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.
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.
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.
noise & vibration
ease of use
getting in/getting out
audio & navigation
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.