2015 Toyota Highlander Expert Review

4.6 Overall Score
Performance 4.6 Comfort 4.5 Styling 4.4 Value 4.4

Editor's Overview

The 2015 Toyota Highlander is the brand's family-friendly offering for the midsize crossover-SUV market. Offering 8-passenger seating, lots of family-friendly features like a rear-seat intercom, and clever touches like a cable organizer for your devices, the Toyota remains an attractive option against formidable contenders like the Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder and Ford Explorer.

You'll Like The 2015 Toyota Highlander If...

The 2015 Toyota Highlander is a safe choice, for all the right reasons. Comfortable, accommodating and feature-packed, with a variety of models for all budgets, the Highlander's a tough act to follow.

You May Not Like The 2015 Toyota Highlander If...

The Highlander is a popular choice, and the me-too nature may be a turnoff for some. Additionally, if you find you often tow more than 5,000 pounds, or need real off-road capability, then you might want to take a look at the refreshed Toyota 4Runner.

What's New

The Toyota Highlander was all-new last year, so there aren't any really meaningful changes on deck for 2015.

Interior Features

The 2015 Toyota Highlander follows the company's latest design trends for its interior, and we definitely approve. Not only are the front seats comfortable, but there are numerous features that make life inside the Highlander easier. A horizontal theme pervades, drawing your eyes from either end to the centralized multimedia screen. There, you'll find easy-to-use controls, including knobs for the main radio functions, and for the climate controls below them. A huge center console can hold 58 standard-size juice boxes, perfect for keeping anybody seated in the comfortable second row or kids-only third row adequately hydrated.

Exterior Features

This 3rd-generation Toyota Highlander represents a departure from the somewhat anonymous styling of its predecessors. With a bold grille opening and more chiseled flanks, it's a sharp-looking take on the modern family wagon. If you think it's showing a little more machismo, that's no mistake, as Toyota is looking to attract more male drivers to its midsize crossover SUV. It also offers a fresh face among the more familiar faces of the Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer, with a bit more character than the Nissan Pathfinder.

Driving Impressions

Toyota says up to 90 percent of Highlander models will leave the lot with the 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine, and it's easy to see why. The V6 offers considerably better acceleration than the 185-horsepower 4-cylinder, and only gives up a little in fuel economy. Of course, nobody buys the Toyota Highlander because it's a hot rod. Instead, Highlander buyers are looking for a solid, dependable vehicle that can handle a variety of road surfaces, from smooth suburban asphalt to concrete Interstate highways, to even the occasional light off-road duty. In each of these situations the Highlander excels, although any off-pavement driving should be reserved only for AWD models. At speed on the highway, the Toyota Highlander is relatively quiet, especially compared to the Honda Pilot, or even the previous-generation Highlander. Around town, the Highlander's relatively tidy proportions make it easy to maneuver in parking lots.

Pricing Notes

The 2015 Toyota Highlander SUV starts with an estimated Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $30,300 including the $885 destination charge. That gets you an LE with a 4-cylinder engine and FWD; the LE V6 is about $32,000. On the other end of the spectrum is the top-trim Limited with AWD, which starts around $42,000. If you want to save gas you'll spend money, as the Hybrid Limited commands a $48,160 price tag. While pricey, the 2015 Toyota Highlander is in the same range as other midsize-crossover SUV models, like the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer and Nissan Pathfinder. For our money, we'd take the Highlander XLE, which offers plenty of features for the money, but at a reasonable price. Be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area paid. The good news is that the Highlander offers a resale value that's practically investment-grade.

Notable Equipment

If you opt for the base Toyota Highlander LE, you'll get the 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine, 8-passenger seating, a standard rearview camera, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, day/night rearview mirror, and three 12-volt auxiliary power outlets (two up front and one in the second row), and a 6.1-inch touch-screen display with Toyota's Entune audio system, Bluetooth and voice recognition. Outside, there are projector-beam headlights, 18-inch alloy wheels and color-keyed mirrors. Standard safety features include eight airbags, Lower Anchor and Tethers for Children (LATCH) points, stability and traction control, and anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution.

Notable Options

As you move up the model ladder, the Toyota Highlander offers more and more features. Depending on what you're willing to spend, you can get high-end features like lane-departure warning, dynamic radar cruise control and automatic high beams. Heated 2nd-row captain's chairs are available – although you lose the 8-passenger capacity – plus a panoramic moonroof, heated steering wheel and a rear-seat Blu-ray and DVD entertainment system. There are also features like Driver Easy Speak, which helps amplify the driver's voice so rear-seat passengers can hear better, and 3-zone automatic climate control.

Favorite Features

IN-DASH SHELF WITH EASY CABLE MANAGEMENT

The 2015 Toyota Highlander features a shelf on the dash that's deep enough to hold even the biggest smartphone. Stretching from the front-passenger door to the driver's right knee, there's a clever pass-through to the charging and audio inputs below, keeping the cables organized and out of the way.

FLIP-UP REAR HATCH WINDOW

Opening the rear glass separately from the hatch is one of those small touches that we love. You can quickly pop open the glass to toss in something small, or grab your groceries when you're parked facing uphill so they don't roll out onto the ground.

Under the Hood

Buyers of 2015 Toyota Highlanders have multiple drivetrain options before them. Base models come with a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine putting out 185 horsepower, but most Highlander buyers get the 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine. Not only is it more powerful, but highway fuel economy is the same as the 4-cylinder, and you lose only 1 mpg in the city. Both engines are connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission, but only the V6 is available with AWD. True to Toyota's nature, there is a Highlander Hybrid available, but only on the top-tier Limited model. The hybrid pairs the same V6 engine with two electric motors to produce a total of 280 horsepower. It's more expensive, but the payoff is an EPA-estimated 28 mpg on the highway.

2.7-liter inline-4

185 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm

184 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/25 mpg

3.5-liter V6

270 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm

248 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/25 mpg (FWD), 18/24 mpg (AWD)

3.5-liter V6 + AC 650-volt permanent-magnet motors

280 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm

215 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 27/28 mpg

Editors' Notes

The 2015 Toyota Highlander is the standard bearer for midsize SUVs. More refined than ever, this newest Toyota Highlander goes up against tough competitors like the Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder and Ford Explorer. Yet Toyota isn't resting on its segment leader's laurels. The 2015 Highlander seats up to eight passengers, offers a choice of 4-cylinder, V6 or hybrid drivetrains, and comes in either front- or all-wheel drive (FWD, AWD). It also comes with a cleverly laid-out interior with a pass-through cable organizer for your various devices, and Easy Speak, which amplifies the driver's voice so rear passengers can hear better. With a Top Safety Pick + crash-test rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Toyota Highlander's an obvious choice for families.

Road Test Video Reviews

2015 Toyota Highlander Owner Reviews

4.73
242 Reviews
76% 22% 1% 2 star 0% 1 star 0%
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2015 Toyota Highlander

Excellent car! It has everything that I wanted in a car and more. It is comfortable and performs very well in every terrain. The extra seat has come in handy many times and allowed us to be the vehicle of choice for family outings. The leather seats give the car the look and feel of a more expensive vehicle and do not get overheated in the summer weather. The seat warming feature is wonderful for the cold winter days and is used regularly by the passenger and the driver. The seats are roomy and there is ample leg room for the front and back seats. The trunk is especially large and the back seat can be laid down to add more space. It provides a huge area to load and carry large items. I love the trunk space and have used it for hauling numerous items. The only issue I have had with my highlander has been the trunk feature of pushing a button and the trunk door lowering. I had to return to the Toyota dealer and have it worked on a couple of times. They were able to make an adjustment that fixed it and now it works perfectly. I rarely use the sunroof but it is nice to have that option in case I choose to use it sometime. There are many features on this car that I am still learning to use since it has what I need and so much more. Since it is an SUV, it has been wonderful with the all wheel drive to get up and down our driveway in the winter. I never worry about the weather, since I believe my highlander will get me wherever I need to go regardless of the weather. Great, reliable car that I feel very safe driving.

- Darlene H

Smooth ride with comfort interior and low maintenance!

2015 Toyota Highlander LE

My highlander has been extremely reliable. I have taken it on multiple out of state trips and it was a smooth ride the whole way. I have always kept up with my oil changes and fluid fill ups. The only real issues with my highlander is that I was in an accident two years ago and since then I have had to replace a couple body parts. I have had to replace a bumper and a windshield because of the accident. I also had to replace the part that moves the window up and down in my drivers side door about 4 months after I purchased the car. Over all, my highlander is my favorite car I have owned. It is comfortable and keeps a nice smooth ride. Other than the problems caused by the accident, it really does not require too much maintenance!

- Sawyer G

Love it and hate it... Needed 2nd row bench on highest trim level.

2015 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum

Grey 2015 highlander platinum. All the bells and whistles. AWD, nav, leather, heated seats. Didn't have issues until my 4th year. With the car. Needed new water pump. Electronics was same until the 4th year when it would freeze randomly and would only reset after car turned on and off. My biggest gripe is not the availability of bench second row. It only came with the captain's chair which took away the middle seat so my wife could sit with both kids in the back. 3rd row is not sit 3. Not even enough room for two. Could not fit a full stroller with 3rd row up. If you plan on having two small kids, would just go with a minivan.

- Jeffrey K

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