It’s that time of the model cycle again – the end, that is – meaning next year’s 2020 Toyota Highlander will be an all new replacement of the current model. Consequently, many of the features of the 2019 Highlander are about to be replaced or enhanced as this version is retired.
With that in mind, maybe some good deals are available for the 2019 Highlander, a vehicle which nonetheless has a lot to offer.
As you may know, Highlander is a seven or eight-passenger SUV (depending on trim level), one of the largest in Toyota’s fleet of family vehicles. Currently starting at $37,300 for the entry-level front-wheel drive model, my tester was the XLE AWD with SE package that stickered for $49,351 including fees and freight. Not bad, I think, for a vehicle of considerable practicality and appeal.
Motive power comes from a 3.5L V6 engine making 295 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 263 pound-feet of torque at 4,700 rpm. It’s mated to a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission.
Standard equipment in this Salsa Red Pearl example includes Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist and full speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, both of which I find useful especially on long, highway drives. Rear cross-traffic alert and a blind spot monitor are also included, contributing to a fairly complete set of electronic safety aids. Additionally, the automatic high beam feature works very well (better than the GM system on my Chevrolet Volt), the start/stop technology operates discreetly and this vehicle doesn’t lack creature comforts like three-zone climate control, heated seats and satellite radio.
The SE package ($1,910, included in the above price) gives you 19” black alloy wheels, a pair of middle-row captains seats, black SE badging, sport grille, black painted roof rails and black headlamp surrounds. I call it the sinister package…
You also get LED foglamps and interior ambient lighting. The black sport interior trim is nicely enhanced with red stitching; the surfaces are genuine leather.
I’m good with the Highlander’s looks – personally wouldn’t bother with the SE Package — but what I really like is this vehicle’s utility. Lots of room inside for passengers and/or cargo, power liftgate, useful roof carrying system, hitch option and an impressive 5,000 pound towing capacity. Gotta love that!
Ground clearance is 203 mm, which is not Subaru Outback or Jeep Wrangler territory (220 mm), but should give confidence nonetheless. This Highlander also came standard with Hill Start Assist Control and Downhill Assist Control, so it definitely has some genuine outdoorsy features, although you could say it doesn’t quite know whether it’s trying to be an urban family hauler, an off-road contender or a sporty mean machine. A bit of each, I guess, depending on the driver.
On the road, for a large vehicle, Highlander drives fairly small. Handling is nimble, stopping sure and acceleration smooth, quiet and capable. The transmission shifts imperceptibly and finds the right gear quickly (so no lagging at slower speeds in a fuel-saving high gear).
Speaking of fuel, regular grade is required and the tank holds 72 litres. Good thing, because Highlander is not the thriftiest of vehicles when it comes to fuel consumption. Rated at 12.0/8.9/10.6 L/100km city/highway/combined, I achieved a bit over 12 L/100 km-combined, using a light right foot (I drive like an old man…). True, Highlander doesn’t guzzle fuel, but it does have a healthy appetite.
The front seats, I’ve got to say, are very comfortable, and the controls easy to decipher and operate. The second row seats slide fore and aft to aid with rear seat access, and increase legroom or rear cargo capacity. Excellent!
Everything’s tidy and uncluttered in front of the driver and front-seat passenger, with a useful storage shelf below the dash, big drink containers and familiar buttons and knobs supplemented with an array of apps. Everything does look a bit dated, though. A CD player? Heck, I haven’t seen one of those in a car for several years, so I take it this dashboard has been around for a while.
I’d like to see some power folding exterior mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up display perhaps, configurable gauge cluster, ventilated seats and heated steering wheel (both available on the more expensive Limited model, but at $50K for the XLE they’d be appreciated), automatic parking would help (or at least the option); I’ve grown to like it in my personal car and one gets used to these things.
The new model should address all of this and will likely not stray too far from the established Highlander path. If you like the Highlander but want better fuel economy, there is a Hybrid version available in the same XLE trim level for $50,950. It gives you both city and highway consumption in the area of 8.0 L/100km, so a realistic 30-percent fuel savings. Towing capacity is reduced to 3,500 lb, but it would be a good buy if you can find one before the 2020s arrive this fall.
Check back next year for a comparison!