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Vehicle Overview This year marks the first major update for the Highlander since it was last redesigned in 2013. The 2017 Highlander introduces a series of upgrades that should help it maintain its strong competitiveness in a category that is one of the most active in the industry. Splitting the difference between a minivan and a station wagon, the Highlander continues to offer three rows of seating, plenty of cargo room and a choice between front- or all-wheel drive.
In all six of its available trim levels, the Highlander is a roomy and comfortable place to be. Its restyled front and rear ends haven't affected the rest of the package; it still offers your choice of two captain's chairs or a three-person bench seat in the second row. For 2017, its optional V6 has been reworked for more power and efficiency and is paired to a new transmission. The base four-cylinder engine and transmission carry over unchanged. Safety-conscious consumers will be pleased to know there's a suite of safety technologies included as standard equipment on all 2017 Highlanders.
We've been impressed by the Highlander, and the updates for 2017 will likely underscore its status as among the best three-row crossovers on the market. The competition continues to improve, however. The Honda Pilot was fully redesigned last year, with more refinement and a carlike driving character, while the gutsy Ford Explorer was also refreshed last year. Elsewhere, the aggressive and brawny Dodge Durango and affordable Hyundai Santa Fe offer undeniable appeal.
Performance and MPG The base Highlander LE comes standard with front-wheel drive and a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The only transmission is a six-speed automatic, and we expect it will match the fuel economy of last year's model — an EPA-estimated22 mpg combined (20 city/25 highway).
A 3.5-liter V6 is optional on the LE and standard on all other trims. For 2017, this engine has been heavily revised for more power and efficiency. It's based on the revised V6 that was introduced in the Tacoma last year, and it will surpass the 270 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque of last year's Highlander V6. Furthermore, in all trim levels except LE, the new V6 will be equipped with a stop-start feature to save even more fuel. All V6 models also receive a new eight-speed automatic transmission, replacing the previous six-speed gearbox. Front- or all-wheel drive is available (Limited Platinum comes with standard AWD). Fuel economy numbers haven't yet been released.
Safety The 2017 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.
All 2017 Highlanders are equipped with forward collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise and automatic high beams.
In government crash testing, the Highlander received afive-star overall rating (out of a possible five), with four stars for total front-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. During testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Highlander received thehighest possible rating of Good in all tests. Though these results are for the 2016 model, we expect the structurally identical 2017 Highlander to have similar results.
Additional Information The 2017 Toyota Highlander midsize SUV, substantially updated from the previous year, maintains the model's tradition of providing a practical blend of comfort, space and reasonable drivability, while adding a bit more style and a host of new features. Untouched are many of the Highlander's strong suits, including a well-packaged interior, three-row seating, a generous cargo area and available all-wheel drive.
One of the biggest changes for the Highlander in 2017 is the availability of a new, direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque and comes mated to a new eight-speed automatic transmission that replaces the previous six-speed. Another change this year is the addition of the SE model, which slots in just below the Limited trim level and features sportier suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels and unique exterior and interior trim.
The standard powerplant for the base LE trim remains the 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that puts out 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. In a vehicle that weighs at least 5665 pounds — depending on drivetrain and options — its performance can only be described as barely adequate. And to bring the Highlander up to par with its rivals, most of which come with a standard V6, the majority of buyers will likely order the optional six-cylinder engine.
A stylish new grille and front and rear lights headline the exterior changes for the Highlander in 2017, along with an overall more muscular look and several new color and finish choices. On-road performance continues to lean more toward comfort, rather than taut handling, although the Highlander remains competitive with its major rivals in this area. Buyers interested in improving handling a bit might want to test-drive the new SE model.
Inside is where the Highlander continues to excel. While not ultra-luxurious, the interior combines plenty of leg, head and shoulder room with updated materials and an abundance of clever storage solutions. And buyers are sure to appreciate the addition of a number of the latest advanced safety features and host of technology options.
The front-wheel drive 2017 Highlander with the four-cylinder engine is EPA rated at 22 mpg combined (20 city/24 highway). The FWD V6 gets a rating of 23 mpg combined (20 city/27 highway) making it a logical choice, especially for those planning to use their Toyota SUV for family vacations.
The base LE trim comes well equipped with many attractive safety and convenience features. The LE Plus and XLE models up the standard features, while the new SE trim offers both additional standard goodies and a few sporty touches. At the top of the line sit the Limited and Limited Platinum versions, which provide considerably increased comfort and luxury. Let Edmunds help you find just the right 2017 Toyota Highlander to meet your needs.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.