Let’s define what I mean by “best” before I go on and tell you what makes it so. The “best” refers to (in this case) the most accomplished, the better-suited-for-the-lives-of-the-average-human, the one that’s easiest on the eye, and the one product I’d currently leave a Toyota showroom with.
The Highlander is all of the above -- and more. In fact, the Highlander may be the finer driver of the lot, as well. With only one exception to this statement, the 2015 Toyota Highlander is the near-perfect Toyota.
I’ve been a fan of the Highlander since its very beginnings in 2001 when I first test-drove one at the time. This midsize CUV is strictly about efficiency and getting the job done. The redesigned 3rd generation Highlander is the first to bring to the table a slight dose of attitude and physical appeal. Once driven, its calm nature is inviting and vast cabin is as well. Yeah, I like this Toyota.
What is a Toyota Highlander?
The Highlander is Toyota’s alternative to its own Sienna minivan. In other words, if you find yourself allergic to the idea of driving an uncool magic-wagon descendant, then this midsize CUV’s got most of your family needs covered.
As Toyota is renowned for its hybrid technology, you guessed it, a slightly more powerful and efficient Hybrid version can be ordered.
2015 Toyota Highlander Price and Specs
Toyota’s Highlander can be purchased from $31,975. This sum will get you a FWD LE with the 270-horsepower 3.5L V6 and a 6-speed automatic transmission. An extra $2,500 will get you AWD that will not only improve winter driving but also have a positive impact on resale value.
Graduating to an XLE requires a large jump in price to $40,195. Here, power and heated front leather covered seats are standard as are navigation, 19” wheels, and a power moonroof.
My tested Limited rolls out of the showroom door for $45,395. With it, you get heated and ventilated seats, a power passenger seat, a JBL audio system, a panoramic glass roof, and a few other goodies.
Driving the 2015 Toyota Highlander
It is a pleasure. It’s akin to listening to “Peace Piece” by Bill Evans. The Highlander’s ambiance is serene and cozy.
As the start/stop button is depressed, the V6 purrs to life with a melody much akin to that of the Lexus IS350 I’d driven shortly before. With the shifter slotted into drive, the Highlander rolls on with a devoted and reliable grin.
The 3.5L’s 248 torques swoon in at 4,700 rpm. Although high on the tach, the tranny’s gearing makes up for the lack of low-end grunt. Once underway, the Highlander feels downright quick and reaches illegal rates of speed quickly.
There’s no doubt that this is a Toyota. The isolated-from-the-road driving characteristics are typical and mostly evident through the CUV’s overly light steering. Very little effort is required to rotate the steering wheel and because of the over-assisted nature of the electric rack & pinion, I found myself making regular corrections to stay on track on the highway. After a full week of driving and 1,500 km later, I was still having a hard time adjusting.
On the road, the Highlander’s ride quality is impressively good. Marred only by its steering, the midsize Toyota is comfortable and at ease in town or on our clogged freeways. The independent suspension provides plenty of travel for bumps and irregularities, while its AWD will safely get you to daycare in the event of a snowstorm.
Inside and Out of the 2015 Toyota Highlander
As I more or less stated earlier, the Highlander is handsome. Its mug is just right for a CUV-cum-SUV with broad shoulders and a tall stature.
The Limited-only 19” chrome-clad alloys do a lovely job of filling the wheel gaps. The plastic lower front and rear bumpers, along with the wheel arch flares add to the Highlander’s flare.
The cabin is spacious and well conceived. I’m a fan of the shelf that runs from the centre stack to passenger’s side of the dashboard. It features a small divider that is perfect for phones, a flap to run wires through, and its depth is ideal for sunglasses and wallets.
The seats are large and cozy; they provided plenty of support for my 6-hour long road trip. There are tons of spots for storage, and the rear’s got a huge boot. With the 3rd up, the trunk is reduced, as expected; however, when the 2nd row captain seats are occupied and the rear bench down, there’s room for EVERYTHING.
Comparing the 2015 Toyota Highlander
Toyota’s Highlander faces off with many other midsize CUVs with three rows and they come from all over the place. Off the cuff, I can think of the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Hyundai Santa Fe XL, Mazda CX-9, Kia Sorento, and there are a few more.
What the Highlander brings to the table is the brand and its reputation along with a supple uneventful drive. We, at Auto123.com, are big fans of the Santa Fe XL and the Mazda CX-9. Out of the three, I’d likely lean towards the Korean, but a Toyota test-drive would certainly be in order.