What the Highlander Shares With the Lexus LS, and More
The outrageously grilled 2017 Toyota Highlander is the Explorer- and Pilot-fighting crossover for those who find the RAV4 too small. We recently spent some time with the updated 2017 Highlander to discover the cool ways the crossover is different from the 2016 model—and also how it has remained the same. Keep reading for more on the Highlander, and don’t miss our 2017 Toyota Highlander SE AWD First Test review HERE.
The Lexus of Highlanders? Almost …
With the Ford Explorer Platinum and GMC Acadia Denali catering to mainstream crossover buyers who want a bit of luxury, Toyota has taken note and made a few changes to increase the appeal of the 2017 Highlander Limited Platinum. The Limited Platinum rolls on 19-inch wheels in a design we’ve seen before, but now they come with an interesting dark chrome finish. And the light projection puddle lamps you may have seen on Jaguars, Lincolns, and Mustangs have now hit the Highlander on both Limited trims.
After taking in the Limited Platinum’s exclusive wood accents and brown leather seats, my verdict is mixed. The trim-specific wood trim didn’t look like it was ripped out of a luxury car, but those seats looked and felt fantastic. That’s because …
How You Fit an LS Inside a Highlander
… The 2017 Highlander Limited Platinum’s brown leather seats use the same material and color, Toyota says, as the Lexus LS. And it shows. The seats feel rich, and the color looks suitably upscale, although I’m also a fan of the unique seat quilting on the Explorer Platinum.
Still No Match for a Minivan
As the designated driver for most road trips, I don’t spend much time in third-row seats. Still, when Toyota provided a 2017 Sienna beside a 2017 Highlander, I had to try both family-mobiles. No surprise here, the overwhelming winner for space in the third-row seats is the Sienna. I couldn’t believe how much space was back there, but my comfort level went from mildly uncomfortable to unbearable in the Highlander. That’s to be expected, though, as the Highlander is about 8 inches shorter than the Sienna, which has more interior space overall.
If the Highlander is a better match for your family, know that the higher-trim Limited and Limited Platinum trims can now be had in an eight-passenger seating configuration. (Previously, the trims only offered seven-passenger seating.)
1.35 Inches: Will Your Garage Notice?
Part of the Highlander’s appeal over the Sienna might be the ability to more easily fit your car inside a standard-size garage. Yes, the Highlander is about 8 inches shorter than the more practical Sienna, but the 2017 Highlander is 1.4 inches longer than the pre-refresh 2016 Highlander (or 1.35 inches longer, to be exact, a Toyota rep tells us). The Highlander is bolder than ever before, and those revised front and rear overhangs have an effect on the overall length.
What a Looker! But Sporty?
If you haven’t already, check out our First Test review on the 2017 Toyota Highlander SE, a new trim on the crossover this year. As on the Sienna SE, the Highlander SE distinguishes itself with suspension tweaks and bolder, more polarizing styling. In our review (with instrumented test numbers), the Highlander SE didn’t strike us as especially sporty and wasn’t the quickest in its class, but the enormous front grille is growing on some of us. Should you go for the SE for looks alone, be sure to select Salsa Red Pearl, a color you’ll only find on the SE trim.
Toyota projects that the SE will account for about 7 percent of overall Highlander sales.
Efficiency is Getting Less Expensive
Toyota is making the Highlander Hybrid more accessible for 2017. Now available in LE and XLE trims, the six-cylinder hybrid might be considered more than it ever has before. The hybrid accounted for just 3 percent of 2016 sales, is expected to hit 7 percent for 2017, and may reach up to 10 percent for 2018. How much would you be willing to pay for a hybrid version of the Highlander?
What didn’t need changing on the 2017 Highlander were its storage solutions. Aside from the flexible center console storage area, there’s lots of space below the HVAC controls on the dash, which stretches in front of the passenger seat. My sister owns a 2015 Highlander and told me that although she really didn’t like the way it looked at first, now she appreciates and uses it all the time.
No (Car)Playing in the Highlander
The 2017 Highlander is the latest Toyota to benefit from the automaker’s active safety tech package, which includes an automatic braking system with pedestrian detection, active cruise control, and a lane keeping assist system. It’s worth noting that this tech is standard on every 2017 Highlander, but we still wish Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were on the options list.
Read the 2017 Highlander SE V-6 First Test HERE.