THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Best: An SUV that gives you confidence to drive in any weather.
- What’s Worst: The size of the cabin requires a lot of leaning over to reach the display controls.
- What’s Interesting: Toyota has made it very easy to get in and out of the third-row seating but make sure the smallest members of your family sit back there.
That’s how long it took to drive home to Durham Region from Detroit following the press days at the North American International Auto Show last month.
Highway 401 was covered in snow and slush and I saw a few cars, and one tractor-trailer, leave the highway at inopportune times.
But thanks to the 2017 Toyota Highlander I was driving, I wasn’t one of them.
My in-laws live in London, Ontario so I am very familiar with the drive to that city along Hwy. 401. It can be monotonous, very busy and in winter, downright treacherous.
The snow and ice cancelled Christmas plans there this year but as I headed to Detroit the Sunday before the show, the weather was the furthest thing from my mind.
After dropping my son at Mohawk College in Hamilton I pointed the Highlander towards Detroit, put on some music and sat back to enjoy the ride.
The highway was clear and I was making good time until I got to London where it looked like a full-fledged snowstorm had hit. The snow was at least a few inches deep on the highway and I did consider pulling off the highway and turning around to head home.
But behind the wheel of the Highlander, I had the confidence to press on.
The SUV didn’t waver once in the snow and just like magic, as soon as I hit the other side of London, the snow was gone. The highway was clear and the rest of the drive to Detroit was smooth sailing.
That wasn’t the story for the drive home. And it was during that drive where the Highlander proved its ability to handle the roughest weather.
At no point during my drive from Detroit to Durham was the highway clear. On a few occasions the plows were on the westbound lanes clearing the snow.
My fellow drivers, and there weren’t many, especially between Detroit and Toronto, were not so lucky. I didn’t see one plow in the eastbound lanes.
But confidence is a funny thing.
If I had been driving my 2007 Hyundai Elantra, there was no way I would have been on that highway. In the Highlander, I felt safe. It never once slid and it plowed through the snowdrifts like they were puddles of water.
The Highlander comes in six models.
On the gas side there is the LE V6 FWD, the LE V6 AWD, the XLE V6 AWD and the Limited V6 AWD. On the hybrid side there are two models, the XLE and the Limited.
All Highlanders seat eight but the people in the third row had better be very small or don’t mind sitting with their knees very close to their chest.
My Highlander for the week was the gas-powered XLE V6 AWD which came with an SE option package which added 19-inch alloy wheels, captain’s seats, a sport grille and ambient lighting.
My XLE cost $43,995 but with the option package and taxes it came in at $47,478.
I will say you get a lot for the money with the Highlander. Besides the confidence to tackle any road conditions, the interior was very sharp though because of the size of the SUV’s cabin, I did feel like I had to lean over a lot while adjusting the radio or the heat.
The Highlander has a long list of standard features which includes steering wheel audio controls, which helps to cut down on the need to lean over to the display screen, Siri Eyes Free, four USB charging ports and Toyota’s Safety Sense which includes pre-collision system; auto high beams and dynamic radar cruise control.
The XLE adds a few more features which includes an anti-theft system, an eight-inch display screen, up from 6.1-inch display on the LE FWD and AWD; eight-way adjustable seats and heated front seats.
The gas Highlanders come with a 3.5 litre, six-cylinder engine paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Hybrids also feature a six-cylinder engine, but that’s for another review.
Providing 295 hp the gas Highlander kept up with traffic and always was able to provide enough power when needed.
If you can afford it and are looking for a family vehicle which will let you drive with confidence, the Highlander should be on your must list for a test drive.
2017 Toyota Highlander XLE V6 AWD
BODY STYLE: Four-door, eight-seat, SUV
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine with eight-speed transmission
ENGINE: 3.5-litre V6 (295 hp, 263 lb/ft torque)
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular) 12/8.9/L/100 km, city/highway
CARGO: 83.2 cu ft behind front seats; 42.3 cu ft behind second row seating; 13.8 cu ft behind third-row seats.
TOW RATING: 5,000 lbs.
PRICE: $47,478 which includes $1,595 SE package. The LE V6 FWD model starts at $35,500 while the LE V6 AWD model starts at $37,995.
WEB SITE: www.Toyota.ca