Toyota’s popular three-row Highlander didn’t change much for 2018; it’s still a comfortable and reliable family hauler with a strong safety record and roomy interior. The Highlander will carry up to eight passengers, and the Hybrid version will deliver 29 miles per gallon on city streets.
Highlander buyers have a choice between a strong V6 engine or a 4-cylinder that will get better mileage. But I’d recommend the V6, which is an excellent power plant. The smaller engine just seems a little short on power for this 4,861-lb. vehicle.
The V6 generates 295 horsepower and 263 lb.-ft. of torque, while the 4-cylinder delivers 185 horses. The smaller engine is standard on the base LE trim. The transmission is an 8-speed automatic. Gasoline Highlanders are also available in LE Plus, SE, XLE, Limited and Limited Platinum trims, all available in either FWD or AWD.
The Highlander Hybrid, which was my test vehicle for the week, is one of seven hybrid models offered by Toyota. Trims on the Hybrid include LE, XLE, Limited and Limited Platinum. My test Highlander was the Limited Platinum, which had an MSRP of $48,280.
Toyota puts its Hybrid Synergy Drive system in the Highlander, which uses the 3.5-liter V6 engine. Supplementing the gasoline engine is a high-torque electric motor-generator that helps the Highlander Hybrid develop 306 total system horsepower. The Highlander Hybrid gets a CVT transmission and is EPA-rated at 29 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined.
The bonus is that all Highlander Hybrid trims come with standard AWD, and it has a 3,500-lb. towing capacity, which makes me a huge fan. Limited and Limited Platinum grades offer either seven- or eight-passenger seating, depending on whether you select captain’s chairs or a bench in Row 2.
Inside the cabin, the Highlander is roomy and comfortable. The LE and LE Plus grades are mono-spec, which means no option packages are offered. But the base LE has 18-inch wheels, Entune Audio with a 6.1-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, a backup camera, heated mirrors and windshield wiper de-icers, a tow package on V6 models, and five (count ‘em) USB ports, so everybody gets to charge their phones at once.
The Plus for the LE package adds SofTex trimmed seats, fog lights, a power rear liftgate, an 8-way power driver’s seat, an 8-inch touchscreen, three-zone climate control and a leather steering wheel and shift knob.
XLE trims get leather heated seats, a smart key system with pushbutton start, a moonroof, an anti-theft system, a Homelink garage door opener, an automatic dimming rearview mirror and Entune Premium Audio with navigation. The SE is the sport trim, while the Limited and Limited Platinum trims add a range of amenities for driver convenience, assistance and safety.
And speaking of safety, the Highlander gets five stars in the government’s safety tests and wins a “Top Safety Pick” from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
All Highlander models get Toyota’s Safety Sense, which is a suite of driver-assisting technologies. Included are a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, dynamic radar cruise control and automatic high beams.
On the road, my Highlander Hybrid test vehicle was comfortable and roomy on a long drive to Austin, Texas. Soft touch materials were in the right places and the seats were firm and supportive. Lots of cubbies are available for all your stuff. Behind the third row, the Highlander has 13.8 cubic feet of space. Fold down the third row and that number grows to more than 42 cubic feet. If you fold down both rows, cargo space is a whopping 83.2 cubic feet.
Headroom in the front seat is 40.7 inches without the moonroof, in Row 2 it’s 39.9 inches and in the very back its 35.9 inches.
The 2018 Toyota Highlander received no significant changes from the previous model, which was significantly upgraded. It remains a comfortable, fuel efficient family SUV with an excellent safety record.
2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
3.5-liter V6 plus electric motor-generator
Total system horsepower:
$48,280 plus freight
EPA mileage estimates:
29 mpg city/27 mpg highway/28 mpg combined
Estimated highway range: