2015 Toyota Highlander Limited review: a strong seller that holds up to abuse

2015 Toyota Highlander Limited Photo 3

Everything a crossover shopper needs (thankfully, excitement isn’t one)

ASSOCIATE EDITOR GRAHAM KOZAK: After a weekend of doing responsible grown-up things in the Highlander (mostly picking up home-improvement supplies, as per usual), I noticed that there were 14,088 miles on the odometer. That’s not a lot in terms of the expected lifetime mileage for a three-row crossover. I’d venture a lot of owners can rack up that sort of mileage in just a few months of kid-toting and grocery getting. But it’s a lot for a fleet car. These things get thrashed, by uh, other drivers. I’m totally responsible.

Anyway, they’re not treated gently, is my point. But short of a mint Lifesaver I spotted in the crevasse between the driver’s seat and the center console — and you know that sucker is never coming out of there — this thing was good as new. Not a shake or a rattle; not a stain on the carpets or seats; not a scratch in that weird hard plastic Toyota likes to use on every non-soft-touch surface.

Not a whole lot of excitement here, either, but that’s probably by design. Steering is light, with nonexistent feel, and the whole deal doesn’t come off as “planted” on the expressway either; frequent minor corrections are needed to keep it pointed straight. All in all, it feels more or less like a minivan with a higher seating position — which, perhaps ironically, is the exact type of vehicle prospective three-row crossover buyers claim they wouldn’t be caught dead in.

The motor actually sounds decent when you rev it, so good on Toyota for that.

For my money, I think the new Pilot has a nicer interior and better road-going manners than the Highlander. But the Honda benefitted from a recent ground-up redesign, so it’s a half-generation or so ahead of the Toyota.

As-is, this is a totally serviceable family-hauler with ample features — yes, including heated and vented front seats. It’s virtually guaranteed to hold up to years and years of use and abuse, but don’t expect it to set your heart aflutter in the process.

2015 Toyota Highlander interior

EDITOR WES RAYNAL: I too was surprised at the mileage. The Highlander felt brand new. Graham is right: Nary a squeak nor rattle in there. Amazing, actually.

This is a hell of an improvement and way less boring than the outgoing Highlander. No it’s not cheap (this one is loaded), but it is illustrative of the length and expense people might go so they don’t have to drive a minivan.

The exterior and interior look a lot better, more handsome and angular outside, better build quality (by quite a margin) and interesting shapes inside, plus more soft-touch materials on the dash and armrests and such. I really like the little shelf running along the bottom of the dash; it’s handy for storing small stuff. All the controls are perfectly logical to use and feel like decent quality — it took about a minute to figure out the functions. That’s nice for a change.

It’s unremarkable to drive (that’s why I mentioned the minivan above), though is almost Lexus-quiet on the road. Body motions feel better controlled than I remember in previous Highlanders. No it’s not thrilling — it’s about as inoffensive as any other crossover out there. Plus it’s less Sienna-like and, as I said, quite a bit less dull. With all-wheel drive this would make the perfect Detroit winter car, and no doubt it’d last a long time based on the mileage on this one.

So Toyota has a solid trucklet on its hands here and a big improvement over the outgoing Highlander. Pulse-quickening it ain’t, but everything a premium(ish) three-row crossover shopper could want is right here. Toyota has moved almost 105,000 of these so far this year, blowing away the other three-row crossovers. So there’s your verdict.

Options: Rear-seat Blu-ray DVD entertainment system with 9-inch display, RCA jacks, remote and two wireless headphones ($1,810); Drive technology package including safety connect, pre-collision system with dynamic radar cruise control and lane-departure alert with automatic high-beam headlights ($1,400); carpet floor mats and cargo mat ($225)

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