Full Review: 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited AWD

Images from the review of the 2016 Toyota Highlander

2016 Toyota Highlander

Rating:Star4 Star Star Star Star

Tested:

Model: 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited AWD.

Drivetrain: 3.5 V6 engine VVT-i engine with 270HP @ 6,200 rpm and 248 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm.

Price as tested: $42,775 USD ($48,841.97 CAD) – $29,990 base ($33,555 CAD).

Infotainment: 8” LDC touch sensitive screen with advanced voice-to-text, reverse camera, navigation and Bluetooth audio.

Comfort: Ventilated heated and cooled driver and passenger seats, ventilated heated captain’s chairs second row. Full soft touch leather finish.

Overview:

Toyota has a long and storied history of excellent four wheel drive vehicles. The crossover SUV market is a crowded one, and Toyota has a solid contender in their current generation of Highlander. Built on a proven and reliable drivetrain, the Highlander is a smooth, comfortable ride in all road conditions. AWD mode selection lets you customize how the AWD interacts with the road using Toyota’s Active Torque Control System. There is a distinctive style to the Highlander, giving it a subdued, muscular look.

Inside you’ll find a well laid out interior. There is good space for front and second row passengers. Captain’s chairs for all four are amply padded and spacious. Comfort comes at a cost for the third row, which is tight for adults with passengers in the second row. Trunk space is average for this class, affording limited space with the third row up. A beautiful single panel panoramic moon roof makes the interior feel even more spacious. Toyota has given the Highlander a delightfully simple, yet functional, dashboard. Voice to text in this crossover is impeccable, easily the best of its class.

Scores:

Performance/Mileage 7/10

Comfort/Ride 8/10

Practicality 3/5

Entertainment/Infotainment 9/10

Reliability Index 5/5

Total: 32/45 3.5/5 stars

Performance/Mileage:

There is a distinctly different driving dynamic about the Toyota Highlander, when compared to others in the crossover segment. Great effort has been put into making a stable, reliable, quiet and smooth ride. It shows. Powered by a smooth VVT-i 3.5L V6, producing 270hp at 6,200 rpm, the Highlander has plenty of power at a range of speeds. Active Torque Control System keeps the power distributed across all four wheels. The highlander is comfortable and stable, even in half a foot of fresh snowfall. On the freeway, the Highlander kept pace and settled into a cruise speed very comfortably. There is little road noise, or engine noise, during hard acceleration. The Highlander’s power bands mean the vehicle has good towing capability, hauling 5,500lbs (2,500kg).

Toyota posts mileage numbers of 18mpg (13.1L/100km) city and 24mpg (9.8L/100km) highway. Test results ended with an average of 18.2mpg (13.3L/100km), with an even mix of city and highway driving. It was difficult to get the Highlander to hit under 24mpg (10L/100km) on the freeway, putting it behind some of the others in the class. However, after speaking with other current owners of this Highlander generation, it seemed these numbers were outliers. Most commented their mileage is on par, or slightly better, than Toyota’s posted numbers.

Comfort/Ride:

Some would consider the Highlander’s ride muted in comparison with others. But, it proved to be a crowd pleaser on long drives, both with adults, and with a family. Rough roads and potholes were all but unnoticed. Steering radius is a bit wide, but turning and handling is good overall. The Highlander’s cabin is solidly built, deadening out nearly all the road noise. Ride height and suspension gives the Highlander a slight truck-like ride. This is a good thing, as it aids visibility, and helps the Highlander feel like it can tackle all sorts of less-than-desirable passages with ease.

Front and second row seats provide a lot of support and comfort for passengers. There is amble foot, hip and headroom in the second row. Adjustability gives a selection of positions for passengers of all heights. Heating and cooling for driver and passenger add to the tri-zone, filtered climate control. There was no ride fatigue typically associated with longer highway hauls. Third row seats are well padded and comfortable, but legroom is limited with adults in the second row. There is plenty of room for kids in the back, who can access the seats relatively easily.

Practicality:

There are some nifty little practical elements to the Highlander. Plastic covered steps keep mud and dirt from building up as people climb into the rear seats. Second row seats fold forward quickly, providing a sizable gap for entry. They’re also light, so they can be moved by nearly anyone in the family. A fold down cup holding tray in the second row provides convenience, without sacrificing access. Front arm rests are replaced by a cavernous center console, which height is still comfortable to rest on. A favorite is the padded shelf which runs the length of the dashboard, under the infotainment unit. It proved a useful, and convenient, place to stash things like a wallet, cellphone and keys. Toyota placed a hidden powered USB jack nearby, providing easy charging.

Aside from the front USB jack, it did seem to be lacking in others. Rear space for baggage is quite limited when the third row is in use. Family trips had to be made without items like the stroller. Ride height did make it difficult for young kids to get in and out of the vehicle, and limited the interior height. While a very comfortable and reliable vehicle, with more than four passengers, it may be difficult to find space for any kind of carried luggage, even for short trips.

Entertainment/Infotainment:

A big win for Toyota in the Highlander. A deceptively simple, wonderfully intuitive, interface. Buttons are touch sensitive, as opposed to physical buttons. Response is fast and accurate. Navigating the user interface had a short learning curve, and can be done easily by voice. Voice to text in the Highlander is a master class. Accuracy is surprisingly high, even with high levels of ambient noise. While the screen does prompt with menu options, the system easily interprets statements with decent guesses at what is trying to be accomplished. Getting the system to find nearby points of interest is a snap. You’re greeted with “how can I help you”, and the system means it.

There is a DVD option lacking at this trim, but the single panel moon roof is a nice trade-off. Many driving aids, like lane keep and adaptive cruise control, have yet to find themselves onto the Highlander Limited. They are, however, available in the Hybrid Limited trim. Audio comes via a well-designed 12 speaker JBL Synthesis audio system. While a subwoofer placed in the rear tailgate did produce occasional rattling, surround sound balances throughout the cabin nicely. Bluetooth controls are displayed in tandem with one or two other panes on the LCD home screen. Three screen layout is very useful, giving navigation, fuel and trip information, along with basic audio controls and information. As a whole, Toyota’s infotainment system in the Highlander sets the bar to beat.

Reliability:

The 2016 Toyota Highlander is the second year of a 2014 model year redesign. Reliability data comes from truedelta.com, a collection of owner surveys for thousands of vehicles. Scores are based on repair trips per 100 vehicles, with small sample size data omitted.

The Toyota Highlander scores an average of 23 repair trips per 100 vehicles, giving it a “good” rating. Toyota has an excellent reliability history, with many of their vehicles scoring the best on TrueDelta. The Highlander is no exception. You can expect very good reliability from the 2016 Toyota Highlander.

Conclusion:

The 2016 Highlander provides a very comfortable, pleasant driving experience. Toyota’s advanced voice-to-text infotainment is top of the industry in function. There are a lot of well-designed small practical elements. Topped with a sturdy drivetrain and capable AWD, Toyota’s 2016 Highlander is a smart choice for the reliability conscious buyer.

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