Stick Shift: 2016 Toyota Highlander

2016 Highlander. Image via Toyota.

Although the 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited is essentially unchanged from last year, it remains one of the most compelling choices for a three row crossover on the market today. Through the years we’ve seen it develop more and more for the better. It drives more confidently, handles with more athleticism, rides quieter and is packed with more technology and luxury than in any other previous iteration.
From the outside we see an aesthetic that’s approaching mini van territory, a hard thing to avoid given the size and passenger capacity of the Highlander. The overall look is much more muted than the hyper-masculine Toyota 4-Runner. The Highlander has always been a softer, more family friendly option. Separating it from being completely mistaken for the vehicle of choice of every parent in the late 90’s are oversized 19” chrome wheels, flared fenders, respectable ground clearance, attractive smoked-chrome headlights and several other rugged cues. It strikes a nice visual balance between off-road warrior and mainstream boring.
Settle in behind the wheel and take a look around. The cabin is handsomely appointed and extremely functional. It seems nothing has been overlooked.

The third row is tight for adults but easily accessible for younger ones. In row two you’ll either find a three-person bench seat that can slide forward and back and recline for comfort, or two captain’s chairs. In the platinum package the captain seating gets heated perforated leather. There’s even fold down arm rests with storage and extra cup holders.
Throughout the cabin is warm leather and deep wood accent panels, playfully contrasted against metal trim and other materials. Everything is bathed in natural light thanks largely to the endless panoramic moonroof that sweeps all the way back for even the third row passengers to enjoy. The backup camera is dynamic with a sharp 8” display and the infotainment center is easy enough to operate. Commuting in the new Toyota Highlander is a pleasure for everyone. The high standard of craftsmanship is evident from the moment you step inside and the ride is always quite and compliant.
Pulling us along is a 3.5L V6 engine paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. This combination is good for 20 mpg combined. Towing capacity is an adequate 5,000 lbs. Plenty for most boats and trailers. If the weather takes a turn for the worst, the Highlander is equipped to see you through safe. Packing a dynamic torque control all-wheel drive system with hill-start and downhill assist control, you’ll have an advantage over the elements, even when the ice and snow piles up high.
The list of safety, luxury and tech features is long in the new Toyota Highlander Limited edition. Unfortunately, with so many a’la carte options, the size of the price tag can reflect the size of the list. If you’re trying to stay in budget, there’s plenty of options on the mini-van market that will offer the same passenger capacity for less cash. But if you’re searching for something of uncompromising quality, dependability and safety, that can haul around a crew of up to eight and still bring a measure of spirit to the overall driving experience, then the new Toyota Highlander remains a vehicle with few rivals.

Price as tested: $47,382.00

By: Brandon Randall

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