2017 Toyota Highlander Brings New Engine, Fresh Design to New York

The updates to the 2017 Toyota Highlander focus on something that’s near and dear to the family shoppers who purchase the three-row crossover: efficiency. Along with a visual update, the refreshed Highlander also receives many changes aimed at reducing fuel consumption.

For starters, the Highlander’s 3.5-liter V-6 will be replaced by a new, more efficient direct-injection V-6 engine, with its six-speed automatic replaced by an eight-speed transmission. Though Toyota has not released any figures, the company promises “significantly more” than the outgoing engine’s 270 hp, while improving efficiency from the 19/25 mpg (city/highway) figures of the 2016 front-drive model. Engine stop-start will also come standard with the engine. The base Highlander LE continues with its 2.7-liter inline-four engine.

Toyota is also making hybrid power more accessible to shoppers by offering the Highlander Hybrid in LE and XLE trim levels, which slot below the Limited and Platinum trims that were already available. The 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid’s powertrain is unchanged, consisting of a 231-hp V-6 engine, a 68-hp electric drive motor, and a continuously variable transmission, with all-wheel drive as standard.

Fresh look, sportier options

As befits a refresh, the 2017 Toyota Highlander also gets a hefty makeover. All models have a new front fascia design, while each specific trim level has its own upper grille design. There are new exterior paint colors, a new chrome bumper trim piece on Limited and Platinum models, four more USB ports for charging gadgets, and an available brown leather interior choice.

Toyota is also bringing its SE treatment to the Highlander, giving the model a dark-trimmed front grille, dark roof rails, and tinted headlight housings. Nineteen-inch wheels and sportier suspension tuning live up to the SE billing, while the interior receives special black leather seats. On other Toyota models, the company’s SE trim levels have been popular sellers, though it remains to be seen how interested family shoppers are in spicing up the practical, sensible Highlander.

What family buyers will appreciate is that the 2017 Toyota Highlander comes standard with the Toyota Safety Sense suite of crash-avoidance tech. The package includes pre-collision warning and braking, lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams. A blind-spot warning system becomes standard, rather than optional, on the XLE, and the Highlander Limited Platinum adds a 360-degree camera system with a special viewing mode called Perimeter Scan.

The 2017 Toyota Highlander will be on display next week at the New York auto show and goes on sale this fall.

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