2015 Toyota Highlander: A Big Step Forward

July 6, 2015 Updated: July 6, 2015

The new third generation Toyota Highlander hit showrooms about a year ago. The previous version was very good and actually sold quite well but this new model is a big step forward. The Highlander is a midsize crossover SUV and has plenty of competition in this market segment.

Toyota has a reputation for building very reliable vehicles. That’s one of the main reasons that they’re so popular and have high resale value. With the new Highlander however, you not only get a vehicle that you “logically know” is good, you get one that is emotionally engaging and more attractive than its ancestors. The styling is both purposeful and pleasing.

This class of SUV is just large enough to offer three rows of seats—so easily accessing the third row becomes an engineering challenge not unlike landing a man on the moon. The Highlander actually does quite a good job in this regard. Still the third row is for the smallest and/or most pliable of passengers.

The new Highlander is a very nice vehicle to spend time in. The interior is quiet, spacious, comfortable and convenient. The controls are easy to access and there are plenty of spaces to stow things in. The interior décor is attractive and the controls are easy to figure out.

There is also entertaining and useful technology in the new Highlander. The navigation has been upgraded and you now access system features by clicking on apps. This is becoming more common in the automotive world today. Features like audio, navigation, phone, vehicle fuel economy are now accessed via the apps screen and passengers can now actually add apps and rearrange them on the screen.

The Highlander drives very well.

The Highlander also is a responsive and comfortable car to drive. Though a 4-cylinder engine is available, the 3.5 L V6 is a better choice and has virtually the same fuel economy rating. This engine has been in service for some time but it still performs very well. Part of the genius of Toyota’s reliability success is based on the continued usage of proven technology that works.

Often brands that introduce a large wave of new products and technology all at once seldom have the resources to thoroughly test them before they begin selling them to the public. That often results in terrible reliability problems and armies of angry owners possessing vehicles with poor resale value.

A hybrid option is also available and even though it costs $7,000 more on the Limited Platinum model, its fuel economy rating is about 5 mpg higher. The Highlander drives very well with either engine choice. The standard layout is front wheel drive but an all-wheel drive option is available and even includes an electronic differential lock to make sure all wheel are turning if you get into a tough spot.

In this class of vehicle, the Highlander has always competed well. With the upgrades to the new model, it’s now even more competitive than before.

Starting price about $29,400.