The Toyota Highlander looks like it could tackle some rough terrain, but it’s better suited for a family’s rough use. The SE V6 FWD model we tested is good for city commutes and family hauling. Families looking for versatility, comfort, practicality, and three-row seating need to check out the 2017 Toyota Highlander SE V6 FWD.
We recently took it for a lengthy test drive.
What’s New For 2017
The 2017 Toyota Highlander gets a number of mid-cycle changes like a new grille, redesigned LED taillights, a new V6 engine with more power and better fuel economy, along with an eight-speed transmission and an automatic stop-start system. New features include the Toyota Safety Sense technology suite, which comes standard on every trim level. When we tested the new SE trim, we found the retuned suspension made for sharper handling.
Features & Options
The 2017 Toyota Highlander SE V6 FWD ($39,690) comes standard with keyless entry and ignition, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, an upgraded instrument panel, leather seats, heated front seats, a four-way power passenger seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, captains chairs (second-row), second-row window sunshades, backup camera, and navigation.
The new SE trim also gets LED running lights, sport-themed styling elements, the aforementioned suspension tuning, 19-inch wheels, and a sporty interior theme. Our tester came with the optional Rear-Seat Entertainment system ($1,810). Total MSRP including destination: $42,440.
The interior of the SE trim is sportier than other models and the leather seats are extra comfy for long trips. The cabin of this crossover is more car/minivan-like which is perfect for growing families on the go. The navigation system features a large touchscreen, with many of the functions using real buttons which we like. It’s got plenty of creature comforts inside like second row window shades, heated front seats, and of course the DVD system to keep the kids entertained on those longer trips.
Visibility is excellent in the Highlander, thanks to a larger rear-quarter window and strategically positioned pillars. The new 2017 Toyota Highlander SE comes standard 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 and nearly fell asleep!
As is true of most competitors, the first and second rows provide copious room for adult occupants. The third row is squishier than that of the Honda Pilot despite having three seat belts — only small kids are likely to fit three abreast back there. The third row works well 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 Highlander’s 3.5-liter V6 engine is new, boasting more power and better fuel economy. The new power plant makes an impressive 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft. of torque. It comes mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission and features an automatic stop-start system to save fuel.
Fuel economy estimates come in at 21/27 city/highway mpg and 23 combined.
The Highlander’s engine provides impressive acceleration, and the new V6 works well in tandem with the gearbox. The new eight-speed automatic is smooth and reasonably responsive. It didn’t seem to hunt for the right gear as we pushed it hard uphill in the mountains west of Denver.
The Highlander feels bigger than some competitors when behind the wheel, so tighter parking maneuvers may feel hairy in the city. It has nice-and-easy steering for parking lots, though, and indeed this is a very easy SUV to drive in general. One of the Highlander’s best qualities is its ride comfort.
This crossover is highly isolated and confident without feeling like a floating barge. Few if any road irregularities intrude.
The 2017 Toyota Highlander SE V6 offers a big, comfortable cabin with seating for 7 to 8. 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. The 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. For families looking for little bit of everything, the Highlander SE V6 is a winning ticket.
Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy