Easy to maneuver overall. All-wheel drive option is nice. Good choice for a growing family.
3rd Row Passenger Room
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 all-wheel drive model we tested is good for city commutes and the occasional trip to the back country. Families looking for versatility, comfort, practicality, and three-row seating need to check out the 2019 Toyota Highlander.
We have spent the long New Year’s weekend driving the 2019 Toyota Highlander SE.
What’s New For 2019
The Toyota Highlander gets minor styling revisions for 2019.
Features & Options: Suspension Tuning & DVD Players
The 2019 Toyota Highlander SE V6 AWD ($41,900) comes standard with keyless entry and ignition, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, an upgraded instrument panel, auto-dimming rearview mirror, and leather seats with the front ones being heated. There is a four-way power passenger seat, second-row captain’s chairs, second-row window sunshades, a backup camera, and navigation.
The new SE trim also gets LED running lights, sport-themed styling elements, special suspension tuning, 19-inch wheels, and a sporty interior theme. Our tester came with the optional Rear-Seat Entertainment system ($1,810) as well.
Total MSRP including destination: $45,019. By comparison, the 2019 Toyota Highlander starts at $31,330.
Interior Highlights: Tech-Focused & Comfortable
The interior of the SE 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, perfect for growing families. The navigation system features a large touchscreen, with many of the functions using real buttons which we like. There are 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 2019 Toyota Highlander, thanks to a larger rear-quarter window and strategically positioned pillars. The Highlander comes with twin reclining captain’s chairs that can be pushed back for maximum legroom and comfort. We took two friends of ours over the weekend out to dinner. As they were lounging in the back after leaving the restaurant, they 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 across in the Highlander. The third row works well for smaller kids and access is easy with the captain’s 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 produces an impressive 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft. of torque. It comes mated to an eight-speed automatic with an automatic stop-start system to save fuel. EPA fuel economy estimates come in at 20/26 city/highway and 22 combined with all-wheel drive.
The Highlander’s engine provides impressive acceleration, and the V6 powerplant works well in tandem with the gearbox. The 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, so tighter parking maneuvers may prove difficult in the city. It has crisp steering for parking lots, though, and it’s an easy SUV to drive in general. One of the Highlander’s best qualities is its ride comfort and few, if any, road irregularities intrude. Despite the size, the Highlander does not feel like a floating barge on the open road.
We used the all-wheel drive system as snow fell in the mountains west of Denver, and felt safe on the slicker roads. The all-wheel drive option is ideal for families in cold climates, or for those who take weekend adventures to the north forty.
The 2019 Toyota Highlander also has a max towing capacity of 5,000 lbs. when properly equipped. This is an added bonus if you regularly pull a smaller trailer.
Conclusion: Ideal For Active Families
The 2019 Toyota Highlander SE offers a big, comfortable cabin with seating for seven, and up to eight depending on the configuration. The Highlander provides a sweet spot between an SUV and a wagon/minivan. As a complete package, the 2019 Toyota Highlander is hard to beat for active and growing families.
Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy