$19,577 - $28,741

2016 Toyota Highlander Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2016 Toyota Highlander was new.


Performance: 8.0

Test drivers think the 2016 Toyota Highlander offers good performance and is fun to drive, with confident handling and a comfortable ride quality. Critics like the power of the base four-cylinder engine, though they note that it delivers low fuel economy. 

  • "The Highlander is also pleasant and easy to drive, and with its refined V6 and smooth six-speed automatic, it's also one of the quickest SUVs out there (even among V8s)." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "Of course, nobody buys the Toyota Highlander because it's a hot rod. Instead, Highlander buyers are looking for a solid, dependable vehicle that can handle a variety of road surfaces, from smooth suburban asphalt to concrete Interstate highways, to even the occasional light off-road duty. In each of these situations the Highlander excels, although any off-pavement driving should be reserved only for AWD models." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)
  • "It has the elevated road view of an SUV, while still maintaining the comfortable driving character of a car." -- Automobile Magazine (2014)

Acceleration and Power

The 2016 Toyota Highlander comes standard with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 185 horsepower. A 270-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 is available. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with either engine.

The four-cylinder Highlander earns an EPA-estimated 20/25 mpg city/highway. Many rivals offer similar fuel economy and more horsepower. The V6 Highlander gets 19/25 with front-wheel drive and 18/24 with all-wheel drive, which is typical for the class. The 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is reviewed separately.

Test drivers say the four-cylinder has sufficient power. However, most recommend the optional V6 because it's more potent and nearly as fuel efficient. The Highlander's automatic transmission provides swift downshifts, according to auto writers.

  • "Toyota says up to 90 percent of Highlander models will leave the lot with the 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine, and it's easy to see why. The V6 offers considerably better acceleration than the 185-horsepower 4-cylinder, and only gives up a little in fuel economy." -- Kelley Blue Book (2015)
  • "Under the hood, the base 4-cylinder engine delivers acceptable thrust, but since its fuel economy is barely better than that of the V6, we don't really see the point. Most Highlander buyers opt for the six, and we can see why: It's one of the best V6s in the world, pumping out serious passing power when you need it." -- AutoTrader (2015)
  • "Most 2015 Toyota Highlander buyers end up with the tried-and-true V6 engine, and it's easy to see why: You get almost the same fuel economy as with the base four-cylinder, along with an extra 85 hp and some of the smoothest acceleration in any crossover at this price. The six-speed automatic transmission works well and provides quick downshifts." -- Edmunds (2015)

Handling and Braking

The 2016 Toyota Highlander comes standard with front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is optional on V6 models. Test drivers say the Highlander has responsive handling for the class overall, though they note that it isn't quite as agile as more sport-oriented midsize SUVs like the Mazda CX-9. Reviewers also appreciate the Highlander's accurate steering and smooth ride.

  • "Of course, the main purpose of the Highlander is to take bumps and freeway expansion joints in stride, and it excels in this regard, providing near-Lexus levels of refinement." -- AutoTrader (2015)
  • "The meaty three-spoke steering wheel is precise, and if you drive quickly around a tight turn, the Highlander remains secure, with a decent amount of grip. As long as you're not looking for handling as athletic as the Mazda CX-9's, you'll likely find the Highlander sharp enough." -- Edmunds (2015)
  • "The Highlander maintains its composure even during the occasional aggressive turn or maneuver, and it conveys a buttoned-down sense of security at all times." -- Automobile Magazine (2014)
  • "I didn't have any complaints about the Highlander's handling, which is surprisingly good for a larger crossover." -- Autoblog (2014)


The four-cylinder 2016 Toyota Highlander can tow 1,500 pounds. The V6 model can tow 5,000 pounds with front- or all-wheel drive. For 2016, V6 Highlanders come standard with a tow package that includes heavy-duty engine and transmission cooling.

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