With a complete redo last year, is the new Toyota Highlander a wagon, a crossover, or an SUV? That’s the question we tried to answer this week as we test drove the new 2015 Toyota Highlander Limited V6 AWD.
Toyota’s Highlander is a 7 to 8 seater, depending on how many adults and kids you need to carry but one thing is clear: it’s designed for active and growing families.
What’s New for 2015?
The Toyota Highlander is essentially unchanged for the 2015 model year. Highlander received a complete remodel last year with new exterior styling and interior.
Highlander Limited ($41,300) comes standard with perforated leather front and second row upholstery, heated/ventilated front seats, second row captain’s chairs, blind-spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors, woodgrain trim, auto up/down rear windows, LED ambient cabin lighting, smoked chrome headlight trim, driver memory, puddle lamp mirrors and 19-inch alloy wheels.
And a JBL 12-speaker sound system driven by Entune Premium, just in case everything else above wasn’t enough.
Optional Features on Highlander Limited
This Highlander Limited AWD was upgraded with the optional Rear-Seat BluRay DVD Entertainment System ($1,810) with 9-in display, RCS jackets, remote and two wireless headphones.
It also came with the Driver Technology Package ($1,400) that includes Safety Connect, Pre-Collision, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert and Auto high-beams.
Our 2015 Toyota Highlander Limited was upgraded with optional Tow Hitch ($699), Running boards ($599), Remote engine start ($499), Carpet floor mats ($225) and Paint protection film ($392).
Total MSRP including destination $47,812.
Toyota Highlander can be considered an SUV with lots of room for the whole family. The driver and front passenger will appreciate the ease of getting in and out of the Highlander and the front seats are comfortable. All drivers in the family will be able to find the right driving position with 8-way power driver’s memory seat too.
A feature often overlooked is the improved visibility in the new Highlander with A-pillars that are thinner and more raked over the outgoing model.
For backing, a rearview camera was standard, complete with warnings and sensors on our Limited tester.
Kids will be right at home in the second and third rows. This Limited model came with the optional Rear-Seat BluRay/DVD Entertainment System . Its 9-in display, remote and two wireless headphones will keep the kids entertained for hours.
Limited comes with sliding and reclining captain’s chairs with center walk through to the third row.
The third row seats are fairly wide and there’s room for three kid seating positions. You can fit two adults in the rear for shorter trips. There are climate control vents, cupholders and lights in back also.
Overall, the cabin is well designed for growing families.
Just raise the window sunshades in the back, turn on the DVD player and the Limited is a comfortable place for transporting cargo and kids for those longer trips.
Engine and Fuel Mileage Specs
The Toyota Highlander Limited AWD is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 270 horsepower and 248 lb ft of torque. It comes coupled to a 6-speed automatic transmission that helps give the family hauler decent fuel economy.
EPA rates the Highlander V6 with all-wheel-drive at 18/24 city/highway mpg and 20 combined mpg.
The Highlander feels more like a crossover or a wagon than an SUV. The vehicle is easy to drive and it’s not too big either – it’s not hard to park and maneuver in the city. Whether the vehicle is empty or loaded with people, the Highlander absorbs the bumps and provides a smooth comfortable ride on the road.
The Highlander uses Toyota’s tried and true 3.5-liter V6 that has enough power for most driving situations. Of course you don’t have the power of a V8, but the tradeoff is fuel economy nearly the same as the base four-cylinder engine.
The V6 provides smooth acceleration and six-speed automatic worked well pulling us up I-70.
We noticed quick downshifts when we needed to punch the gas and pass slower traffic.
To answer the question: is the 2015 Toyota Highlander a wagon, a crossover, or an SUV?
We would say the vehicle offers a bit of all three.
It offers a big, comfortable cabin with seating for 7 to 8, like an SUV. It offers a quiet ride with the performance and driving dynamics of a crossover. Yet, it also provides the versatility and fuel mileage of a wagon.
Highlander provides a sweet spot between an SUV and a crossover/wagon/minivan type vehicle. As a complete package, the Highlander is hard to beat for growing families with active lifestyles. Plus, the all-wheel-drive provides safe and secure, all-weather capability and mild off-road use.
For families looking for little bit of everything, the 2015 Toyota Highlander Limited V6 AWD is a winning ticket.
2015 Toyota Highlander Gallery
Photo Credit: Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. Inc.