The Highlander has been a favourite of ours in the three-row crossover segment since it was fully redesigned in 2014. In our head-to-head testing it beat out the Hyundai Santa Fe XL that year, which had been the winner of that year's mid-size SUV comparison test. In 2016, it finished fourth. We praised it for cargo space, flexibility, and ride comfort. It can't offer the value of the Kia Sorento, or the fun-to-drive of the Mazda CX-9, but the Hybrid model offers exceptional fuel economy to go with the already excellent interior storage and use of space. For 2017, Highlander gets more safety, a revised engine, and updated styling. It also gets four more USB charge ports inside.
The Highlander offers great visibility out the front, although blind spots to the rear can hinder efforts to park the SUV. The surround view camera on Limited trims helps solve that issue. The seats are very comfortable and the heat or cooling (if equipped) is easily to adjust to just how you want it. The dash is home to a shelf about half-way up and running almost the full width of the car, that shelf is a great place to hold your phone, glasses, change, or whatever else you want to store. There's even a path for your phone charger to run from the shelf down to the stereo input.
The Highlander gets a bold new grille this year, and some revised styling. The new upper grille is smaller, but the bottom is larger. the new nose is a definite improvement over the old one. There are also slightly changed taillights to match.
The engine is a revised 3.5L V6 that has three electric motors. The system now makes 306 hp, 10 more than the conventional Highlander. All models are all-wheel drive, and use a continuously variable transmission. Somewhat uniquely, the all-wheel drive system uses an electric motor in the rear instead of a driveshaft running back from the front. Along with this, Toyota has given the hybrid system torque vectoring that applies power to individual wheels to improve handling and stability. The Highlander Hybrid is estimated to get 8.1/8.5 L/100 km city/highway in both trims.
Toyota has stepped up the active safety systems, adding Safety Sense P as standard on all trims. That gives it forward collision warning and automatic braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warnings with steering assist, automatic high-beams, and radar cruise control. That gives it one of the best active safety suites around.
For 2017 the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is available in two trims, XLE and Limited. XLE has three-zone climate control, navigation, artist and song display for the audio, power driver and passenger's seat along with leather for all seats and heating for the front row, leather door trim and steering wheel, and rear door sunshades. There is navigation and an 8.0-inch touchscreen.
Top trim Limited adds a heated steering wheel and JBL 12-speaker audio system. The middle row is now heated Captain's chairs and the front seats are ventilated. All rows are perforated leather. There is an exterior surround view camera, woodgrain trim, and 19-inch alloys. Limited also gets a panoramic sunroof.