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2019 Toyota Highlander Review

The 2019 Toyota Highlander ranks highly in the midsize SUV class largely on the strength of an excellent predicted reliability rating. It has an elegant and tranquil cabin and a powerful and efficient optional V6 engine, but it suffers from a small cargo hold and a tight third row.

Pros & Cons

  • Comfortable and quiet
  • Stylish cabin with first-rate materials
  • Lots of standard advanced safety features
  • Optional V6 engine is robust and fuel-efficient
  • Confining third-row seat
  • So-so standard four-cylinder engine

New for 2019

  •  Exterior upgrades across lineup
  •  Nightshade Special Edition offered on limited basis




Critics' Rating: 8.3
Performance: 6.9
Interior: 7.4
Safety: 9.2
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Is the Toyota Highlander a Good SUV?

The Toyota Highlander is an OK midsize SUV. A stellar predicted reliability rating helps the Highlander’s overall score, and it means you should be on the road more than you are at the mechanic. Like many Toyotas, this SUV comes with an impressive set of standard safety features.

The Highlander has an optional V6 engine that won't let you down, along with a quiet cabin and comfortable first- and second-row seats. However, shoppers in need of a sizable third-row seat or an abundance of storage space may be disappointed.

To trim your annual fuel costs, consider the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which we review separately.

Should I Buy the Toyota Highlander?

The Highlander is definitely worth a look if you're shopping for a 3-row SUV, but be warned that the last row is pretty small. Passengers in the first two rows will ride in comfort with crowd-pleasing amenities that include five USB ports, tri-zone automatic climate control, and available Driver Easy Speak, which amplifies the driver's voice for rear-seat passengers.

That said, there are many rivals in this class that are just as appealing as the Highlander. This list includes the highly ranked Hyundai Santa Fe, which comes in both two- and three-row models, and the all-new Subaru Ascent.

Compare the Highlander, Santa Fe, and Ascent »

Should I Buy a New or Used Toyota Highlander?

The second-generation Highlander was launched for the 2014 model year and underwent a midgeneration refresh for 2017. The 2019 Highlander receives an exterior refresh, but otherwise it’s similar to the 2017 and 2018 models. If you’re trying to save some money, have at look at these two model years. They come with a generous amount of standard safety features, have styling updates inside and out, and are available with a more powerful V6 engine than that found in 2014 through 2016 Highlanders.

If you are considering an older model, be sure to read our 2017 Highlander and 2018 Highlander reviews to help make your decision. Also check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts you can find on used cars.

Compare the 2017, 2018, and 2019 Highlander »

We Did the Research for You: 47 Reviews Analyzed

Our goal is to make shopping for your next car as easy as possible. You'll find everything you need to know about the Toyota Highlander in our comprehensive review. It combines concrete data (like fuel economy estimates, horsepower specs, and cargo space dimensions) with 47 professional Toyota Highlander reviews.

This 2019 Toyota Highlander review incorporates applicable research for all model years in this generation, which runs from 2014 through 2019.

Why You Can Trust Us

The Best Cars team – a division of U.S. News & World Report – has been reviewing cars, trucks, and SUVs since 2007. With more than 75 years of combined automotive experience, our editors, writers, and analysts rank a wide variety of new and used cars and issue three annual awards: Best Cars for the Money, Best Cars for Families, and Best Vehicle Brands. To keep our recommendations unbiased, we decline expensive gifts from carmakers, and a third party handles our advertising.

How Much Does the Toyota Highlander Cost?

Prices for the 2019 Toyota Highlander are about average for the midsize SUV class. The entry-level Highlander LE starts at $31,830. Prices jump to more than $35,000 if you equip the LE trim with a V6 engine and all-wheel drive. The Highlander XLE ($39,720) and the range-topping Highlander Limited Platinum ($46,050) both come standard with a V6 engine. For more information on prices and standard equipment, see the “Which Toyota Highlander Model Is Right for Me?” section below.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Toyota dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Toyota deals page.

Toyota Highlander Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Toyota Highlander or Honda Pilot?

You don't have to choose between carrying extra passengers or packing extra gear with the Honda Pilot. Its third-row seat is among the roomiest in the class. Even with every seat filled, it has 16 cubic feet of cargo space in the back, which is more than the Highlander has behind its third row. The Honda is also an excellent value: It has a similar base price to the Toyota but comes standard with a more powerful base engine. The Toyota gets one of the highest possible predicted reliability scores, while the Pilot comes in below-average. 

Which Is Better: Toyota Highlander or Mazda CX-9?

If you want an SUV that doesn't feel pedestrian, take the Mazda CX-9 for a test drive. This sporty SUV is energetic, agile, and polished. Furthermore, the CX-9's cabin is high-class and comes with lots of appealing goodies. This is one of the most well-rounded vehicles in the midsize SUV class, and it will likely be a better choice than the Highlander for most shoppers.

Which Is Better: Toyota Highlander or Jeep Grand Cherokee?

Off-roading prowess is one of the advantages the Jeep Grand Cherokee has over the Toyota Highlander. This Jeep is an ideal choice for adventurers seeking four-wheel-drive capabilities in a comfortable daily driver. It also has a much higher maximum tow rating (7,400 pounds) than the Highlander. If you favor a serene cabin, however, or want to carry more than five people (the seating capacity of the Grand Cherokee), stick with the Toyota.

Compare the Highlander, Pilot, and CX-9 »

Highlander Interior

How Many People Does the Highlander Seat?

The Highlander is a 3-row SUV with seating for up to eight people. Seating is especially accommodating in the first and second rows. Passengers in the middle section can adjust their seats using the sliding and reclining features. In upper trims, the second-row bench seat is replaced with two captain's chairs that are even more comfortable. Note, however, that this reduces seating capacity to seven. Seating in the third row is tight, with less legroom than in almost every other competitor.

Highlander and Car Seats

Caregivers will have one less hassle in their lives, as this SUV's child seat hardware is particularly user-friendly. LATCH hardware includes three tether anchors and two sets of lower anchors in the second row and one third-row tether anchor. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave this system the highest rating of Good for ease of use. 

Highlander Interior Quality

The Highlander receives high marks for its interior fit and finish. Soft-touch points are abundant, and almost every model has some degree of leather trim. The top-of-the-line Limited Platinum feels downright luxurious with its perforated leather seats – ventilated in the front, heated in the first two rows – and panoramic moonroof.

Highlander Cargo Space

With 13.8 cubic feet of cargo space, the area behind the Highlander's third row is smaller than in many competing 3-row SUVs. The good news is that all rear seats fold flat and yield dimensions that are more in line with the rest of the segment. Laying down the third row creates a 42.3-cubic-foot cargo area, and folding both rear rows gives you up to 83.7 cubic feet of hauling space.

Highlander Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Toyota offers an appealing number of standard and optional tech features for the Highlander. Keep your family connected and charged with the available Driver Easy Speak PA system (which amplifies the driver's voice for rear-seat passengers) and five standard USB ports. A straightforward infotainment system is standard, and every model above the base trim comes with a responsive 8-inch touch screen and either a smartphone-linked or built-in navigation system. To keep children occupied on long road trips, consider investing in the optional rear-seat entertainment system.

Read more about interior »

Highlander Performance

Highlander Engine: Pick the V6 for More Punch

The base Highlander comes with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. This combination leaves many reviewers wishing for more power. With the optional 3.5-liter V6 engine – available on the base trim and standard on all others – the Highlander accelerates with ease, even with a full crew on board. Its smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission helps V6-powered Highlanders achieve excellent highway gas mileage. Gain even more fuel efficiency without losing any oomph with the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which we review separately.

Highlander Gas Mileage: V6 Wins Again

Fuel economy in front-wheel-drive Highlanders equipped with the four-cylinder engine is typical for a 3-row SUV this size. It earns an EPA-estimated 20 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. The V6 engine outdoes the base engine, however, earning 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

Highlander Ride and Handling: Built for Cruising

Shoppers who prefer the tranquil feel of a car-based SUV will appreciate the Highlander's comfortable, quiet ride. This Toyota is surefooted and stable, and when equipped with the V6 engine, can be upgraded from front-wheel to all-wheel drive. The SE trim's sport-tuned suspension adds a mild amount of athleticism.

Highlander Towing Capacity

A Highlander with the four-cylinder engine can tow trailers as heavy as 1,500 pounds. Models equipped with the V6 engine have a maximum tow rating of 5,000 pounds.

Read more about performance »

Highlander Reliability

Is the Toyota Highlander Reliable?

The 2019 Highlander earns an excellent predicted reliability rating of 4.5 out of five from J.D. Power.

Toyota Highlander Warranty

Toyota covers the 2019 Highlander with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Highlander Safety

Highlander Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2019 Highlander an overall safety rating of five out of five stars. It received a five-star rating for the side crash category and four stars in both the frontal crash and rollover categories. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety named it a Top Safety Pick. The 2019 Highlander also earned the highest rating of Good in five crash tests and the second-highest rating of Acceptable in the passenger-side small overlap front test. It also received the highest rating of Superior for front crash prevention technology, as well as the second-highest rating of Acceptable for how well the headlights illuminate the road ahead. 

Highlander Safety Features

Standard equipment in the 2019 Highlander includes a rearview camera and Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P). The high-tech systems grouped under this designation include a pre-collision system with automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning with steering assist, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control. Optional safety features include a surround-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.

Read more about safety »

Which Toyota Highlander Model Is Right for Me?

This midsize SUV comes in six main trim levels: LE, LE Plus, XLE, SE, Limited, and Limited Platinum. A four-cylinder engine powers the LE trim, while the rest receive a V6. All models come standard with front-wheel drive, and you can add AWD to any V6-powered model for $1,460. For 2019, Toyota will produce a Nightshade Special Edition in limited numbers. Nightshade takes the SE trim and adds black exterior accents. The Highlander is also available as a hybrid, which we review separately.

Even the base trim level comes with an appealing set of entertainment features and a generous amount of safety equipment. That said, if you can afford to spend more, we recommend the LE Plus edition. The cabin gets premium enhancements such as synthetic leather-trimmed seats, tri-zone climate controls, and an upgraded infotainment system, while its standard V6 engine gives this trim a significantly higher tow rating than the base model. All-in-all, the LE Plus is a great value.

Toyota Highlander LE

The base LE trim ($31,830) comes with cloth upholstery and seating for eight people, with bench seats in the second and third rows. Its suite of safety features includes pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, and adaptive cruise control. The standard infotainment system comes with a 6.1-inch touch screen, five USB ports, and voice recognition. The LE is the only trim level that comes standard with a four-cylinder engine.

Toyota Highlander LE Plus

The LE Plus ($36,760) has numerous comfort upgrades, including cloth and synthetic leather-trimmed seats in the first and second rows, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and tri-zone automatic climate control. Other notable standard features include an 8-inch touch screen, satellite radio, HD Radio, smartphone-linked navigation, and a height-adjustable power liftgate with a flip-up rear hatch.

Toyota Highlander XLE

The XLE has genuine leather seats in the first two rows and synthetic leather seats in the third row. Instead of a bench seat in the middle row, there are second-row captain's chairs, giving this trim a maximum capacity of seven people. Additional upgrades include a moonroof, an integrated navigation system, the Entune app suite, Driver Easy Speak, a proximity key, push-button start, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert. Prices start at $39,720 for the Toyota Highlander XLE V6.

Toyota Highlander SE

The SE ($40,940) is the athletic edition. It comes with 19-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension system, black leather-trimmed seats with silver stitching, and blue LED ambient lighting.

Toyota Highlander Limited

Swanky additions to the Limited trim ($42,930) include perforated leather-trimmed seats in the first two rows, ventilated front seats, a 12-speaker JBL audio system, and rear parking sensors.

A panoramic moonroof and heated second-row seats are among the Limited Platinum's embellishments, along with a heated steering wheel, front parking sensors, and a surround-view camera. Prices start at $46,050 for this top-of-the-line edition.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Toyota dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Toyota deals page.

See 2019 Toyota Highlander specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2019 Toyota Highlander has what most families want from a midsize SUV: ample comfort, lots of safety features, easy-to-use technology, an agreeable amount of power, and composed handling. Shoppers searching for an especially large cabin, however, may find the Highlander's third row and cargo area lacking. This is a highly competitive class, and while the Highlander sticks out for its great predicted reliability, some rivals are worth considering too. 

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "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." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Toyota Highlander ranks among the best midsized, three-row SUVs, with a desirable balance of an absorbent ride, responsive handling, and generous interior space." -- Consumer Reports (2018)
  • "The 2018 Toyota Highlander is one of the best picks available for a versatile three-row crossover SUV. Thanks to a comfortable and quiet ride, abundant standard features and a just-right size, it should serve you well as a do-all family hauler." -- Edmunds (2018)


Expert Advice

Last Updated: November 14, 2019

Strong Sales: The Toyota Highlander is currently one of the top performers in the midsize SUVs sales race this year. Toyota dealerships have sold about the same number of Highlander models so far relative to the same period in 2018.

Research more buying advice »
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2019 Toyota Highlander

MSRP: $31,830 - $49,180

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