The 2016 Toyota Highlander, which represents the third year of the model’s current generation, remains a top contender among family-friendly crossover Sports Utility Vehicle (SUVs). For buyers repelled by minivans or those, who do not need a V8-powered toy-hauling behemoth, the three-row Highlander hits the sweet spot, offering front or all-wheel-drive, a choice of four-cylinder or V6 engines, and five distinct trim levels, each with a successively longer list of features.
Regardless of trim level, the Highlander stands out by virtue of its spacious and comfortable cabin. Second-row seating is a choice of three-across bench seating or captain’s chairs with a side table. The refined V6 and smooth six-speed automatic transmission deliver effortless acceleration and make the Highlander one of the quickest big crossovers around. There are also plenty of contemporary tech tools and smartphone-integrated services, anchored by an eight-inch high-resolution touchscreen display in the higher trim levels.
For 2016, Toyota keeps the Highlander essentially unchanged. There is a new standard towing package that makes all V6 models capable of towing up to 5,000 pounds.
The 2016 Toyota Highlander is a three-row midsize crossover offered in LE, LE Plus, XLE, Limited and Limited Platinum trim levels. Eight-passenger seating is standard on the LE, LE Plus and XLE, while seven-passenger seating (featuring second-row captain’s chairs instead of a three-person bench) is optional on the XLE and standard on the Limited and Limited Platinum. Note that the related Highlander Hybrid is reviewed separately.
The base Highlander LE comes standard with front-wheel drive and a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine rated at 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The only transmission is a six-speed automatic. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 22 mpg combined (20 mpg city/25 mpg highway), which is barely better than the ratings for the stronger V6 engine.
That 3.5-liter V6 is optional on the LE and standard on all other trims. It is rated at 270 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque.
The 2016 Toyota Highlander comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, front seat side airbags, a driver knee airbag, a front passenger seat-cushion airbag and full-length side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is also standard.
The Limited trim gets a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, and its optional Driver Technology package (standard on Limited Platinum) adds a frontal collision warning and mitigation system (with automatic braking), lane-departure warning and Toyota’s Safety Connect telematics (emergency assistance, stolen-vehicle location and automatic collision notification). Unfortunately, these items are unavailable on lesser Highlander trims.