The Toyota Highlander looks like it could tackle some rough terrain, but it’s better suited for a family’s rough use. The Hybrid model we tested is also good for getting the best fuel economy in the midsize crossover category. Families looking for versatility, comfort, practicality, all-weather capability, and three-row seating need to keep reading.
Highlander received a complete redesign in 2014. There are no significant changes for 2016.
Features & Options
The 2016 Limited Platinum ($50,485) is the top of the range for the Highlander lineup. It comes standard with all-wheel-drive, 19-inch wheels, rear parking sensors, blind-spot monitoring, second-row captain’s chairs, heated/ventilated front seats, and a power front passenger seat.
Highlander Limited Platinum includes the Driver Technology Package with Safety Connect, pre-collision with adaptive cruise control, lane-departure alert, heated steering wheel, panoramic sunroof, heated rear captain’s chairs, and rain-sensing wipers.
Total MSRP including destination: $51,385.
The cabin of the Limited Platinum model is extra luxurious and the leather seats are comfy for long trips. This model borders on being a true luxury vehicle with its refinement touches and plenty of soft-touch materials throughout the roomy cabin. The cabin is more car-like which is good for growing families who are on the go.
The navigation system features a large touchscreen, with many of the functions using real buttons which we like. We cranked up the heated seats and heated steering wheel, and kept warm with the late winter snowfall in Denver this week.
Visibility is excellent in the Highlander, thanks to a larger rear-quarter window and repositioned pillars. The 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited gets twin reclining captains chairs that can be pushed back for maximum legroom. We carried two large passengers this week who were lounging in the back on the way to the restaurant.
The third row works good for smaller kids and access is easy with the captains chairs. Cargo space totals 13.8 cubic feet behind the third row, and there’s plenty of versatility for busy families with a maximum of 83.7 cubic feet, with the seats folded flat.
Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
The 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes with a V-6 mated to a continuously variable transmission (eCVT) sending power to all four wheels. Total output with the hybrid drivetrain is 280 horsepower. The Hybrid is rated at an EPA-estimated 27/28 mpg city/highway and 28 combined.
We didn’t come anywhere close to that, but we tested the vehicle at altitude and pushed it hard most of the week.
Because the Hybrids are heavier than the gas models, acceleration is a bit slower. Once underway, however, the cabin is comfortable and quiet. Our passengers kicked back, put the rear window shades up, and chilled as we drove around town. The suspension is somewhat compliant and it smooths out the bumps and rough road surfaces.
If you want a smoother ride, opt for the 18 inch wheels over the 19 inch.
Power in the Highlander hybrid is strong enough for most driving situations. We pushed the crossover hard up I-70 at altitude and had enough power to pass slower traffic. The all-wheel-drive worked well in the snow this week too. It tackled the slick streets, and we felt secure in its all-weather abilities on the ice.
The suite of safety features were evident this week as well. We heard the sounds associated with the system, like traction control, alerting us to various safety hazards as we drove in traffic. It helped us feel secure in the bad weather.
The three-row Highlander will be a good choice for growing families on the go. It’s easy to live with and offers plenty of utility and cargo space. We particularly liked the second row captains chairs that offer more comfort for adults and teens. This crossover won’t get you away from civilization like other more rugged vehicles, but it’s a good choice for city dwellers.
The 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum is an extra luxurious, family-friendly, all-weather crossover that gets the best fuel mileage in the range.
*Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy
Video coutesy of Sherwood Park Toyota, 31 Automall Rd, Sherwood Park, AB T8H 0C7, Canada