The 2019 Toyota Highlander is among the most recommendable crossover SUVs for busy families. With three rows and seating for up to eight passengers, the Highlander is roomy, versatile and easy to drive and live with. A hybrid model returns improved fuel economy. About the only thing the Highlander lacks is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
You'll Like The 2019 Toyota Highlander If...
If you’re seeking a safe, reliable, versatile and handsome 3-row crossover SUV that will be your steadfast ally amid life’s chaos, the Highlander is it. This midsize family hauler is comfortable and easy to drive, while all-wheel-drive and hybrid models further its appeal.
You May Not Like The 2019 Toyota Highlander If...
If you’re trying to make the very most of your space, rivals like the Honda Pilot and VW Atlas have a bit more room. If you live and die by your smartphone, know that unlike almost every other competitor, the Highlander lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration (it will of course pair in other ways, such as via Bluetooth).
The Toyota Highlander receives only minor exterior updates for the 2019 model year. They include a black body-side rocker panel and updates to the headlight, taillight and fog light housings.
The 2019 Toyota Highlander has three rows of seats and the ability to accommodate seven or eight passengers. If you need to seat up to eight, go with the 2nd-row bench. Otherwise, there is a pair of captain’s seats available in the second row that are more comfortable but reduce total seat count to seven. Both rear rows fold nearly flat for better cargo flexibility. If you’re not using the third row on a regular basis, you’ll probably find it’s better left down, as cargo space is at a premium with it up. In front, we think the driver’s seat is above average in comfort, and depending on trim can be outfitted in leather and even offer heating and ventilation functions. Storage cubbies, cup holders and USB ports abound -- all helpful for making trips less stressful. All Highlanders have a central touch screen for audio and information functionality -- 6.1 inches in lower trims and eight inches in higher ones.
We generally like the Highlander’s look. It’s large but not imposing, muscular yet handsome. It has more a squared-off look vs. the rounded Honda Pilot. In this respect, the Highlander looks the part of a more traditional, slabbed SUV. Up front, it’s hard to miss that massive grille. Base models come with 18-inch wheels, while higher trims wear 19-inchers. All models except the base Highlander LE have a handy flip-up rear hatch window, which makes it easy to load and unload the rear without opening the entire tailgate. And all but base models include a power-operated tailgate.
We like the Highlander for its comfort, high seating position and smooth operation. Unless you’re really pinching pennies and don’t care about meandering in the slow lane, skip the 4-cylinder that’s only available in the base Highlander. Opt instead for the V6 or the hybrid Highlander, which pairs a V6 with an electric motor. Both offer brisk acceleration, even with a car full of kids. Both are also quite fuel efficient, with the V6 returning up to 27 mpg and the hybrid 30 mpg. Whichever powertrain you choose, Toyota’s Highlander is an excellent family hauler. It has good steering feel, a good turning radius, and a comfortable yet controlled ride. While still not as athletic or fun to drive as the Mazda CX-9, the Highlander SE brings a little extra spice to the party thanks to a sport-tuned suspension.
The 2019 Toyota Highlander has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting at $32,375 for a base, 4-cylinder LE model. Again, we think you’re far better off in at least an LE Plus model, which begins at $37,305 but brings quite a few more creature comforts that you’ll appreciate daily. From there, prices continue to climb, topping out at over $48,000 for a Limited Platinum model with all-wheel drive. 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid models begin just over $38,000 and climb to nearly $50,000 in top form.At these prices, the Highlander is nearly in lock step with the Honda Pilot and Nissan Pathfinder, and is slightly above rivals like the Hyundai Santa Fe XL, Volkswagen Atlas, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse. The Ford Explorer and Subaru Ascent start slightly higher. Before buying your new SUV, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying.The Toyota Highlander’s resale value is another bright point. It has traditionally retained its value better than the majority of its rivals, and this year wins an award for the best resale value of any midsize SUV/crossover (3-row) in the KBB 2019 Best Resale Value Awards.
The 2019 Highlander is offered in five main trims, starting with the LE. That base model is pretty basic but does include keyless entry, a total of five USB ports, the Entune infotainment system with 6.1-inch touch screen, and the Toyota Safety Sense suite of safety features. We recommend skipping that base trim for a better experience, even if it’s just one trim to LE Plus. That grants the proper V6 engine, power tailgate with flip-up hatch window, tri-zone climate control, 10-way-power driver’s seat, better-quality fabric seating, and a more robust Entune infotainment system with the larger, 8-inch screen.
Continuing the trim climb, Highlander XLE models have a leather interior, navigation, moonroof, power-adjustable passenger seat, the Easy Speak intercom system, and auto-dimming rearview mirror. Highlander SE variants include a sport-tuned suspension and 19-inch wheels, and darkened exterior aesthetics. Top-line Highlander Limited models include blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, heated and ventilated front seats, a premium JBL audio system, and standard seating for seven (2nd-row captain’s chairs). All-wheel drive is optional on all V6 models, and the Highlander can be further outfitted with a rear-seat Blu-ray entertainment system and, for Limited models, a panoramic moonroof and bird’s-eye rearview camera.
TOYOTA SAFETY SENSE
No matter which new Toyota Highlander you buy, it will come with this impressive suite of safety and driver-assistance features. Toyota Safety Sense will do everything from detect pedestrians and keep you within lanes to warn of a collision and even automatically apply the brakes if a collision appears imminent. Also helpful is adaptive cruise control.
DRIVER EASY SPEAK SYSTEM
With the Highlander’s Driver Easy Speak, cries of “DON’T MAKE ME PULL THIS CAR OVER” are reduced to a mere vocal warning via an intercom system that allows the driver’s intention to be conveyed loud and clear to 3rd-row-seat occupants.
Under the Hood
The Toyota Highlander offers three powertrain choices. Base LE models come with a 185-horsepower 2.7-liter 4-cylinder powering the front wheels (FWD) through a 6-speed automatic transmission. We say skip it unless budget is your biggest priority, because the 295-horsepower V6 with 8-speed automatic not only has 110 more horses, but actually gets better highway fuel economy as well (27 mpg vs. 24 mpg). Then there's the hybrid, which combines a version of the V6 with electric motors for a total of 306 horsepower. All-wheel drive (AWD) is an option on all Highlander V6 models, and comes standard on the Highlander hybrid. The 4-cylinder Toyota Highlander is only rated to tow 1,500 pounds, while V6 variants can pull a more robust 5,000 pounds. Note that the Highlander V6 uses an engine start/stop system to save fuel. That means it’s perfectly normal for the engine to shut off at stoplights. If that’s not your cup of tea, the system can be disabled with the press of a button.
185 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/24 mpg
295 horsepower @ 6,600 rpm
263 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27 mpg (FWD LE, AWD LE Plus), 19/26 mpg (LE AWD), 21/27 mpg (FWD LE Plus, XLE, SE, Limited, Limited Platinum), 20/26 mpg (AWD XLE, SE, Limited, Limited Platinum)
3.5-liter V6 + AC 650-volt permanent-magnet motors
306 hybrid system net horsepower
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 30/28 mpg (LE), 29/27 mpg (XLE, Limited, Limited Platinum)
The 2019 Toyota Highlander is among the most recommendable crossover SUVs for busy families. With three rows and seating for seven or eight passengers depending on configuration, the Highlander is roomy, versatile and easy to drive and live with. The 2019 Highlander is available in several trims, but all are exceptionally safe thanks to a robust suite of accident-avoidance and driver-assistance systems. A 4-cylinder is offered in base models, but you’re better off with the more powerful -- and more efficient -- V6. An impressive hybrid model is also available. Toyota’s midsize SUV remains a strong competitor to the Honda Pilot, not to mention newer competitors like the Volkswagen Atlas and Subaru Ascent. About our only qualm with the Highlander is its lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.