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  • 2018 Toyota Highlander

    Posted on October 26th, 2018 ninarussin

    Family-friendly midsize crossover

    By Nina Russin

    2018 Toyota Highlander

    The midsize Highlander is an alternative for growing families who need minivan functionality but don’t like the one-box style. With three rows of seating, an Easy Speak feature that lets parents communicate with the third row via a microphone in the rearview mirror and the newest version of Toyota’s Safety Sense Plus, the Highlander is as comfortable taking the soccer team to Saturday practice as it is on summer road trips.

    Base price for the SE grade tested is $40,090 excluding the $995 destination charge. Standard convenience features include power heated front seats, power folding third-row seats, Toyota Entune infotainment system, second row captain’s chairs, Bluetooth and USB interface, keyless entry and start, power liftgate and power moonroof. A rear seat Blu-Ray entertainment system is available as an option. Other options on the test car include carpeted floor and cargo mats and rear bumper protection, bringing the final MSRP to $43,188.

    Test drive in Southern Arizona

    2018 Toyota Highlander

    I drove the newest Highlander through Phoenix, Arizona’s east valley including the cities of Tempe, Chandler and Gilbert, as well as the I-10 freeway between Phoenix and Tucson and rural roads in the Gila River Indian Community south of town. With plenty of power from its V-6 engine and fuel-saving eight-speed automatic transmission, the newest Highlander should fill the squares for families on the go. Five-thousand-pound towing capacity means families can easily hook up a boat or small trailer for summer camping trips.

    Average fuel economy is 23 miles-per-gallon according-to the EPA. A four-cylinder version averages a mile-per-gallon more, but has very little towing capacity and unlike the 3.5-liter vehicle, is not available with all-wheel drive. Since curb weight on the Highlander is over 4,000-pounds, the larger engine is a better choice for all-around performance, with a big difference in acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic.

    2018 Toyota Highlander

    Being aware that parents with kids in the car are always multi-tasking, Toyota engineers included a lot of safety features that help drivers see better and maintain control of the vehicle, including a rearview camera, lane-keeping assist and blind spot monitoring. The Highlander’s thick rear pillars create some large blind spots in the back of the vehicle and because of its high profile, there is a large blind area beneath the rear glass. The assistive technology enables drivers to change lanes more easily in dense traffic, and-also keep an eye on kids who may be playing in the driveway.

    An electric power steering system gives the Highlander a 38.7-foot turning circle. That might not sound very impressive, but it’s pretty-good for a vehicle with a 109.8-inch wheelbase. On-center response is on the soft side, but drivers should feel a good enough connection to the wheels to make quick lane changes with confidence.

    2018 Toyota Highlander

    The upscale SE grade runs on 19-inch wheels, giving the car a fat footprint for better high-speed performance. A stabilizer bar on the front axle keeps the chassis flat in the corners.

    A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts up front and double wishbone multi-link setup in the back. The double wishbone’s compact geometry enables engineers to maximize room in all three rows of seating as well as the cargo area.

    Ventilated disc brakes up front and solid rotors in the rear stop the Highlander in firm, linear fashion.

    Family-friendly interior

    Toyota Highlander Interior

    The Highlander’s dimensions have grown considerably since the car’s initial introduction, in-order-to provide more space inside for growing families. Most families need three rows of seating, if not for their own kids, for friends who are often traveling in the vehicle with them. The current interior enables seven passengers to ride in comfort, with good access and egress to the third row.

    Three-zone climate control on all but the base model keeps all passengers comfortable in temperature extremes.

    With third-row seats folded flat, there is plenty of room inside for bicycles, skis, snowboards and camping equipment. The power liftgate makes it much easier to load large items into the cargo area.

    In keeping with its no-fuss philosophy, controls for the infotainment system are intuitive to operate, with knobs for simple operations such as audio tuning and volume, so drivers don’t have to worry about multiple clicks into the touchscreen. Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to read in bright sunlight and after dark.

    I found the power driver’s seat easy to adjust for a clear forward view with ample lower lumbar support. Storage around the front of the cabin provides plenty of space for purses, small packs, tablets and the like, with multiple USB ports for plugging in phones and audio devices.

    Standard safety

    The Toyota Highlander comes with eight airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, tire pressure monitoring, autonomous braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive radar cruise control, automatic high beams, lane departure warning and assist. The upscale SE version adds LED daytime running lamps.

    The Highlander received a five-star overall crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

    Like: A versatile three-row crossover vehicle for families on the go, with plenty of power for acceleration off the line and large overdrive gears for cruising on the highway.

    Dislike: While its larger dimensions make the Highlander’s interior roomier, the long wheelbase makes it harder to park, especially on the street.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Toyota
    Model: Highlander SE
    Year: 2018
    Base price: $40,090
    As tested: $43,186
    Horsepower: 295 HP @ 6600 rpm
    Torque: 263 lbs.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Towing: Yes
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 21/27 mpg city/highway

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