2017 Toyota Highlander

2017 Toyota Highlander Review

The 2017 Toyota Highlander is a well-rounded family SUV that offers a little bit of everything.
4 star edmunds overall rating
by James Riswick
Edmunds Editor

The well-rounded 2017 Toyota Highlander does just about everything you're probably looking for in a three-row family SUV. It's one of our top choices in a tough segment devoid of stinkers and should definitely be on your must-drive list.

The Highlander has a just-right size for many families. It's not too cumbersome to maneuver, yet its interior should offer more than enough space for growing broods. Its new V6 engine — standard on most trims — also impresses with capable acceleration and comparatively good fuel economy, while the driving experience strikes a good balance between comfort, isolation and driver feedback. You're also likely to appreciate the Highlander's well-made, versatile cabin, which gains an additional four USB ports for 2017 — your power-hungry kids will certainly approve. Then there's the newly standard Safety Sense package, with technologies such as autonomous braking to help avoid or mitigate collisions.

At the same time, with so many appealing three-row alternatives on the market, we highly recommend cross-shopping the Highlander with top competitors. The Toyota's many virtues — including its strong reliability reputation and resale value — may make it seem like a slam dunk, but this vehicle class is just too strong for a one-and-done shopping process. Try a few out and see which one feels best to you.

what's new

For 2017, the Highlander receives a number of significant midcycle changes. The styling has been updated, highlighted by a larger, more pronounced grille and redesigned LED taillights. The V6 engine is new, boasting more power and better fuel economy along with an eight-speed transmission and an automatic stop-start system. New feature content includes the Toyota Safety Sense technology suite, which comes standard on every trim level. There's also a new SE trim level that features uniquely sporty styling elements and a retuned suspension for sharper handling.

we recommend

For starters, we do not recommend the base LE with its standard four-cylinder engine, which is much slower than the V6 and less efficient, too. Although you can specify the V6 on the LE, our favorite model is the one-step-up LE Plus. It includes the V6 and all the necessities, as well as niceties such as a flip-up rear window, tri-zone climate control, an eight-way power driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, an 8-inch touchscreen and a power liftgate. Fancier models provide garnishes such as leather upholstery and heated front seats, but we'd only wish for keyless entry and ignition (XLE and up).

trim levels & features

The 2017 Highlander is a large three-row crossover SUV with seating for eight, but optional second-row captain's chairs reduce capacity to seven. There are LE, LE Plus, XLE, SE, Limited and Limited Platinum trim levels. The LE isn't a stripped-down model, but its standard four-cylinder engine is a bummer. The LE Plus has key upgrades such as the V6 engine (optional on LE), a power liftgate and tri-zone automatic climate control, while the XLE, Limited and Limited Platinum essentially slather on luxury feature content. The SE stands out with unique styling and sportier driving dynamics.

The base LE comes standard with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine (185 horsepower, 184 pound-feet of torque), a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. The 3.5-liter V6 that's standard on all other trims (295 hp, 263 lb-ft) is optional on the LE and comes paired with an eight-speed automatic. All-wheel drive can be added to the V6 as an option. Other standard feature content includes 18-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, a windshield wiper de-icer, rear privacy glass, the Toyota Safety Sense bundle (automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, lane departure intervention, and forward collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking), a rearview camera, rear air-conditioning, a six-way manually adjustable driver seat, cloth upholstery, a 60/40-split second-row seat (slides, reclines, folds), a 60/40-split third-row seat (reclines, folds), five USB ports, a 6.1-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack and a media player interface.

The LE Plus adds a height-adjustable power liftgate, a flip-up rear window, foglights, tri-zone automatic climate control, upgraded upholstery and trim, an eight-way power driver seat with lumbar adjustment, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a higher-resolution 8-inch touchscreen, satellite and HD radio, and a variety of smartphone-connection apps.

The XLE adds a sunroof, roof rails, keyless entry and ignition, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems, an upgraded instrument panel, leather upholstery (first and second rows), simulated leather third-row upholstery, heated front seats, a four-way power passenger seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, second-row window sunshades, Driver Easy Speak (carries the driver's voice through the rear speakers to distant passengers) and a navigation system.

The SE is equipped similarly to the XLE but has LED running lights, sport-themed styling elements and suspension tuning, 19-inch wheels and sporty interior trim.

The Limited starts with the XLE's content and adds LED running lights, different 19-inch wheels, rear parking sensors, a rear cargo cover, heated and ventilated front seats, driver memory settings, second-row captain's chairs (optional on the XLE) and a 12-speaker JBL audio system.

The Limited Platinum gains a panoramic sunroof, automatic wipers, a 360-degree parking camera, front parking sensors, Safety Connect emergency communications, a heated steering wheel and heated second-row seats.

The Limited and Limited Platinum can be optionally equipped with the second-row bench. A rear-seat entertainment system (9-inch display, DVD player, RCA jacks, wireless headphones) is optional on all but the LE and LE Plus.

trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions, although trim levels share many aspects. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2014 Toyota Highlander XLE (3.5L V6 | 6-speed automatic | AWD).

NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Highlander has received some revisions, including a new V6 engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission and additional feature content. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's Highlander.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall4.0 / 5.0


5.0 / 5.0

Braking5.0 / 5.0
Steering5.0 / 5.0
Handling4.0 / 5.0
Drivability5.0 / 5.0


5.0 / 5.0

Seat comfort5.0 / 5.0
Ride comfort5.0 / 5.0
Noise & vibration5.0 / 5.0


4.0 / 5.0

Ease of use3.5 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out4.0 / 5.0
Roominess3.5 / 5.0
Quality5.0 / 5.0


4.0 / 5.0

Small-item storage5.0 / 5.0
Cargo space4.0 / 5.0


edmunds rating
An appealing combination of a powerful V6, proficient brakes and intuitive, precise steering, plus good handling and decent towing and off-road credentials place the Highlander among the class best.


The Highlander's V6 already provided impressive acceleration in 2014, and the new V6 only improves upon that. The new eight-speed automatic is smooth and reasonably responsive.


edmunds rating
Despite a vague-feeling pedal, the Highlander provides substantial braking effectiveness — the panic-stop distance from 60 mph in Edmunds testing ranks among the class best — and very good fade resistance.


edmunds rating
About as good as it gets for a large SUV. It has intuitive response and reassuring feedback when cornering and isolated straight-line stability on the highway. And it's a cinch to park.


edmunds rating
A confident and competent handler, right up to the relatively low limit set by the stability control system, which really lets you know when you're asking too much. The new SE model's sport-tuned suspension provides a firmer ride but only minor handling improvements.


edmunds rating
The Highlander feels bigger than some competitors when behind the wheel, so tighter parking maneuvers may feel hairy. It has nice-and-easy steering for parking lots, though, and indeed this is a very easy SUV to drive in general.


edmunds rating
No low-range gearing, but a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system, 8 inches of ground clearance, hill hold and hill descent control, and advantageous approach/departure angles give the Highlander admirable off-road capabilities for a family hauler.


edmunds rating
Lexus-lite. The Highlander's seats, ride comfort and utterly silent atmosphere are nearly as good as you'll find in SUVs from corporate cousin Lexus.

Seat comfort

edmunds rating
Heated leather front seats are as comfy as furniture and offer tons of adjustment, including extendable thigh support. Second-row seats are firmer, but they slide and recline in a wide range. The third row is merely acceptable; certain competitors are better.

Ride comfort

edmunds rating
One of the Highlander's best qualities is its ride comfort. This crossover is highly isolated and confident without feeling like a floating barge. Few if any road irregularities intrude.

Noise & vibration

edmunds rating
One of the quietest SUVs we've ever measured. Only an occasional wisp of wind noise is evident on a gusty highway pass.


edmunds rating
With only a couple of exceptions (e.g., some long reaches for controls), the Highlander's interior is highly competitive in terms of access, space and ergonomics.

Ease of use

edmunds rating
Some controls, specifically those for the audio system, are located too far away. Otherwise, Toyota's typical array of controls is easy to use.

Getting in/getting out

edmunds rating
It can be difficult to reach the third row, as the second row (be it captain's chairs or the bench) doesn't provide a wide path to the way back. The doors are large, though, and the seats are of a reasonable height.

Driving position

Abundant seat adjustments, including power-adjustable thigh support (a rare feature) on most trim levels. Sufficient seat and telescoping-wheel travel for taller drivers.


edmunds rating
As is true of most competitors, the first and second rows provide copious room for adult occupants. The third row is squishier than that of the Honda Pilot despite having three seat belts — only small kids are likely to fit three abreast back there.


edmunds rating
Quality of materials is high, and during the course of our one-year long-term test of a Highlander, everything in the cabin remained nicely screwed together. Impressive.


edmunds rating
Overall cargo capacity is average for this segment, which means that there should be abundant room for most families. Small item storage is very good.

Small-item storage

edmunds rating
There's a unique built-in shelf on the dashboard that serves as a resting place for phones or other personal items. A vast amount of space is found under the sliding armrest cover — it's big enough to store a laptop or a sizable purse.

Cargo space

edmunds rating
The Highlander offers an average amount of cargo capacity for the segment, regardless of how many rows are in place — nothing significantly outdoes it. Others are better behind the third row, however, notably the Ford Explorer.


edmunds rating
A properly equipped Highlander V6 can tow up to 5,000 pounds, which is essentially the standard for the segment. To beat that, you'll need a more rugged alternative such as the Dodge Durango.


The 2017 Highlander's standard suite of safety technology is a nice plus, especially if you don't have the money for a range-topping model. The infotainment interface is is pleasantly easy to use.

Audio & navigation

Toyota's touchscreen interfaces aren't the flashiest or most feature-packed, but they are easy to use. The 8-inch version (standard on most models) is notably quick to respond to inputs and features large, easily pressed icons.

Driver aids

Every 2017 Highlander comes standard with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, along with adaptive cruise control and lane departure intervention. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are included on the XLE on up.

edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.