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The Toyota Highlander represents an SUV for those of us who don’t necessarily want to drive a serious off-roader everyday. Normal folks who don’t need 4×4 capability for the commute to their nine-to-five, and don’t have to drive down fire roads out of the hills to fetch groceries from town. This isn’t a knock against those who do, but I see a whole lot of 4-runners and jacked-up Jeeps that are more likely to crawl the Starbucks drive-thru on the weekend than to crawl boulders.

Living with the noise of mud tires on asphalt, and climbing into an off-road rig every morning while trying not to spill your coffee is not a life everyone wants to live. For those who want the space of an SUV, the reliability and resale of a Toyota, and some capability in case things get slick, thankfully there’s the Highlander.



From the outside this SUV looks reasonably tame. It’s the best example of something for either spouse in its class. It doesn’t look so much like a mom-mobile that dad won’t drive it, and it doesn’t have the angular, hyper masculine styling of the 4-runner or Tacoma.

The press car was painted in Toyota’s Predawn Gray and fitted with handsome 19 inch wheels. The LED headlights lend a determined look to the front of the vehicle without making look like it’s scowling at oncoming traffic. Aesthetically, the design is not cluttered with fake vents in the fenders or chintzy detail. It doesn’t look like it’s chasing the latest trend. Which means this SUV won’t look dated after a couple years.



Inside, the Highlander features seating for seven people. An eight inch touch screen serves as the interface for the infotainment system as well as displaying the backup camera and bird’s eye view. The press car had black leather upholstery covering the front and rear seats. The driver’s and passenger seats have power adjustment and the second row occupants are treated to captain’s chairs. For third row seating there’s a 60/40 split bench seat which has plenty of space behind it for groceries. For hauling larger things, the third and second rows will fold flat.

Toyota tucked airbags in every corner of the cabin. They also equipped the Highlander  with their pre-collision system that can apply the brakes for drivers to avoid smashing into other cars or ruin a pedestrian’s day.

It’s hard to say what each Highlander will be used for, but it’s a safe bet that most of them will be put into service as the family hauler. The ride is  quiet even if the kiddos are not. Five USB ports to keep everyone’s device charged. The Radar cruise makes driving on the interstate comfortable. For a large vehicle it feels reasonably nimble.


This top spec Highlander is priced two grand shy of $50k. That’s a lot of money, but with Toyota’s absurdly good resale and reputation for reliability, it feels like a decent value. If the sticker price bums you out, these SUVs start at a much more palatable $31,230 for the LE version. It’s not a Hybrid, and it won’t have all-wheel-drive, but it’s nice to know you can have one of these splendid family haulers without trading in your first born.

Aaron V Starnes
Aaron V Starnes

Car guy, small business owner, award-winning writer and proud papa.