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2019 Toyota Highlander

$31,830 - $47,510
Price Range (MSRP)
Toyota Highlander

2019 Toyota Highlander Review

by Adam Lynton

In the competitive midsize crossover segment, the Highlander has remained popular over the years, together with rivals such as the Honda Pilot and the Mazda CX-9. Priced between $33,730 and $45,900, the Highlander is competitively priced and offers great value for money with the Toyota Safety Sense system as standard across the entire range. Available mainly as a 3.5-liter V6 engine, the base model can also be had with an unimpressive 2.7-liter inline-four. All V6 trims can be equipped as either front-wheel or all-wheel drive, and offer a comfortable and soft ride with an average, if not bland, driving experience. Handling and driver engagement is more impressive on available rivals, but comfort, reliability and a range of interior options make the Highlander an excellent choice for families, road-trips and the driver whose focus is not on sporty performance or athletic handling. Unexceptional in many ways, it's a steady entrant for those looking for solid build quality and seating in three rows.

2019 Toyota Highlander Changes: What’s the difference vs 2018 Highlander?

The 2019 year brings only minor exterior changes across the range, including blacked-out headlamps, taillights, and fog-lamps, as well as black-finish 19-inch alloy wheels on the SE trim. The SE, LE and XLE variants have new black side rocker panels, while the top-of-the-range Limited and Limited Platinum models are equipped with LED fog lights as standard with chrome accents. An all-new Highlander is expected come 2020, so this year's model is primarily a carryover to see out the current generation.

Pros and Cons

  • Upscale, comfy interior
  • Luxurious ride quality
  • Standard safety suite is high-tech
  • Superior reliability ratings
  • Small-item storage is phenomenal
  • No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatibility
  • Bland four-cylinder base engine
  • Cramped third-row seating
  • Subpar ergonomics

Highlander Exterior

The range boasts a bold, distinctive grille with halogen smoked-chrome accented headlights and LED taillights as standard. The base model is released with 18-inch split-spoke alloy wheels and color-coded exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals. All trim levels have black side rocker panels, and from the LE model, includes integrated fog lights, flip-up rear window, and a height-adjustable power liftgate. At mid-point of the range, the XLE is upgraded to feature a moonroof with sunshade, Chromtec roof rails, and turbine-look alloy wheels. On the SE derivative, dark-black accents around the headlights are enhanced by means of LED daytime running lights, and 19-inch black-finish wheels replace the alloys on the lower trims. Integrated black LED fog lamps are also included, as well as Sport accents on the rear. The Limited edition exterior features signature Chromtec alloy wheels and color-keyed rocker panels. At the top-end of the range, the Limited Platinum offers a panoramic moonroof, five-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels, and puddle lights.

2019 Toyota Highlander Three Quarter Front Right Side View
2019 Toyota Highlander Three Quarter Front Right Side View
2019 Toyota Highlander Side View
See All 2019 Toyota Highlander Exterior Photos

Dimensions

Across the range, the Highlander's overall length of 192.5 inches remains the same; the width is also standard at 75.8 inches, as is the height of 68.1 inches, making it slightly smaller than closest rivals, the Honda Pilot and Mazda CX-9, both of which are bigger vehicles overall. The Highlander's wheelbase is 109.8 inches, which is between one- and five-inches less than above-mentioned competitors. Curb weights for the range start at 4,134 lbs on the base model LE, with the Limited and Limited Platinum weighing in at 4,354 lbs. A ground clearance of eight-inches is standard for all trims and is slightly better than what the Honda SUV has to offer.

Exterior Colors

The Highlander is available in nine colors, which include Midnight Black Pearl, Shoreline Blue Pearl, Alumina Jade Metallic, Ooh La La Rouge Mica, Salsa Red Pearl, Toasted Walnut Pearl, Predawn Gray Mica, Celestial Silver Metallic, and Blizzard Pearl. This extensive range is descriptively named and covers a broad spectrum of colors. With the exception of Blizzard Pearl, all colors are available at no additional cost. Selecting the Blizzard Pearl color adds $395 to the total cost of purchase.

  • Predawn Gray Mica
  • Midnight Black Metallic
  • Shoreline Blue Pearl
  • Celestial Silver Metallic
  • Ooh La La Rouge Mica
  • Toasted Walnut Pearl
  • Alumina Jade Metallic
  • Blizzard Pearl
  • Salsa Red Pearl, *PRICE TO FOLLOW*

Highlander Performance

The base model is outfitted with a rather bland 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine as standard which makes only 185 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. This power output seems paltry for such a large vehicle and is only available with front-wheel-drive. Fortunately, the option to upgrade to a 3.5-liter V6 engine exists, which is standard on the rest of the range (with the exception of the available Hybrid model). The more potent V6 produces 295 hp and 263 lb-ft and utilizes front-wheel-drive as standard, with all-wheel-drive as an optional extra. This configuration helps the 4,000-lb SUV to reach the 60 mph mark from a standstill in 7.9 seconds, which is relatively average for this segment and well below the performance of the Mazda CX-9. Although speed is certainly not the main priority, there are faster vehicles in this segment. Towing capacity for the Highlander range is a meager 1,500 lbs when equipped with the four-cylinder engine, which is well below the average for mid-size SUVs. This improves to 5,000 lbs with the V6 engine, which is substantially more than both the Honda and Mazda can handle.

2019 Toyota Highlander Three Quarter Front Right Side View
2019 Toyota Highlander Three Quarter Rear Left Side View
2019 Toyota Highlander Engine

Engine and Transmission

For the entry-level LE model, the standard powertrain is a 2.7-liter inline-four paired to a six-speed automatic transmission and configured in a front-wheel-drive setup. Producing only 185 hp and 184 lb-ft, this basic engine underwhelms in terms of acceleration, pull and efficient throttle response. The available 3.5-liter V6 can be equipped from the base level and up, and makes a much more satisfying 295 hp and 263 lb-ft, mated to a seamless eight-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain reacts more enthusiastically to acceleration demands, although some encouragement is needed from a standstill with heavier throttle inputs.

Overtaking and mid-range power is excellent, however, and the transmission is silky smooth in selecting the appropriate gear. Although offering a well-insulated cabin, engine noise is present (especially when flooring the gas pedal) and can be a little distracting. Nonetheless, the Highlander offers a solid, predictable ride with more than enough power for daily tasks. Although not equipped with low-range gear options for off-roading, the Highlander's all-wheel drive, lockable differential, and hill-descent control systems make basic off-road adventures viable.

  • Engines
    2.7-liter Inline-4 Gas, 3.5-liter V6 Gas
  • Transmissions
    6-Speed Automatic, 8-Speed Automatic
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

Although classified in the mid-size SUV segment, the Highlander's handling waivers somewhere between being agile and having large-SUV tendencies. On straight roads and in tight spaces, it maneuvers effortlessly and feels nimble; around corners, there is substantial body roll and a sense of ponderous bulk, which is better managed by key rivals. The steering is light and easy, which is ideal for low speeds and parking lots but lacks confidence at higher speeds and on winding roads.

The Mazda CX-9 offers better feedback in terms of steering than the Highlander does, although the Toyota doesn't have much else to nit-pick about. The intuitive driver assistance features don't interfere too much, and this results in a sense of carefree, relaxed driving.

In terms of braking composure, the Highlander offers typical Toyota reliability with effective, well-calibrated brakes that modulate well. Emergency braking distances are on par for this segment. Suspension systems work very well to smooth out even large bumps, although the third-row occupants may receive a little more feedback than other passengers in this regard.

Highlander Gas Mileage

The base four-cylinder engine manages 20/24/22 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles in FWD configuration while the AWD version achieves 19/26/22 mpg, leaving the LE trim with 2.7-liter powertrain with a range of 422 miles. If upgrading the entry-level model to the V6 engine, fuel economy rates improve somewhat to 20/27/23 mpg. Higher trims convey good gas mileage ratios of 21/27/23 mpg for the FWD variants, and 20/26/22 mpg when configured with AWD. With a standard 19.2-gallon fuel tank, this allows the Highlander to drive between 420 and 440 miles before heading back to the pump. Overall, the Highlander fares better than the Honda Pilot in terms of fuel efficiency but does not do quite as well as the turbocharged Mazda CX-9. For best gas mileage, the Hybrid version of the Highlander remains the ideal option.

  • Fuel Tank Capacity
    19.2 Gallons
  • Fuel Economy
    City/Hwy: 20/24 mpg
* 2019 Toyota Highlander LE I4 FWD

Highlander Interior

The interior is characterized by generous space, high-quality finishes, and relatively comfortable seating. Rival SUVs do offer a plusher cabin and seats with better support, but the Highlander is more than adequate for larger families, even over long distances. Ergonomically, the dashboard layout is clear cut and straightforward, although due to the wide, roomy cabin it may require the driver to reach out to get to all the features; on the plus side, even six-foot passengers would feel at home in the first- and second-row seats. Typical for mid-size SUVs, the third row is tight and better suited to children, although it helps that both second- and third-row seats recline. The available infotainment system is intuitive and easy-to-use, although lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is a big knock on an otherwise excellent system.

2019 Toyota Highlander Sunroof
2019 Toyota Highlander Seat Details
2019 Toyota Highlander Seat Details
See All 2019 Toyota Highlander Interior Photos

Seating and Interior Space

Standard models have seating space for up to eight passengers by means of a second-row bench, while the SE trim seats seven. There is substantial space in the front and the second row, with ample legroom and headroom for even the tallest passengers - legroom for the driver and front passenger is almost four inches more than both the Honda Pilot and Mazda CX-9. The third row is a tight fit for adults, although children will do fine provided the road-trip is not overly long. With excellent visibility thanks to large windows, slim pillars and a host of driver aids, as well as the slightly elevated driver's position, the Highlander makes for convenient entry and exit with widely opening doors. The front row seats are widely adjustable, but notably lacking in thigh support for taller drivers. Numerous LATCH child-seat tethers are also available: two sets on the outboard second-row seats, and one each for the middle seat of the second, and third rows respectively.

  • Seating capacity
    8-seater

Interior Colors and Materials

Boasting numerous soft-touch points and either high-quality fabric, leather or combinations of the two throughout the range, the Highlander has a beautiful, classy interior. On the entry-level LE model, the seats are upholstered in Ash or Black fabric, with Ash, Black, or Almond synthetic leather and cloth combinations abound in the LE Plus trim. Full leather seats on the XLE can be had in the same color schemes, whereas the SE boasts unique ribbon inserts and red stitching on Black leather. For the Limited and Limited Platinum, the Highlander offers perforated leather in Black, Ash, Almond, or Saddle Tan.

Highlander Trunk and Cargo Space

In comparison to other midsize SUVs, the Highlander's cargo area is a weak point. Coming up short with only 13.8 cubic feet behind the third row, folding down the back seats opens up 42.3 cubic feet for cargo. With all the seats folded down, there's 83.2 cubic feet available and a nice, level surface to load even bigger items. This is still less than what most utility vehicles in this segment offer though.

A strong suit for the Highlander is the amount of small-item storage available throughout the cabin. Cupholders and large, deep door pockets feature in the front and back, and a spacious 24.5-liter storage bin centered in the front can fit a large purse or even a laptop. A small item shelf along the length of the dashboard is very useful, and in the SE variant, the captain's chairs in the second row are equipped with shallow trays between the seats.

2019 Toyota Highlander Rear Passenger Seats
2019 Toyota Highlander Second Row Seat Folded
2019 Toyota Highlander Second Row Seat Folded

Highlander Infotainment and Features

Features

Numerous features are included from the base model, while the entire range features the Toyota Safety Sense system as standard. On the entry-level Highlander, integrated backup camera with guidelines is included as well as five USB ports, fabric upholstery and driver's seat that is manually adjustable six ways. Added to this on the LE Plus is a stop/start engine system. For the XLE trim, a leather interior with heated front seats is the norm, keyless entry and push-button start are added, and a clever voice-amplification system for the driver is included. The sporty SE model has captain's chairs in the second row and blue ambient lighting in the cabin. Nearing the top of the range, the Limited's perforated leather seats have a memory function and are heated and ventilated in the front. The fully-loaded Platinum Limited variant offers a heated steering wheel and second-row captain's chair additionally, as well as a birds-eye view camera, and front and rear parking assist sensors.

Infotainment

On-board infotainment is average, although the user-friendly nature of the system adds a few points here. The base model is equipped with a 6.1-inch touchscreen that features Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition. On all successive models after the entry-level trim, the touchscreen is upgraded to an eight-inch display with high-resolution graphics and GPS compatibility. Three-zone automatic climate control is also included. From the XLE up, there's integrated navigation via the Entune App, while a premium JBL audio system is added for the Limited and Limited Platinum trims. An optional rear-seat Blu-ray entertainment system is also available on trims from the XLE upwards.

Highlander Problems and Reliability

Like most vehicles in this brand, the Highlander features a superb reliability score. On the J.D. Power predicted reliability rating scale, the SUV was awarded four and a half out of a total of five, which is better than most and verges on among the best. One recall was issued for the Highlander, but significantly has no bearing on the vehicle's capabilities, and instead pertains to the fading of the ink on the load-capacity warning label. Supported by a three-year/36,000 mile basic warranty, five-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty, and a five-year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty, the manufacturer also offers a two-year/unlimited mile roadside assistance plan.

Highlander Safety

The NHTSA scores the Highlander very highly in terms of safety. Five stars out of five are awarded for overall safety. Awarded the title of Top Safety Pick for 2019 in the midsize SUV category by the IIHS, the Highlander scored good results in most crashworthiness tests.

Key Safety Features

Featuring eight airbags and the Toyota suite of safety features, the Safety Sense system is incorporated on every model from the base trim and includes forward-collision warning with pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure warning with steering assist. Automatic high beams are also standard, as is traction control and enhanced vehicle stability systems. On the LE Plus trim and all higher versions, blind-spot monitoring and steering assist are also included. A bird's eye view camera and front and rear parking assist are added to the Limited Platinum model.

Verdict: Is the 2019 Toyota Highlander a good SUV?

Given the plus points of cabin comfort, luxurious ride quality, high-tech safety features, and superior reliability, the negative side of the Highlander seems less significant than what this crossover SUV has to offer. The third row of seating is tighter than what many rivals provide, and the lack of Apple or Android smartphone compatibility is a notable flaw. Despite this, the Highlander still remains, at its core, a good car that will face many miles with confidence and dependability, and is thus an excellent choice for the family-oriented buyer. It checks all the boxes for practicality and first- and second-row space, as well as offering a powerful engine to brave the long-road with a trailer, caravan or boat hitched behind it. Yet while capable in many aspects, the Highlander fails to prove exceptional in any particular area, being fairly unmemorable in a segment where rivals tend to shine.

What's the Price of the 2019 Toyota Highlander?

Excluding a destination charge of $1,095 which is applicable to all models in the range, the MSRP of the base model is $31,680 in the front-wheel-drive configuration. One level up, the LE Plus is priced at $36,610, with the mid-range XLE costing $39,570. The sporty SE trim has an MSRP of $40,790. At the top end of the range, the Limited edition costs $42,780 while the Limited Platinum will set you back $45,900 as a starting price and is the most expensive variant in the range. For all models, all-wheel-drive can be equipped at an additional cost of $1,460.

2019 Toyota Highlander Models

The Highlander is available in six trims: LE, LE Plus, XLE, SE, Limited, and Limited Platinum.

The entry-level LE is equipped with a standard 2.7-liter engine paired to a six-speed automatic transmission and features cloth seats, 18-inch wheels and a 6.1-inch infotainment screen. A more powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine can be optionally equipped.

The LE Plus model builds on the standard trim but replaces the smaller engine option with the 3.5-liter V6 as standard, and pairs it with an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Combination synthetic leather and fabric seats, engine stop/start functionality, and an upgraded eight-inch touchscreen are included on this trim.

In the middle of the range, the well-specced XLE adds heated front seats and leather upholstery, keyless entry, and integrated navigation to the list of features available. Like the models below it, this model has seating for eight with a second-row bench.

The sport-oriented SE edition swaps out the second-row bench for two captain's chair and black leather-trimmed seats with red stitching. 19-inch black-finished wheels and dark-painted roof rails distinguish this model from the others.

The Limited model upgrades the features of the SE to include rear parking assist, blind-spot monitoring, Saddle Tan interior in perforated leather, and a premium JBL sound system with navigation included.

Opting for the Limited Platinum adds heated steering and heated second-row captain's chairs, together with a bird's eye view camera and front and rear park sensors. Also equipped is a panoramic sunroof.

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
LE
2.7-liter Inline-4 Gas
3.5-liter V6 Gas
6-Speed Automatic
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$31,830
LE Plus
3.5-liter V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$36,760
XLE
3.5-liter V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$39,720
SE
3.5-liter V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$40,940
Limited
3.5-liter V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$42,930
See All 2019 Toyota Highlander Trims and Specs

Additional Packages

With all models exceptionally well-equipped in terms of safety features and driver assists, there are only two key additional packages to note. Replacing the second-row seating with a bench to maximize passenger capacity is the first option, with no implications on price. Secondly, a rear-seat Blu-Ray Entertainment System is available at cost of $1,810 which installs a nine-inch display monitor, remote control, and two sets of wireless headphones.

What Toyota Highlander Model Should I Buy?

The well-specced XLE fits into the middle of the range, and at just under $40,000 provides a value-for-money family SUV which a powerful engine, great towing capacity, and ample onboard safety features and driver aids. The interior of the cabin is upmarket with leather seats that are heated in the front, and also includes the upgraded eight-inch touchscreen display with integrated navigation. It also boasts a power tilt-and-slide moonroof with signature 18-inch wheels. This model is more than sufficient for the family seeking both comfort and convenience. Those wanting a little more luxury could opt for the SE trim, although with largely cosmetic changes for a few hundred dollars it hardly seems necessary.

Check out other Toyota Highlander Styles?

2019 Toyota Highlander Comparisons

2019 Toyota Highlander
2019 Toyota Highlander

2019 Toyota Highlander vs Honda Pilot

The comparison with the Honda Pilot is significant as both vehicles score highly in terms of roomy, comfortable cabins with powerful engines and high-quality interiors. The Honda offers a much more spacious third-row of seating, which is a drawback on the Highlander. But, while the Pilot features slightly better fuel efficiency and more impressive cargo volume, the Highlander does boast a few more standard features. Infotainment must be mentioned, as the Pilot includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard on most trims, which is absent in the Highlander, although the Toyota infotainment system is more intuitive. The prices of these rivals are closely matched, as is their popularity; breaking the tie between the Highlander and the Pilot is largely dependant on the buyer's brand preference and personal taste, although we tend to lean towards the Honda's superior driving dynamics, more powerful engine, and higher-quality interior.

See Honda Pilot Review

2019 Toyota Highlander vs Mazda CX-9

The Mazda CX-9 has only one engine option in the range: a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that produces substantially more power and torque than the Highlander's engines. Prices are within a few hundred dollars of each other, with the Highlander coming in cheaper than the Mazda. However, the Mazda achieves much better fuel economy ratings and proves to be the more athletic and exciting drive. Handling capabilities and overall ride quality in the Mazda overshadow what the Toyota has to offer, although the Highlander's soft and efficient suspension provide brilliant absorption of road textures and a lighter feel on the road. Once again very closely matched, the Mazda wins out on sheer driving delight alone, but also scores better on a high-quality interior and higher levels of specification in the top trims.

See Mazda CX-9 Review

Toyota Highlander Popular Comparisons

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2019 Toyota Highlander Video Reviews