Toyota’s Highlander continues to be a mainstay in the company’s lineup. From its earliest beginnings the Highlander has found a favorite spot in the lives of active and growing families. This SUV has also been particularly popular with empty-nesters who have grandchildren they need to transport to and fro.
While a four-cylinder engine is available, most buyers are more prone to opt for the V-6 for its higher level of performance with little penalty in economy. The 2.7-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine produces 185 horsepower and 184 lb-ft. of torque and has an EPA rating of 20 miles per gallon in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. On the other hand sits the 3.5-liter V-6 gasoline engine that develops 270 horsepower and 248 lb-ft. of torque while getting a respectable 19 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway for the front wheel drive version. The all-wheel drive model sees a minor drop to 18 city and 24 highway. So, beyond the small increase in sticker price there is little to keep buyers from stepping up to the more powerful V-6 engine and the added performance it offers.
My test Highlander was a top of the line, Limited Platinum Hybrid model combining the V-6 gasoline engine with the electric hybrid system increasing horsepower by 10. Not only is this system seamless in its transitions there is an increase in mpg, mainly in city driving, where most hybrids shine better than on the highway. The Highlander Hybrid is rated at 27 mpg city and 28 mpg highway. As you can see there is a substantial increase in fuel economy while driving in city conditions.
If you are a frequent follower of my scribbling you know I am not a big fan of Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVT). Most are like stuffing your vehicles power through a bowl of pasta. There are many vehicle manufacturers working at getting their CVTs to be better in visceral feel and the act of getting the power flowing to the drive axles. Toyota is one, at least with their hybrid systems. The Highlander felt responsive as I drove through city streets as well as on the highway. Out on country roads it will not supply those sports car dreams.
The 2016 Highlanders carries a long list of options and features through five distinct trim level designations, all of which are configured in third row seating. The entry level, if you could call it that, begins with the LE, moving up through the levels with LE Plus, XLE, Limited and top of the line Limited Platinum. The LE, LE Plus and XLE are configured with full eight-passenger seating with bench seating in second and third rows. Pick the XLE and you can opt up for the second row captain chairs, which are standard on the Limited and Limited Platinum. Added to the captain chair is a nice fold out shelf complete with cub holders. Flipping the shelf out takes away the ability to pass through to the third row, however it stows quickly when no longer needed.
Occasionally I get a kick out of how vehicle companies describe a new feature. Toyota has a humorous manner with which they describe what they call Driver Easy Speak. Quoted from their press release; “…should those in the “way-back” need some occasional corrective instruction, there’s no need to shout from the front. Driver Easy Speak (standard on XLE and Limited grades)
works like a high-tech bullhorn, using a microphone to carry the driver’s or co-pilot’s voice through the audio system’s rear speakers”. No explanation needed. Don’t make me stop this car!
All-wheel drive is one of the most misunderstood attributes one can have on your vehicle. AWD is very different from Four-Wheel Drive systems found on serious off-roaders and pickup trucks. Yes, AWD is quite advantageous to have during inclement weather, but it can be just as beneficial in dry conditions. AWD found on the Highlander uses electronics to control the transfer of power to the correct wheels. Input from sensors monitoring speed, steering and throttle govern transfer of power from 100 percent at the front wheels to 50:50 front to rear, keeping the Highlander on the go. In low-speed situations the driver can flip an AWD LOCK button to hold a 50/50 split in more challenging conditions. And, your passengers can watch an illustration of all this happening in real time on the information display on the center dash.
Grab a 2016 Toyota Highlander and you get an attractive exterior design with a comfortable and feature laden passenger compartment. The 2016 highlander allows your six to seven passengers to while away the drive. No matter if you are heading downtown for the opera or out to the country to visit the grandparents, the Highlander will keep you secure and comfortable while adding a bit of fun along the way.