The 2018 Toyota Highlander is one of the best picks available for a versatile three-row crossover SUV. Thanks to a comfortable and quiet ride, abundant standard features and a just-right size, it should serve you well as a do-all family hauler.
While the Highlander isn't as big as traditional truck-based SUVs such as Toyota's Sequoia, it's easier to maneuver around town, yet it still has three relatively usable rows of seating. It also delivers above-average fuel economy for a three-row SUV. The third row is a bit tighter than we'd like, but kids will fit just fine back there. We also like how Toyota outfits every Highlander with its Toyota Safety Sense bundle, which include adaptive cruise control, lane departure intervention, and forward collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking.
If you need a crossover with a roomier third row, you'll probably be happier with a Honda Pilot or Volkswagen Atlas. Toyota's also a bit behind the times in smartphone connectivity — you can't get Android Auto or Apple CarPlay on the Highlander. Overall, though, this popular and well-rounded crossover is certainly worth a test drive.
Notably, we picked the 2018 Highlander as one of Edmunds' Best Midsize SUVs for this year.
trim levels & features
The 2018 Highlander is a large three-row crossover SUV with seating for eight, but optional second-row captain's chairs reduce capacity to seven. Toyota makes six Highlander models: the LE, LE Plus, XLE, SE, Limited and Limited Platinum. 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 the LE), a power liftgate and tri-zone automatic climate control, while the XLE, Limited and Limited Platinum essentially slather on luxury features. The SE stands out with unique styling and sportier driving dynamics.
The standard powertrain on the base LE is a 2.5-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 (295 hp, 263 lb-ft) that's standard on all other trims 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 features include 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 Toyota's Pre-Collision System, which bundles forward collision detection with automatic emergency braking, a rearview camera, rear air conditioning, a height-adjustable driver's seat, 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.
The LE Plus adds a height-adjustable power liftgate, a flip-up rear window, foglights, tri-zone automatic climate control, upgraded upholstery and trim, a power-adjustable driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a higher-resolution 8-inch touchscreen, satellite and HD radio, and a variety of smartphone-connection apps.
On top of the LE Plus' equipment, the Highlander 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 power-adjustable passenger seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, second-row window sunshades, a 110-volt power outlet, 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-seat memory settings, heated 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 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
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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.