The Highlander was completely redesigned in 2014 and no changes were made in 2015. Named as Kelly Blue Book’s best value in the mid-sized crossover SUV group and the top safety pick in its class, it is a highly-praised vehicle ideal for a growing family. In addition, Toyota vehicles maintain their value better than most other vehicle brands due to their reliability, dependability and longevity.
Toyota introduced the Highlander in 2001 and the third generation model, which came out in 2014, is the best version yet. It is a little longer and wider than previous versions making it even more spacious and comfortable. With eight passenger seating standard on the Highlander LE, LE Plus and XLE trims, it competes well with Luxury SUV’s that are considerably more expensive.
Trim Levels, Options & Pricing
The 2015 Toyota Highlander is available in five trim levels. The LE is the base model Highlander. Even at this level, it is well equipped and comes standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery, 6-way power seat for the driver and a 4-way power seat for the passenger, heated rearview mirrors, automatic headlamps, cruise control and standard rear view camera. Also included with the LE is Bluetooth phone connectivity a 6.1-inch central touchscreen and voice controlled audio.
The LE Plus adds a flip up window on the rear hatch, as well as and power lift gate with adjustable height and the upholstery gets an upgraded to synthetic leather. Satellite and HD radio are also standard on the LE Plus.
When you step up to the XLE a sunroof is added, as well as a roof rack, leather upholstery for the front and rear seats, with the third row wrapped in synthetic leather. The drivers display gets an upgrade on this trim level offering an 8-inch display with Navigation.
The Limited comes shod with 19-inch wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, driver memory functions, blind spot monitoring, rear parking sensors, rear cross-traffic alerts and a JBL audio system with twelve speakers.
The top of the line Highlander Platinum comes with all of the above and replaces the sunroof of the former models with a panoramic sunroof, heated seats for the second row and a heated steering wheel.
The XLE, Limited and Platinum models can be ordered with second row captains seats which gives the Highlander seating capacity for seven, offering your passengers ample leg and elbow room. When trimmed as the LE or LE Plus there are not factory options available on the Highlander. However, the lengthy list of standard features does not warrant much in the way of options.
The Highlander LE is the only model available with the 2.7 – liter four cylinder engine, which is rated at 185 horsepower and produces 184-pound feet of torque. Coupled to a six-speed front wheel drive automatic transmission, the engine has ample power but strains a bit under load according to reviewers. It returns an estimated 20/25 mpg, city/highway with a combined average of 22 mpg.
The 3.5-liter V6 is available as an option on the LE and is the standard power on all other trim levels. Turning out 270 horsepower and 248-pound feet of torque and using the same six-speed transmission the V6 powered Highlander can be configured in either front wheel or all-wheel drive (AWD). The Platinum model comes standard with AWD.
When powered with the V6 the Highlander returns an estimated 19/25, city/highway mpg with a combined estimate of 21 mpg combined. When configured with AWD the mpg drops to an estimated 18/24, city/why. Towing capacity for the Highlander when equipped with the 2.7 liter four is 1500 lbs. When equipped with the V6 the capacity jumps to 5000 pounds. This substantial increase over the 2.7 liter power plant will enable you to tow bigger toys.
The Highlander boasts the highest safety standard offered by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. Features that contributed to that rating are standard four wheel anti-lock disc brakes, traction and stability control, rear view camera, headrests for all passengers, drivers knee airbag, front airbags and full length side curtain airbags to keep occupants safe in the event of a collision.
Other safety features include a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, which is standard on the Limited trim. When you add the Driver Technology package that is standard on the Platinum you get a lane departure warning system, frontal collision warning and mitigation systems and Toyota’s Safety Connect system that provides emergency service, automatic collision notification and stolen vehicle notification.
Interior Design and Best Features
With an interior that is more like a high-end sedan than that of other crossovers, the Toyota Highlander provides a refined cabin free of hard plastics and cramped spaces. There is ample head and leg room in the front and second rows, allowing your passengers plenty of space to stretch out. The second row can slide forward 5 inches making the 3rd row easier to access or to provide additional leg room to the people in the back. The third row is tolerable for all but the tallest adults, but long journeys should be limited to small children. Numerous storage compartments provide space for all of your gear. Hauling people and cargo is not a problem for the Highlander.
As one of the quickest SUV’s on the market when powered with the V6, the Highlander is no slouch in the acceleration department. Add to this the double wishbone suspension, and the Highlander is a well-mannered (yet not particularly fun) vehicle to drive. When equipped with AWD the Dynamic Torque-Control system manages engine power by shifting power from the front to rear in conjunction with the braking system to make your Highlander is surefooted when the weather and road conditions become a challenge.