Used 2015 Toyota Highlander LE Plus SUV Review

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2015 Toyota Highlander LE Plus SUV.

Most helpful consumer reviews

5 out of 5 stars
In love with my Highlander, but a couple of things
Bee Dee,07/30/2015
LE Plus 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 6A)
I'm a car owner that keeps my cars for years so when it was time to start shopping for my next car my first consideration was a car with a reputation for longevity, ease of ownership and quality. I'd honestly never thought of Toyota because it's so soccer mom-ish but I began to love the new styling every time I saw the new body style. I had heard that buying a Toyota would keep me in the car for at least 5 years headache free. I've got almost 5000 miles on the car now and loved every minute I've spent in the car! My few less than positive comments follow: 1. The braking is almost too soft. I find myself pressing on the brake and startled when I'm coming too close to the car in front of me and then quickly pressing much harder to actually stop the car. I've done this several times now and can see it's a problem in the event I have to react to split second stopping. I feel like I need to take it to a empty parking lot and practice emergency stops so I can adjust to the really soft brake pedal. 2. I find the car has that lag when you stomp on the gas to accelerate into traffic from the on ramp. It almost feels like it LOSES energy when I step on the pedal then doesn't follow up with rapid acceleration but slogs into traffic which is frustrating. I don't know about torque and rpms and such but a V6 should have more power than this at a low speed to rapid acceleration, I thought. I live in Colorado. When driving into the mountains it has plenty of power to climb the hills and the transmission is smooth and perfectly silent. I love the ability to take it out of auto D and switch the gears to slow my descent which is a necessity here. I bought it in May so hope that this car is solid on snowy roads, that's why I went back into an SUV from a sedan. Last winter, I'd rent a AWD/4WD when driving to the mountains because I had a FWD sedan so when I needed a winter car I'd rent one. So, I compared the Nissan Pathfinder, the Buick Enclave and the Ford Explorer in true winter conditions. The Buick is a tank and grippy. I actually relaxed during a tricky winter drive in the Buick. Next in line was the Explorer which has the control to switch to "snow" and when I put that into play, it felt solid and reliable on slick, snow packed roads but still had a "tinny" feel, the opposite of a tank. The Nissan would hit a patch of snow pack and slide sideways making for a sickening experience among other really questionable build issues that convinced me this car is a non starter. Bottom line, I hope my Highlander feels solid like the Buick this winter. The Buick has a pretty interior, lots of accent lighting and finishes in the cabin to make you feel like you're in a very expensive high end vehicle. The Highlander has a utilitarian interior cabin with just a few details to make it feel more like a car than a truck but it stills looks utilitarian. The center compartment is huge and I find I access it a lot like my purse...the tray has the things I need daily, and the "bottomless" part catches all the stuff that I leave in the car so I reach deep into it and rake through stuff to find what I'm looking for. It literally can conceal a large purse or your laptop case (and probably an airline carry on!) so it's useful for concealing things left in the car. The sound system is just adequate, the range of sound is in the middle range and a narrow range at that, just adequate. The road noise is noticeable but acceptable. The doors have a hollow sound when you shut them which is surprising. The bluetooth speaker system tied to my phone is a muffled sound and coupled with road noise, it's underwhelming. I chose the Highlander over the Buick because I felt like the Highlander is going to take me much further down the road with fewer repair/maintenance headaches but it was a close call between the two. The Toyota care program tilted my decision in it's favor. I'm all for someone else taking care of and paying for the regular maintenance for the first two years. In town driving on mostly 35mph streets gets around 22; getting into stop and go drive time on interstate roads gets 24 and all out interstate driving at 75mph gets over 30. This is almost the same as my little 4cyl FWD sedan! Bottom line, I'm hoping the car doesn't disappoint in true winter driving and I'm prepared to switch to winter tires to get the performance I need but I hope I don't have to spend the money and the time to switch tires twice a year. Everything else I'm overall content with and happy with my purchase.
3.88 out of 5 stars
toyota skimps on seating construction
rudysmom,04/17/2015
LE Plus 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 6A)
I traded in my 2004 highlander 2 weeks ago for a 2015. after only two weeks I have substantial complaints regarding the seating. at this early point I am talking about the drivers seat and passenger seat in front.From day one I had issues with headrests and comfort of drivers seat. We even tried switching headrests around when I went back to dealer on 2nd day of ownership. I am 5 ft 3 and these seats are horrible. I have already purchased two different memory foam head/shoulder rests to add to drivers seat and am still having trouble. VERY UNCOMFORTABLE!!!!I just contacted the dealership to see what options are available. I have not even made my first payment yet.Miss my previous seats!!!
5 out of 5 stars
Sparkling addition to the family
James Brewin,02/25/2016
LE Plus 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 6A)

Edmunds Summary Review of the 2015 Toyota Highlander LE Plus SUV

Pros & Cons

  • Refined interior appointments
  • quiet, compliant ride
  • smooth and strong V6 engine
  • seating for up to eight
  • fresh technology offerings.
  • Lackluster four-cylinder engine
  • third-row seat isn't as roomy as those in some other top rivals.


Full Edmunds Review: 2015 Toyota Highlander SUV

After last year's thorough redesign, the 2015 Toyota Highlander stays true to its no-nonsense roots. It remains a top choice in the three-row family crossover class.

Vehicle overview

With so many people haulers out there, how do you know which one is right for you? Well, let's start with your list of needs. Do you need room for up to eight people? A comfortable and quiet ride? Good performance and fuel economy? How about the option of rear seat DVD entertainment or even occasionally towing up to 5,000 pounds? If this reads just like your short list, then Toyota would like you to take a look at the versatile Highlander crossover SUV. It's back after a thorough redesign last year and better than ever.

The 2015 Toyota Highlander, now in its third generation, is a top contender in this family-friendly crossover SUV segment. Tossing out minivans and V8-powered toy box-hauling behemoths, the Highlander is likely the sweet spot for most. Offered in front- or all-wheel drive with a choice of four-cylinder or V6 engines, there are five distinct trim levels from which to choose, each offering increasing amounts of content with few factory options. This strategy makes the process of finding the right Highlander pretty easy.

No matter which one you're considering, know that you'll get a comfortable cabin with plenty of room for your family and their things. The Highlander's second row can be either a three-across bench or a double captain's chair affair with a side table. The Highlander is also pleasant and easy to drive, and with its refined V6 and smooth six-speed automatic, it's also one of the quickest SUVs out there (even among V8s). If tech is your thing, there's enough available high-end gear on the upper trim levels to keep you and your co-pilot "infotained" for days on end.

In light of all these qualities, we awarded a top "A" rating to the 2015 Toyota Highlander. Of course, that's not to say that Toyota's crossover is the best at absolutely everything. If you want a truly adult-friendly third row with easier access, for example, the Ford Flex would be a better bet. Another perennial favorite of ours is the Mazda CX-9, which is more fun to drive and offers more cargo space as well. There's also the handsome-looking V8-powered Dodge Durango or the three-row Hyundai Santa Fe, which stacks up nicely against the Highlander across the board. But the Highlander has history and the Toyota nameplate on its side, and it's one of our top picks for 2015.

2015 Toyota Highlander models

The 2015 Toyota Highlander is a three-row midsize crossover offered in LE, LE Plus, XLE, Limited and Limited Platinum trim levels. Eight-passenger seating is standard on the LE, LE Plus and XLE, while seven-passenger seating (featuring second-row captain's chairs instead of a three-person bench) is optional on the XLE and standard on the Limited and Limited Platinum. Note that the related Highlander Hybrid is reviewed separately.

The base LE gets things started with 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated exterior mirrors, privacy glass, a rear spoiler, cruise control, a rearview camera, fabric seating, manually adjustable front seats (six-way driver, four-way passenger), a sliding and reclining 60/40-split second-row seat, a 60/40-split third-row seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 6.1-inch central touchscreen and a six-speaker audio system with voice control, a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB interface.

Picking the LE Plus adds foglights, a flip-up rear hatch window, an adjustable-height power liftgate, tri-zone automatic climate control, upgraded upholstery with synthetic leather (SofTex) accents, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), a leather-wrapped steering wheel, satellite radio and HD radio.

The XLE further adds a sunroof, roof rails, keyless entry and ignition, leather upholstery for the first and second rows (SofTex for the third), an upgraded driver information display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 110-volt power outlet in the second row, retractable second-row sunshades, driver voice amplification for communicating with rear passengers (Driver Easy Speak), an 8-inch central touchscreen, a navigation system and smartphone app integration (Entune App Suite).

Nearing the top, the Limited comes with 19-inch wheels, LED running lights, LED ambient interior lighting, second-row captain's chairs, heated and ventilated front seats, driver memory functions, a four-way power passenger seat, a blind-spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alerts, rear parking sensors and a 12-speaker JBL audio system.

There are no factory options available for the LE or LE Plus trim levels. The XLE can be outfitted with the second-row captain's chairs. An optional rear seat entertainment package for the XLE and Limited includes a Blu-ray player with 9-inch display, RCA jacks and wireless headphones.

On just the Limited you can also select the Driver Technology package, which fits the Highlander with automatic high-beam control headlights, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, frontal collision warning, a frontal impact crash mitigation system (with automatic braking) and Toyota's Safety Connect telematics (emergency assistance, stolen vehicle location and automatic collision notification).

Finally, the top-shelf Highlander Limited Platinum reaps all of the above as standard and further includes a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel and heated second-row seats.

2015 Highlights

The 2015 Toyota Highlander is essentially unchanged.

Performance & mpg

The base Highlander LE starts with front-wheel drive and a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The transmission is a six-speed automatic. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 22 mpg combined (20 city/25 highway), but that's barely better than the ratings for the stronger V6 engine.

That 3.5-liter V6 is optional on the LE and standard on all other trims. It's rated at 270 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is again a six-speed automatic that may be mated to either front- or all-wheel drive (Limited Platinum comes with standard AWD). The front-wheel-drive V6 configuration achieves an EPA-estimated 21 mpg combined (19 city/25 highway), while the AWD V6 drops a tick to 20 mpg combined (18 city/24 highway). We easily met these estimates when we recorded a real-world 23 mpg on Edmunds' 120-mile mixed-driving evaluation loop in an XLE AWD.

At the Edmunds test facility, we recorded a 7.3-second 0-60-mph time in that same XLE AWD, which is about a second quicker than the average for this segment. A Limited with front-wheel drive still outpaced most competitors with a run to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds.

The four-cylinder Highlander LE is rated to tow up to 1,500 pounds. An LE or LE Plus V6 is rated up to 2,000 pounds. A properly equipped Highlander XLE or Limited (with standard heavy-duty radiator, alternator and supplemental oil cooler) can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Safety

The 2015 Toyota Highlander comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, front seat side airbags, a driver knee airbag, a front passenger seat-cushion airbag and full-length side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is also standard.

The Limited trim gets a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, and its optional Driver Technology package (standard on Limited Platinum) adds a frontal collision warning and mitigation system (with automatic braking), lane-departure warning and Toyota's Safety Connect telematics (emergency assistance, stolen-vehicle location and automatic collision notification). Unfortunately, these items are unavailable on lesser Highlander trims.

In a simulated panic stop from 60 mph conducted at the Edmunds test facility, a Highlander XLE AWD managed a braking distance of 116 feet, a very good distance for this class.

In government crash testing, the Highlander received a five-star overall rating (out of a possible five), with four stars for total frontal impact protection and five stars for total side impact protection. During testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Highlander received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. In the small-overlap frontal-offset impact test, the Highlander received the second-highest rating of "Acceptable." Its seat and head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.

Driving

Most 2015 Toyota Highlander buyers end up with the tried-and-true V6 engine, and it's easy to see why: You get almost the same fuel economy as with the base four-cylinder, along with an extra 85 hp and some of the smoothest acceleration in any crossover at this price. The six-speed automatic transmission works well and provides quick downshifts.

The meaty three-spoke steering wheel is precise, and if you drive quickly around a tight turn, the Highlander remains secure, with a decent amount of grip. As long as you're not looking for handling as athletic as the Mazda CX-9's, you'll likely find the Highlander sharp enough. Of course, the Highlander's bread and butter is ferrying passengers around in comfort, and here it excels. The cabin remains hushed at speed, and road impacts are generally shrugged off by the compliant suspension, though the Limited's 19-inch wheels don't do the ride any favors.

Interior

Hard plastics that were once the bane of the Highlander have since been supplanted by supple surfaces with fancy stitching at the seams. The gauge cluster has a contemporary look thanks in part to the multifunction information display that sits in the middle (especially the XLE and Limited's larger color version). Although the base 6.1-inch central touchscreen is, well, a bit basic in both form and function, the available 8-inch unit is more satisfying with its improved graphics and functionality.

Toyota has baked a number of handy storage features into the 2015 Highlander's interior. There's a unique built-in shelf on the dashboard, for instance, that can serve as a resting place for phones and other small personal effects. The shelf's short height, however, can make it hard to fit your hand in there to place or retrieve those items. Vastly more spacious is the storage box under the console armrest that's big enough for a large purse.

If you're expecting big-time space in the way back, we should warn you that adults will still find it cramped relative to some rivals. Kids will be fine, though, and the three-across seating bolsters the Highlander's credentials as a minivan substitute. On the cargo-carrying front, the available height-adjustable power liftgate with memory height settings is a boon in garages with low ceilings. Maximum hauling capacity tops out at 83.7 cubic feet, which is an average figure for this class of vehicle.

Edmunds Insurance Estimator

The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2015 Toyota Highlander in Virginia is:

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