HEELS ON WHEELS: 2015 TOYOTA HIGHLANDER REVIEW
HEELS ON WHEELS
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel
INTRO TO THE HIGHLANDER VEHICLE
The new generation Toyota Highlander is a carryover from last year’s overhaul but continues to dazzle among competitors for offering a sleeker, more luxury-oriented take on a three-row crossover. You just simply have more of everything, from style to cargo space with the wider third row, and clever features like a roll-top center console big enough store a purse plus a collapsible side tray with second-row captain’s seats.
I drove several 2015 Toyota Highlander with the 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 with 248 pound-feet of torque coupled to an upgraded six-speed automatic transmission. Dynamic Torque Control all-wheel drive is available. The Highlander is available in four trims – the LE, LE Plus, XLE, Limited and Limited Hybrid – and my Limited trim came with the following standard features: leather upholstery; wood grain trim; heated and ventilated front seats; eight-way power driver’s seat; second-row side sunshades; eight-inch touchscreen display with backup camera; rear parking sonar; Entune premium multi-media system; upgraded JBL audio system; navigation; HD and XM radio; Bluetooth; App Suite; 4.2-inch color navigation-linked multi-information display; fog lights; chrome roof rails; power liftgate with flip-up window; Platinum Package (moonroof, heated steering wheel, captain’s chairs) and nineteen-inch chrome wheels. Total price as described without options came to $42,330.
There are a lot of competitors out there for this class, but the models that stand out the most for also offering such notable redesigns are the Dodge Durango, Honda Pilot, Kia Sorento and Nissan Murano. ( See side by side comparison, there are major differences in specs).
HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA
Stylish But Comfortable Results: One reoccurring theme with the Highlander is how strategically the interior supports a busy mom with kids, from the power liftgate with a flip-up window to the new roll-top center console large enough to hold a sizable handbag. You’ll feel pampered with the soft-touch instrument panel; connected with a six-inch touchscreen that supports Entune multi-media services; and grateful for a one-step second-row sliding seat function on both the driver and passenger sides. My test drive featured options $129 mudguards, $599 running boards (stainless steel covers not a good idea to get your shins near in hot weather), $499 remote engine start, and $699 towing receiver hitch with a wiring harness. With nearly three more inches of entry space with an interior width increase of 3.7 inches, the third row isn’t some forgotten about place anymore.
Reliability & Safety Factor: The 2015 Toyota Highlander has ratings of “Good” in all crash-test areas with The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) making is a Top Safety Pick. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives it an overall rating of 5-Stars. A Platinum Package is included with the Limited trim and came with such safety technology as a Pre-Collision System with Dynamic Radar Control and Land Departure Alert.
Cost Issues: Base price for the Highlander LE starts at $29,765 and extends to $48,245 for the Hybrid Limited. The Hybrid version is not the most economical hybrid on the market, and in general, a hard-to-justify purchase when constructing ownership costs over a five-year period.
Activity & Performance Ability: We took the Highlander in the Plumas-Tahoe National Forest for a camping exertion, where it handled a good load of equipment, bodies, and the many seating and cargo configurations that go with it. The turning radius was accommodating – never did it feel bulky or difficult to manage in tight situations. We retained excellent fuel economy at 24.2 miles-per-gallon combined (we did do heavier highway driving). The redesigned double-wishbone rear suspension absorbed major ruts, while the upgraded six-speed transmission had an intuitive sense when to shift on winding, climbing roads at various speeds. In regards to abilities, the XLE and Limited can tow up to 5,000 pounds; the hybrid just 3,500 pounds. There is also a second smaller 185-horsepower 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine. A Hybrid version pairs the V6 to a high-torque electric drive motor-generator.
The Green Concern: Fuel economy has improved for the V6 engine with all-wheel drive, stats are 19-city and 25 highway for a combined 21 miles-per-gallon with front-wheel drive. Yet going with all-wheel drive just drops the overall stats by 1 mile-per-gallon. You’ll find much of the same stats with the other three-row crossovers.
FINAL PARTING WORDS
Lots to love here about the 2015 Toyota Highlander that nails what a women needs in style, convenience and maneuverability with a three-row crossover. You’ll be truly impressed at the level of luxury the top-of-the-line trim offers with a manageable price tag to boot.
©2014 Katrina Ramser
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