2016 Toyota Highlander: Our First Impressions - Unhaggle

Posted by | November 19, 2015 | 2016, Reviews | No Comments

The 2016 Toyota Highlander is a three-row crossover that’s right up there with its competitors, such the Nissan Pathfinder and Honda Pilot, in terms of overall quality. With more space, luxury and a Hybrid trim option, there is a lot going for the Highlander.

Pros: The base trim level is an excellent bargain, coming with a backup camera, Bluetooth and a 2.7-litre V6 engine.

Cons: There isn’t one thing that sets the Highlander apart from its competition, but it’s an affordable CUV that offers nearly everything you’d need from a crossover.

What’s New for 2016

Toyota has given the Highlander a rugged overhaul, replacing the car-like appearance of the previous iterations with a truck-like exterior. The headlights and taillights are sweeping and stylish with xenon and LED lighting. The new huge grille and a sleek set of rims enhance the overall feel of a capable crossover.

Exterior Design and Trims

The Toyota Highlander’s truck-like design is especially evident in its expanded grille and large wheel wells. However, it’s only with the 3.5-litre engine that the Highlander gets the 3,000-pound towing capacity of a truck, so don’t be deceived by its design. It’s a family vehicle.

All trim levels can be upgraded to all-wheel drive rather than the standard front-wheel drive, which puts your stability first thanks to the Dynamic Torque Control AWD. The base trim level includes 18-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth, a backup camera, eight-person seating, heated side mirrors and a tow package. The “Plus” upgrade adds fog lights, eight-way adjustable driver seat and three-zone climate control. While the XLE polishes the Toyota Highlander with leather seats, Smart Key pushbutton start, tilt-slide moonroof, roof rails, anti-theft system and a few others. The added Platinum Package includes limited tags on ambient lighting, heated and ventilated seats, Lane Departure Alert, Pre-Collision System warning and Safety Connect for assistance.

Interior Design and Features

The 2016 Toyota Highlander definitely presses its competition in the area of luxury and technology. There’s likely not going to be any missing features on your list unless you are not satisfied with extra space, luxurious leather-trimmed upholstery, adjustable seats, Bluetooth, a USB port, cruise control, satellite navigation, secret locks and an eight-inch infotainment display within close sightline of the driver.

The details make this a worthwhile consideration too, with a tray in the dashboard for small items like your phone or keys, a cord pass-through to connect electronics, satellite radio, Internet access and an infotainment system that connects with apps. The acoustic glass and floor insulation quiets out noise, and it’s nice to see that the dash still has hard buttons for climate control and other functions rather than needing to tap the touchscreen.


The standard powertrain on the Toyota Highlander is a 2.7-litre four-cylinder with a six-speed automatic transmission that you may want to upgrade if you’re keen on carrying heavier loads. The upgrade? A 3.5-litre V6 engine that generates 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque, with superb fuel economy. Both engines can be combined with all-wheel drive for improved handling, ride firmness and stability of the vehicle.

The Hybrid models can produce an impressive 280 horsepower, while being combined with all-wheel drive by default. However, the extra 350 pounds of curb weight on the hybrid models do hinder the powertrain somewhat, especially when it comes to fuel economy. Despite this little flaw, the model handles well, which make it worth considering if your driving style is more conservative.


What you’d expect for your safety is all here: eight airbags, including side curtains, a rear camera for reversing, repositioned pillars for better visibility as well as the Driver Technology package, which offers pre-collision warning, lane departure warning, blindspot monitor, parking sensors, and adaptive cruise control. All of these are quickly becoming standard features as Toyota and its competitors up their game to win over more consumers.

All in all, the 2016 Toyota Highlander is still a top-of-the-line crossover thanks to a redesign that includes enough features to satisfy your every need – and the needs of your family. And once you consider the vehicle’s affordability combined with Toyota’s attention to detail, you will get something that’s definitely worth your attention.

Base Model Info & Pricing:

2016 Toyota Highlander

Trim level: LE
Retail price: $33,355
Invoice price: See Now, FREE
Mandatory fees: $1,870
Competitors: 2016 Nissan Pathfinder, 2016 Honda Pilot

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About Kristin Bissessar

Kristin is an automotive writer at Unhaggle. Join her as she writes about the basics and beyond with a fresh perspective. She knows what it’s like entering the automotive world for the first time and offers a guiding hand for new car enthusiasts. Her own car of choice? That would be a MINI Cooper, but when her novel series takes off, you can bet she’ll be sitting pretty in a Dodge Viper SRT10 Roadster.

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