untitledSusan Frissell

At long last, the 2016 Toyota Highlander gets a look that matters. The old design seemed to just blend into the crowd, forsaking any distinguishing features. Now, with its new curves and shape, the 2016 Highlander is a better looking vehicle. Returning with just one ‘factual’ update is the now standard towing package (heavy-duty radiator, 200-watt fan coupling, bigger alternator, transmission fluid cooler), on all V6 trim levels.

With all the sport-utes on the road, big and small, it’s near impossible to stand out in the crowd. Competing with the likes of the Chevrolet Traverse, Dodge Durango, Honda Pilot, and Nissan Pathfinder, the Highlander is available in several versions, including Hybrid (in Limited trim only): LE ($29,990), LE V6 ($31,515), LE Plus V6 ($33,895), XLE ($36,815) and Limited ($40,415), Limited Platinum.

The Highlander is not an inexpensive vehicle, and similar to its competitors, somewhat resembles a minivan. Seating eight, this is a large vehicle, with a flexible second row of seating and easily accessible third row. While it is an easy vehicle to drive and handle, it falls to those who are seeking a lot of extra room.

Some have called the redesigned 2016 Highlander “bland.” While we might agree that description better describes the last generation Highlander, we happen to think the 2016 design is much improved. The interior is updated with new materials and a much busier dash design.

Although equipped with a V-6 engine, horsepower is lacking and power just adequate. Our test vehicle was the XLE trim level, equipped with three options, including Rear-seat Blueray, DVD Entertainment System w/9-inch display, RCA Jacks, Remote and two wireless headphones ($1,810); Seating for 7; 2nd row Captain’s Chairs; leather-trimmed second-row Captain’s Chairs with folding side table w/two cupholders ($275), and Carpet floor mats and cargo mat ($225).toy

Our Highlander XLE came in Shoreline Blue Pearl, a striking color choice. As expected in vehicles of this caliber, the Highlander comes equipped with all of the amenities one would want. Such new technology as enhanced vehicle stability control, ABS, Electronic brake=force distribution, brake assist and smart stop technology, Adaptive Cruise control, 8 airbags, Smart Key immobilizer/alarm and protector child seating and door locks.

Our XLE version came equipped with a power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade, leather seating (8-way driver, 4-way passenger, adjustable power liftgate, side-window sunshades, back-up camera, 8-inch display and Toyota’s Entune premium sound system/App suite, navigation, Homelink, AM/FM/CM/MP3/USB/Aux, HD and SXM.

Tires are available in either 18-0r-19-inch size, and the Highlander sports a rear spoiler, LED running lights, and power sunroof. Cloth, premium cloth or leather upholstery is available, heated and ventilated seats with power-adjustable front seats. A telescoping tilt-steering wheel and cruise are standard, and on higher level trim vehicles, Toyota throws in 3-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, LED ambient cabin lighting, driver seat memory setting, and rear parking sensors.

As with all Toyota products, one can depend on long-term driving and years of ownership. The Highlander is a comfortable and accommodating city and highway driving vehicle. It aims to please and continues to lead the market.


MSRP: $38,275; total vehicle price $41,485; destination $900
Engine: 3.5-liter, DOHC V6, Dual VVT-1, 248 lb-ft torque, 270 hp.
Transmission: six-speed electronic automatic w/OD, ECT-I sequential shift mode, snow mode, FWD
Wheelbase: 109.8 in.
Height: 68.1 in.
Length: 191.1 in.
Curb Weight: 4,135 lbs.
Width: 64.4 in.
Towing Capacity: 5,000 lbs.
Wheels: 18-inch alloy
Tires: P245/60R-18
EAP class: small SUV, 2WD
EPA fuel economy: 18/24 mpg., avg. 20 mpg.
Class: Midsize crossover