embolden 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 2017 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
2017 Toyota Highlander Engine photo

Three basic powertrain choices face 2017 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), 19/23 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)

Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.

Despite the equipment upgrades, the 2017 Toyota Highlander Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) doesn't change much, with a base 4-cylinder FWD Highlander LE costing about $31,500 including the $940 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 $47,200. Then there's the Highlander Hybrid lineup, which now ranges from about $37,200 for the base LE to just under $49,000 for the Limited Platinum version, about $2,600 less than last year. 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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