Q: What do the Toyota Camry and the Toyota Highlander SUV have in common? A: Everything!
The Camry and Highlander both share the same basic architecture and “platform.” Also, the 2005 Highlander Hybrid was among the first crossover SUV hybrids on the market – among many “firsts” for Toyota and their hybrid vehicles.
The original Toyota Highlander remains a pioneer in the now-expansive midsize crossover category, continuing to draw accolades for its exemplary safety features, performance and overall drivability.
Still a three-row family SUV with seating for up to eight, the 2019 Highlander gas model remains available in LE, LE Plus, XLE, SE and Limited grades, all available in either FWD or AWD. The hybrid model is offered in LE, XLE, and Limited grades.
The Highlander offers great performance thanks to the 3.5-liter D-4S Injection V6. Coupled with the Direct Shift –8-speed automatic transmission, the powerful engine also has better EPA fuel economy estimates for all-wheel drive models: EPA-estimated 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway.
With its independent rear suspension, comfort is Job #1. A super-tight body structure, combined with finely tuned MacPherson strut front suspension and a multi-link rear suspension, endow the Highlander with an exceptionally smooth ride. Sound-control features include hydraulic engine mounts, acoustic-type windshield glass, a dash silencer and extensive body sealing.
All-wheel drive availability is a given with SUVs, and the V6 Highlander offers an exemplary system. Dynamic Torque Control AWD is a sophisticated driving partner that helps the vehicle through all sorts of slippery situations.
Pricing starts at $31,830 for a well-equipped SE model (tested).
Within the Toyota family, “SE” signifies a model with an added dash of sportiness in the styling and handling. The Highlander SE looks the part with dark paint treatment for the front grille, headlamp housings and roof rails, along with unique 19-inch wheels. The SE treatment gives Highlander more than just an athletic look. Specially tuned front and rear suspension tightens handling agility, giving it more athletic driving manners, too.
Inside, unique black leather-trimmed seats feature striking red stitching and pattern inserts, plus matching dark dash and door accents. The SE comes as a V6-powered model in FWD or AWD in the seven-seat configuration.
We drove the very first Highlander Hybrid back in 2005, and it’s been among our favorites since then. The Highlander Hybrid comes in a choice of LE, XLE and Limited Grades. Its Hybrid Synergy Drive system also uses the direct-injection 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine, combined here with a high-torque electric drive motor-generator to produce 306 net horsepower.
The Hybrid is the most fuel-efficient Highlander too, with EPA-estimated 29 mpg city/27 mpg highway/28 mpg combined fuel economy ratings. All Highlander Hybrid models come equipped with Electronic On-Demand All-Wheel-Drive System with intelligence as standard.
The Highlander Limited looks the part with a painted chrome grille finish and 19-inch Chromtec alloy wheels. Blue LED ambient lighting around the dash and doors casts an elegant, high-tech glow, and numerous amenities raise the comfort quotient considerably. Seating for seven includes second-row captain’s chairs, perforated leather-trimmed seats, heated and ventilated front seats, a 4-way power passenger seat, and memory settings for the driver seat and side mirrors.
Limited and Limited Platinum grades offer the choice between eight-passenger configuration with a bench-style middle row seat or seven-passenger with middle-row captain’s chairs. The Limited Platinum also offers a lavish brown leather interior trim.
Overall, the Toyota Highlander – in any trim from the SE all the way up to the popular Highlander Hybrid – is a longtime favorite of ours. It offers value, comfort, and reliability that is hard to beat.