• Car Review

2019 Toyota Highlander Review

By David Undercoffler | May 20, 2019

Summary

The 2019 Toyota Highlander is a mid-size sport utility vehicle (SUV). This year is the last model year of the third generation leaving little changed for the 2019 model.

The Highlander has a quiet interior, exceptional reliability ratings from leading analysts and strong fuel economy ratings. This three-row mid-size SUV is in a very competitive class with other popular SUVs such as the Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9, Subaru Ascent and the Ford Explorer among others. The Highlander appeals to buyers that want a safe, reliable and good-looking family vehicle which is also available in a hybrid model. Toyota has provided new car buyers with many options in the Highlander as there are ten trim levels, six gasoline powered and four hybrid models, from the four-cylinder base model to the hybrid loaded with all the safety technology Toyota offers. The trim levels are listed as Highlander LE starts at $32,625, followed by LE Plus, XLE, SE, Highlander Limited, Limited Platinum, Hybrid LE which starts at $38,265 followed by Hybrid XLE, Hybrid Limited, Hybrid Limited Platinum, all prices include destination fee before adding available packages and options.

Exterior

The Highlander has a significant presence and bold athletic stance yet it's not the largest mid-size SUV which is a positive. It comes standard with 18-inch 5-spoke alloy wheels, projector beam halogen headlights with auto on/off feature, daytime running lights with on/off, privacy glass for the rear windows and tailgate window.

2019-toyota-highlander-exterior2

Toyota has many additional packages that will allow owners to tailor their Highlander to the style and convenience features they are looking for. Other features available on higher trim models are LED daytime running lights, panoramic sunroof, an adjustable power liftgate, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.

2019-toyota-highlander-exterior1

Interior Quality and Comfort

The interior quality of the Highlander is solid quality soft touch material on the dash and the upper door trim, on the higher trim models, there are wood grain inserts to offer a more luxury feel to the interior. The front seats and second row seats are above average comfortable with plush door armrests, the second row comes in two different styles either a pair of captain's chairs which makes getting to the third row much more comfortable or a sliding/folding bench seat, however the third row is better suited for children and smaller stature adults.

2019-toyota-highlander-interior3

Standard on the base model you'll find fabric seats, 6-way adjustable power driver's seat, a 4-way adjustable front passenger seat, 60/40 split, sliding and reclining, fold flat second row seats, 60/40 split, reclining, fold flat third row seats with sliding headrests.

Utility and Practicality

The Highlander offers lots and lots of space for small items with a dashboard shelf that runs the length of the dashboard, a large center console, eight cup holders, four bottle holders, large door pockets and other small compartments in the rear contribute to the numerous storage containers.

2019-toyota-highlander-exterior3

As far as luggage and cargo space are concerned the Highlander trails behind competitors with all three rows in use, however with both the second and third rows folded down allow for 83 cubic feet of cargo space. Children car seats have plenty of room in the second row; the third row is a bit tighter although all latch anchors are plenty and easy to access. The Highlander SE and Limited trim models are equipped to tow 5,000 pounds. The hybrid models will tow 3,500 pounds.

Technology and Infotainment

The Toyota Highlander base model is equipped with 6.1-inch touchscreen equipped with AM/FM radio, CD, six speakers, auxiliary port, voice recognition, hands-free phone capability, phone book access, Bluetooth music streaming. Unfortunately, Toyota does not offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto on this Highlander (it comes in 2020).

2019-toyota-highlander-interior1

Standard upgrades on the Highlander XLE features Entune premium audio and a navigation system and on the Highlander limited is a Premium JBL audio system. Also available on higher trim models is a rear seat Blu-ray entertainment system which includes a 9-inch screen, remote, two wireless headphones and RCA jacks.

2019-toyota-highlander-interior2

Safety and Driving Assistance

The standard safety features on the Toyota Highlander is what makes it a standout amongst its class. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) ranks the 2019 Toyota Highlander as a top safety pick. The Highlander received a top Superior rating in crash avoidance and mitigation, and headlights received an Acceptable rating. In the crashworthiness category, Highlander received all Good ratings and Acceptable in the category of passenger side small overlap front.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Highlander an overall five-star rating. In overall frontal crash ratings, the Highlander received four out of five stars, in overall side crash ratings the Highlander scored a perfect five out of five stars, in overall rollover rating the Highlander scored four out of five stars.

All Highlanders are equipped with a standard safety package that includes lane departure alert with steering assist. This feature monitors lane markings and will sound a warning to warn you to steer your vehicle back to the center of the lane and with steering assist activated the Highlander can also guide your vehicle back to the center of the path.

All standard on the Highlander is the dynamic cruise control. It allows the driver to set a speed as any other traditional cruise control but will use a radar mounted inside the front grille to monitor the vehicle in front of you and slow down and alert you if you need to stop. Once the vehicle in front of you speeds up again or moves to another lane, the Highlander will accelerate back to the preset speed.

Using the same camera and radar used in the dynamic cruise control, the Highlander is equipped with pedestrian detection and a pre-collision system. These systems will alert you if a potential collision is possible and may apply the brake as you use the brake, however, if you fail to notice soon enough the vehicle will apply the brake to slow the vehicle down to avoid a collision or minimize the impact.

The Highlander is also equipped with automatic high beams that turn on and off high beams for ideal conditions.

Driving Experience

The Toyota Highlander has three powertrains to choose from. The first two are only available on the LE base model, a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 185 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, it is paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The second powertrain is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission in front-wheel-drive or optional all-wheel-drive. The last powertrain is the Highlander hybrid a 3.5-liter hybrid engine all-wheel drive that produces 306 horsepower.

The eight-speed transmission shifts smooth and the mid-range power is good, paired with a V6 engine the Highlander is powerful when the pedal is pushed aggressively when accelerating slowly the responsiveness can seem underwhelming.

Steering can feel very light at low speeds but help to maneuver such a large SUV, at higher speeds you notice the steering becomes heavier which will contribute to confident handling and control.

Handling on turns are not as smooth or tight as could be compared to competitors, the ease of steering helps to make adjustments and alleviate the big SUV body roll.

Bumps and imperfections on the road are absorbed well in the Highlander, outside noise and road noise are significantly reduced, the cabin is surprisingly quiet.

Acceleration is on demand, if you punch the pedal you're going to get all 295 horses, the Highlander ran 0 to 60 mph in under eight-seconds, if you're easy on the accelerator you will experience the conservative almost sleepy acceleration.

The Highlander has a higher clearance than most SUV in the class, and this family-oriented SUV is equipped with hill descent and a locking differential on all-wheel-drive models.

Visibility on the Highlander is excellent the front windshield, and front windows are large and allow for unobstructed views. The full-sized second-row headrests get in the way of over the shoulder glances yet blind spots are minimal. The rear-view camera and 360-degree camera can help assist with any obstructed views while driving the Highlander sports safety features which include blind-spot monitoring.

Fuel Efficiency

The fuel economy on the Highlander is typical of a seven-passenger SUV. The gasoline engines fall right into the middle of the pack of the competition. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website, the 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine achieves 20 mpg city and 24 mpg highway for a combined rating of 23 mpg. The 3.5-liter V6 engine performs a little better making 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway for a combined total of 23 mpg. The Toyota Highlander hybrid powertrain achieves 29 mpg city and 27 mpg highway for a combined total of 28 mpg. Compare these to the competitors.

  • Ford Explorer AWD 3.5 liter V6 automatic, 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway for a combined total of 19 mpg.
  • Honda Pilot AWD 3.5 liter V6 automatic, 18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway for a combined total of 21 mpg.
    Mazda CX-9 4WD 2.5 liter 4-Cylinder turbo automatic, 20 mpg city, 26 mpg highway for a combined total of 23 mpg.
  • Subaru Ascent AWD 2.4 liter 4-Cylinder turbo automatic, 20 mpg city, 26 mpg highway for a combined total of 22 mpg.
  • Volkswagen Atlas AWD 3.6 liter V6 automatic, 17mpg city, 23 mpg highway for a combined total of 19mpg.

Despite having a larger more powerful V6 engine, the Highlander V6 model achieves better fuel economy than its four-cylinder sibling. Compared to the competition the V6 Highlander gets as good if not better fuel mileage than its four-cylinder competitors.

Pricing and Value

The base model Toyota Highlander LE 2.7 liter 4-cylinder front-wheel drive equipped with Toyota safety sense, 60/40 split second and third-row rear seats, back-up camera, five USB ports and seating for eight passengers are listed at MSRP $32,625 including $1,095 destination fee before additional packages or options.

The Highlander LE Plus is equipped with three-zone climate control, synthetic leather-trimmed seats, leather-trimmed steering wheel, Entune audio plus, height-adjustable power liftgate will cost $39,015 including destination before additional packages or options.

The Highlander XLE adds on a smart key system with push-button start, leather-trimmed front and second-row seats, Entune premium audio and navigation system, moonroof, the multi-information display brings the total to $41,975 including destination before additional packages and options.

The Highlander SE upgrades this trim model with 19-inch black finished multi-spoked alloy wheels, sport-tuned suspension, projector halogen black-accent headlights, LED daytime running lights with auto on/off will raise the total cost to $43,195 including the destination fee before additional packages and options.

The Highlander Limited receives a few additional upgrades such as a blind-spot monitor system and rear cross-traffic alert, upgraded premium JBL audio system, 19-inch chromed alloy wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, seating drops to seven as second-row captain's chairs are standard on this trim model bringing the cost to $45,185including the destination fee before additional packages and options and accessories.

The Highlander Limited Platinum adds luxury features and technology to this model such as a panoramic moonroof, bird's eye view 360 surround camera, heated second-row captain's chairs, 19-inch dark chromed alloy wheels and available saddle tan leather seats bring the total cost to $48,305 including destination fee before additional packages, options and accessories.

The Hybrid model's standard features practically mirror the gas-powered models.

The hybrid trim levels prices are as follows; Highlander Hybrid LE costs $38,265 this total includes the destination fee before additional packages, options, and accessories.

Highlander Hybrid XLE costs $43,325; Highlander Hybrid Limited costs $46,805; Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum costs $49,925; all prices listed above include the $1,095 destination fee before additional packages, options, and accessories.

In Summary

The 2019 Highlander is a good value in contrast to its competitors when the stats are all compared. It may not lead the class in any particular category, however, Toyota is known to retain value better than most manufacturers. The Hybrid model will undoubtedly give prospective owners more bang for their buck as fuel efficiency will keep annual gas costs down.

More Photos

See more 2019 Toyota Highlander Photos.