2017 Toyota Highlander Review

Written by Anqoinette Crosby

The 2017 Highlander's New Start/Stop Feature

Arriving at my friend’s house in the newly redesigned 2017 Toyota Highlander SE, I was ready to go cheer on the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. The moment the longtime season ticket holder laid his eyes upon the visually stunning Toyota, he suggested we ditch his ride in favor of the more spacious and sportier SUV. This was a good move for a number of reasons; one of which was the Highlander’s bold “Salsa Red Pearl” paint, which matched the burgundy and gold Redskins jerseys we wore.

For the 2017 model year, Highlander got a welcomed addition to the lineup. The new SE trim level brings its “A” game with a brawny set of 19-inch multi-spoke wheels with a wicked black finish. A brash, glossy black grille and unique black headlight housings enhance the 2017 Highlander SE’s go big or go home vibe.

Under the hood, the mid-cycle makeover also brought a powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine, which is teamed with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. My tester was all-wheel drive. The stats are impressive for the new powertrain, which delivers 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft. of torque. Fuel economy is estimated at 20-mpg city, 26 highway and 22 combined.
A new automatic stop-start function helps achieve those numbers. The system provides electrical power to keep accessories live when the Highlander is stopped at a traffic signal and shuts down the engine. This marks the 2017 Highlander as the first non-hybrid Toyota in North America to use this fuel-saving technology.

Toyota’s Safety Sense technology suite also comes standard, which further solidifies the Highlander’s place in my win column. As someone who has seen her fair share of fender benders on the congested Capital Beltway, I applaud the inclusion of more advanced safety features. Automatic collision avoidance and active cruise control are leveraged, along with a few other technologies to prevent mishaps. The Highlander’s eight-inch touchscreen’s backup camera also won my heart—the first time I reversed the sizeable SUV into a parking space.

Speaking of parking, arriving at FedEx Field, we had to use an unpaved lot covered with loose gravel. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Highlander's ride quality was smooth like silk over the washboard surface. My friend remarked his SUV would’ve been rocking back and forth like crazy driving in that situation. Happily, the Highlander was easy to control and handled all sorts of changing road conditions like a champ.

Exiting, we realized we could have brought along two more football fans and enjoyed tailgating out of the three-row Toyota sport utility. Four on board would’ve left plenty of space to haul a grill, picnic chairs and of course coolers filled with frosty beverages, meats and salads. Highlander offers 13.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the third row, but it can be maxed out to 83.7 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded flat.

With that said, while the first and second rows offer plenty of comfortable passenger space, the third row should be specifically reserved for pint-sized peeps. Tykes are the only ones likely to be able to access it easily. Meanwhile, the SE’s second row offers reclining leather Captain’s chairs with plenty of legroom, along with window and sunroof shades to filter sunlight.

Up front, my 6’3" passenger easily reached the audio system’s controls. I, on the other hand, had to stretch somewhat awkwardly to get there. Here, I’m torn, as I applaud Toyota for keeping it old school with knobs. However, I really would have preferred them to be easier to reach.

Other favored finds were the five USB ports (three in front and two in the second row) to keep everyone’s digital devices charged. What’s more, a DVD-based video system is provided to keep kiddos entertained on the road.

All in all, Toyota did a nice job with this mild update for the Highlander. If you’re shopping in this category, it’s definitely worth a look.

Pricing for the 2017 Highlander SE starts at $41,150.

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