THE PROS & CONS
Few vehicles offer eight-passenger seating like the Highlander.
The Highlander’s Interior is much more refined, it has the ability to tow 2,286 kg (5,000 lb) and has an expanded interior space.
On another note, the highlander has less room in the third row than some competitors and the exterior styling not terribly flashy.
Mid-size 2015 Toyota Highlander crossover SUV is better than ever.
Toyota Motor Corporation has been a success story worldwide by refusing to sit on its laurels. Over the years, Toyota has consistently made good vehicles even better and that’s a major reason why the Japanese automaker has stayed at the top of the global sales list for three years in a row.
One only needs to look at a model like the Toyota Highlander, a mid-size crossover SUV, to see why Toyota has been so successful.
The Highlander has been sold in North America since 2001, and as my Metroland colleague Jim Robinson puts it, while the Subaru Forester arguably invented the SUV/CUV class, Toyota took it to a new level with the debut of the Highlander.
“Based on a modified Camry platform, it offered passenger car-like ride and handling that was light years ahead of the body-on-frame truck-based SUVs that were the mainstay at the time,” Robinson wrote in his first drive review of the 2014 Highlander.
So why the continued success of the Highlander?
For starters, it does so many things well. It is smooth, quiet and comfortable on the road with room for up to eight people. It is available in front- or all-wheel drive and powered by a 3.5-litre DOHC V6 engine. Four trim levels are offered on the Highlander and three on a gas-electric Highlander Hybrid model that is also offered.
Since its debut in 2001 the Highlander has continued to improve and evolve. In fact, members of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) thought so much of the 2015 Highlander that it was recently named Best New SUV/CUV ($35,000-$60,000).
Driving and Handling
The Highlander is equipped with a 270 hp 3.5-litre DOHC V6 engine, mated with a six-speed automatic transmission and making 248 lb/ft of torque. Front- and all-wheel drive are available.
Natural Resources Canada Fuel Consumption Ratings for the XLE AWD model we tested are 13.0/9.8/11.6 L/100 km city/hwy/combined.
The ride is smooth and comfortable in the Highlander. In AJAC Car of the Year testing, the Highlander did 0-100 km/h in 7.9 seconds and 80-120 km/h in 6.1 seconds. Braking from 100km/h-0 took 42.2 metres. Tow rating is 2,286 kg (5,000 lb).
Now in its third generation, the Highlander sits on the same wheelbase as the previous generation, but interior space is significantly improved. In fact, there is 34 per cent more cargo volume (391 litres) behind the third-row seats than in the previous generation. A huge console sits between the front bucket seats and there are numerous storage cubbies and beverage holders throughout.
There are two seating configurations (seven persons with first- and second-row captain’s chairs or eight person seating). Getting into the third row is made easier with the addition of a one-step second-row sliding seat function that provides nearly three more inches of space for easier entry and exit to the third row.
The interior has been upgraded significantly with great use of soft-touch materials and a variety of premium standard features including a 6.1-inch display audio system with touch screen, dual zone automatic front and rear climate control, power door locks with keyless entry and tilt/telescoping steering column.
Of course, as you move up the trim ladder, the amenities become more plentiful.
The 2015 Highlander has cleaner lines and less of a boxy look than in the past, but styling is still on the conservative side.
The four trim levels include the entry-level LE FWD ($31,375) and the LE AWD ($34,875). Our tester was a mid-level XLE AWD ($40,595), while the Limited AWD ($45,795) tops the model ladder.
The bottom line
Anyone in the market for a mid-size crossover shouldn’t ignore the 2015 Toyota Highlander. The Highlander has been one of the top mid-size CUVs on the market for years because it does so many things well and offers seating.