Entry Price: $31,530
Price as Tested: $44,127
This week, we’re reviewing the 2019 Toyota Highlander, delivered in SE trim with All Wheel Drive (AWD) mechanicals. Following a refresh in 2016, Toyota Highlander offers excellent midsize SUV accommodations with room for seven or eight passengers depending on the second row seat design. Highlander continues to be one of Toyota’s best-selling vehicles overall and boasts “recommended” and “best buy” ratings year-after-year from the major consumer publications.
Looking back, Highlander first appeared in North America in 2001 and was assembled on the Toyota Camry platform. Highlander quickly became one of the most popular SUV/Crossovers in America along with sibling and smaller Toyota RAV4. Nowadays, it seems the biggest decision prospective Toyota consumers have to make is whether to buy a Highlander or a RAV4. This reality equates to “all is well” for the Toyota brand, be it Highlander or RAV4.
Sales numbers you ask? In 2018, 244,511 Highlanders were sold, a new record and easily breaking the old high mark of 215,775 units sold in 2017. If you want a more rugged body-on-chassis based 4x4, Toyota’s 4Runner is still one of the better choices along with big brother full-size Toyota Sequoia.
A total of eight Highlanders are available for 2019, amongst them five internal combustion Highlanders and three hybrids. The entry LE starts at just $31,530 retail and comes with a 185-horse four-cylinder coupled to a six-speed automatic. Once you move up to XLE ($39,420) and above, a V6 with an eight-speed automatic is standard across the board all the way up to the most expensive non-hybrid Limited at $42,640. The three hybrids (starting at $37,170) are all AWD and use the V6, but rely on a special continuously variable automatic (CVT) instead of the eight-speed units.
Built in Princeton, Indiana, and still sharing Camry platform underpinnings, our Highlander SE starts at $40,640 and delivers decent room for seven passengers thanks to its third row bench seat. Ease of access to the third row is notable, although adults might find that longer trips in row three more burdensome than not. Still, your kids and the family dog will fit just fine as third rows in this class are always tight.
Our SE AWD tester featured a Dynamic Torque Control AWD system which operates in either fully automatic or a locked, push button, snow mode. Your dealer will gladly explain all trims, prices and specifications.
The Highlander SE sits just below the top line Limited and comes loaded with standard luxury features. Unlike the entry LE, the SE features an upgraded sport suspension system for better handling while still delivering a quiet ride. On the highway, Highlander is both responsive and very comfy while in town its midsize format makes parking and negotiating corners easier.
Most notable is the aforementioned and enhanced 3.5-liter V6 engine, offering more power and acceleration while delivering better fuel economy than previous V6 engines that powered Highlanders along the way. Delivering a stout 295 horsepower and 263 lb. ft of torque, you’ll enjoy peppy acceleration and decent 20 city and 26 highway EPA estimates for an AWD vehicle. Tow capacity is also notable as the V6 Highlanders can tow up to 5,000 pounds.
The V6’s eight-speed automatic helps with the fuel mileage as multi-gearing aids both acceleration and highway cruising. I recommend the V6 with the eight-speed over the four cylinder with the six speed. However, if you opt for a front-drive LE, the V6 with the eight-speed is an option, as is AWD.
Today’s Highlander is a far cry from the first generation, as is expected. Huge improvements in luxury amenities and ride are welcome evolutions, especially when you select the higher priced SE and Limited models. Starting with SE’s perforated leather seating to its new third generation look, you’ll be quite pleased with the final presentation.
SE standard equipment is extensive. Included are three zone climate control with first and second row controls, projector beam halogen headlights, safety rear camera as part of Toyota Safety Sense, power liftgate with jam protection, lots of cup holders, five USB ports, Smart Key keyless entry, push button start, power tilt/slide moonroof, sliding second row captain seats, 50/40 split fold forward bench third row seat, 19-inch tires on great looking black chrome alloy wheels, heated front seating, Premium Entune Stereo system with Navigation, smart cruise control and much more. However, absent is Apple/Android compatibility, both common on competitors and even the RAV4.
Noteworthy for 2019 is safety, as each and every Highlander features Toyota’s Safety Sense system, resulting in solid Five Star overall government safety ratings. Included are emergency braking, accident avoidance, large rear safety backup camera, pre-collision with pedestrian detection, and lane departure with steering assist. The SE adds blind spot and rear cross traffic to the safety list.
A recommended option is Toyota’s “paint protection film” that costs $395 more but assures no paint chipping from the usual debris particles that come our way while motoring.
Other options include all weather floor mats and liners for $269; rear bumper protector for $139, emergency assistance kit for $59; and $209 for body side moldings. Delivery of $1,095 pushed the final tally to $44,127 retail, but check with your Toyota salespeople for lease incentives and buyer discounts.
Important numbers include a wheelbase of 109.8 inches, 4,508 lb. curb weight, from 13.8 to 83.7 cu. ft. of cargo space, 8.0 inch ground clearance, 38.7 ft. turn circle, and a 19.2 gallon fuel tank.
Toyota Highlander for 2019 is a good looking and extremely reliable SUV that still stands out against the competition.
Likes: Toyota quality, V6 power, looks, great resale value.
Dislikes: Third row seat snug for adults, no Apple/Android feature.
Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 303 Roosevelt St., Sayre, PA 18840.
Test Drive: 2019 Toyota Highlander SE
Entry Price: $31,530