2018 Toyota Highlander

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MSRP: $31,230 - 46,860

2018 Toyota Highlander Review

The 2018 Toyota Highlander ranks near the top of its class. It has an upscale interior, a powerful available V6 engine, and a comfortable ride.

Pros & Cons

  • Powerful V6 engine
  • Elegant cabin quality
  • Long list of standard driver assistance features
  • Weak four-cylinder engine

Is the Toyota Highlander a Good SUV?

The Toyota Highlander is a great midsize SUV. The Highlander provides a comfortable and quiet ride. It sports a handsome interior and a long list of standard safety features. Its available V6 engine scoots the eight-seat SUV around confidently. For its mixture of quality and value, we named the Highlander a finalist for our 2018 Best 3-Row SUV for the Money award. It’s not perfect, though. The Highlander's four-cylinder base engine is a little light on power, and though passenger space is sufficient – the third row is cramped for adults.

Should I Buy the Toyota Highlander?

At a little over $31,000, the Highlander's base price is slightly above average for the class, but this SUV is worth it. As with most Toyota vehicles, the Highlander sets itself apart by offering standard safety features like forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. You could easily spend thousands of dollars extra to get those features in rival SUVs.

Should I Buy a New or Used Toyota Highlander?

The current Highlander generation has been on sale since 2014. You can save money by shopping for a used model, but if you’re interested in the Highlander’s advanced safety features, the 2017-and-newer models are your best bet. A 2017 refresh added the Toyota Safety Sense package to the Highlander’s standard features. These features (previously optional) include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, and forward collision warning with brake assist. The 2017 refresh also added new interior and exterior styling, additional horsepower for the optional V6 engine, and a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The Highlander saw no major changes for 2018.

To research other models in this generation, visit our reviews of the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Toyota Highlander. If you decide an older model is right for you, check out our Used Car Deals page for deals and incentives on used vehicles.

Compare the 2016, 2017, and 2018 Toyota Highlander »

We Did the Research for You: 45 Pieces of Data Analyzed

We analyzed 45 Toyota Highlander reviews – along with safety scores, reliability ratings, and more – to help you decide if the 2018 Highlander is the right SUV for you. This 2018 Toyota Highlander review incorporates applicable research for all model years in this generation, which spans the 2014 through 2018 model years.

Why You Can Trust Us

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our team has more than a combined 75 years of experience in the automotive industry. To maintain objectivity, we don't accept incentives or expensive gifts from car companies, and an outside team handles the ads on our site.

How Much Does the Toyota Highlander Cost?

The 2018 Toyota Highlander starts at $31,230, which is a little above average for a midsize SUV. Class rivals like the Honda Pilot ($30,900) and Ford Explorer ($32,140) are similarly priced. Upper trims raise the Highlander's price by a couple thousand dollars, and the top Limited Platinum trim will set you back almost $47,000.

For more information about the Toyota Highlander's standard and optional features, check out 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?

The Honda Pilot ranks right near the Highlander among our best midsize SUVs. The Pilot has one of the most spacious third rows in this class, making it a better choice if you need to utilize that space regularly (especially for adult passengers). These SUVs have similar starting prices (around $31,000), but they each offer different strengths. Although the Pilot boasts a powerful standard V6 engine and poised handling, you'll have to spend more money to get features like a touch-screen system or advanced safety features. On the other hand, the Highlander comes standard with those amenities, but you'll have to upgrade to get a more powerful engine.

Which Is Better: Toyota Highlander or Ford Explorer?

The Ford Explorer can't keep up with the Highlander or many others in the class. Though it costs more than nearly all its rivals, the Explorer’s interior is just OK. There are some low-rent materials, mediocre seating comfort, and limited passenger space. Despite a trio of available engines that range from fuel-efficient to muscular, the Explorer’s large size detracts from its maneuverability, and you feel that heft when going around turns. Pick the Highlander over the Explorer.

Compare the Highlander, Pilot, and Explorer »

Highlander Interior

How Many People Does the Highlander Seat?

The Toyota Highlander seats up to eight people. You can choose between second-row captain's chairs or a full bench seat. Cloth upholstery is standard, but move up the trim levels and you'll find upgrades like power-adjustable front seats, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated second-row seats. The first two rows provide plenty of space and comfort for passengers, and the middle row slides for easier access to the back. The third-row seat is perfectly suitable for children. Adults can fit back there in a pinch, but they'll want to keep the trip short.

Highlander and Car Seats

The Highlander has two complete sets of LATCH child-seat connectors in its second row. There's a top tether anchor for the middle seat (if you have the bench) and another tether anchor for the third-row middle seat. The LATCH system earns good reviews for its ease of use. The lower anchors are easy to access, and you won't confuse the tether anchors for other hardware.

Highlander Interior Quality

The Highlander's attractively designed cabin is awash in quality materials, which is no surprise given the SUV's $30,000-plus price tag. The quality of the Highlander's upper trims may surprise you. They feature supple leather and soft-touch surfaces that wouldn't be out of place in a luxury vehicle.

Highlander Cargo Space

In standard configuration, the Highlander has 13.8 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third row. That's comparable to the trunk size in many sedans. If you're looking for daily SUV utility, keep the last row folded and enjoy 42.3 cubic feet of space. Putting all the seats down results in 83.7 cubic feet of storage. Primary rivals have more space behind the last row but similar overall cargo room. The Honda Pilot, for example, has 16.5, 46.8, and 83.9 cubic feet, while the Ford Explorer has 21, 43.9, and 81.7 cubic feet. Optional features include a power liftgate and a flip-up rear glass window that allows you to load small items like grocery bags without opening the whole tailgate.

Highlander Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Standard features in the 2018 Highlander include Bluetooth, five USB ports, voice recognition, and a 6.1-inch touch-screen infotainment system. Optional features include tri-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, HD Radio, smartphone-linked navigation, an 8-inch touch screen, a moonroof, proximity key entry, push-button start, a 120-volt outlet, Driver Easy Speak, integrated navigation, the Entune app suite, a 12-speaker JBL audio system, and a panoramic moonroof.

The dashboard's straightforward layout includes several controls around the touch screen, though some can be hard to reach. However, you'll probably appreciate that common functions like audio volume and climate controls utilize physical buttons and knobs. The infotainment system takes a little time to get used to, and there are no simple shortcut buttons to get to things like navigation. Like many Toyota and Lexus vehicles, the Highlander doesn't provide support for systems like Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay? and What Is Android Auto? Then, see the Best Cars With Apple CarPlay and Best Cars With Android Auto.

Read more about interior »

Highlander Performance

Highlander Engine: You'll Likely Get a V6

The base 2018 Highlander comes standard with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. All other trims come with a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. The larger engine is optional with the base model.

The V6 is the better bet too – the base engine can struggle getting up to speed when carrying lots of cargo or more than a couple people. If you slam the gas pedal with the V6, the automatic transmission takes a second to keep up, but once you're moving, the Highlander hustles along with no problem.

Highlander Gas Mileage: Bigger Is Better

With the four-cylinder engine, the Highlander’s fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 20 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. Those with the larger V6 return 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, which is about average for a V6-powered midsize SUV. We recommend the six-cylinder engine, which has a stop-start function for improved fuel economy.

Toyota also offers the Highlander in an all-wheel-drive hybrid version, which we review separately. The hybrid earns up to 29 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. Driving the Highlander Hybrid would save you about $400 per year in fuel costs compared to the base nonhybrid Highlander and about $300 per year compared to a V6 Highlander. You would make up the price difference between the hybrid and the AWD V6 Highlander in about seven years.

Highlander Ride and Handling: Comfortable Cruiser

The Highlander comes standard with front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive is optional. Driving dynamics are unexciting overall – there's little steering feel, and expect some body lean when taking corners. On the other hand, the Highlander rides comfortably over most surfaces, and the cabin stays quiet when moving at high speeds.

Read more about performance »

Highlander Reliability

Is the Toyota Highlander Reliable?

The 2018 Highlander has an above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five from J.D. Power.

Toyota Highlander Warranty

The 2018 Toyota Highlander comes with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Class rivals like the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot have the same warranty terms.

Read more about reliability »

Highlander Safety

Highlander Crash Test Results

The 2018 Highlander earned a five-star overall rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with five out of five stars in the side crash test and four stars in both the frontal crash and rollover tests. From the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Highlander received the top score of Good in five crash tests. It also earned a Superior rating for its front crash prevention features and the second-highest rating of Acceptable for headlight performance. The Highlander is a 2018 IIHS Top Safety Pick.

Highlander Safety Features

Toyota is an industry leader when it comes to including driver assistance and advanced safety features as standard, and the Highlander is no exception. A standard pre-collision system includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, and pedestrian detection. You'll also get a standard rearview camera, lane-departure warning, lane keep assist, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control. Optional features include front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and a surround-view monitor.

Read more about safety »

Which Toyota Highlander Model Is Right for Me?

The 2018 Toyota Highlander is available in six trims: LE, LE Plus, XLE, SE, Limited, and Limited Platinum. We review the Toyota Highlander Hybrid separately. The base Highlander is available with either a four-cylinder or V6 engine, while all other trims only come with the V6. There are few option packages or major standalone options, so you'll likely have to upgrade to a higher trim if you want more features. Some a la carte upgrades include a rear-seat DVD/Blu-ray entertainment system and remote start.

The best value for your money is the midlevel XLE trim. It includes everyday comforts and conveniences like navigation, leather, and heated front seats, as well as features like an 8-inch touch screen, tri-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, and HD Radio that come standard in the previous trim.

You may also be tempted by the SE trim, which boasts slightly more aggressive styling as well as a sport-tuned suspension. 

Toyota Highlander LE

The base Toyota Highlander LE starts at $31,230, and an optional all-wheel-drive, V6-powered version starts at $34,740. Standard features include cloth seats, Bluetooth, five USB ports, voice recognition, a rearview camera, a 6.1-inch touch-screen infotainment system, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control.

Toyota Highlander LE Plus

The Highlander LE Plus retails for $37,120 and comes with cloth and leatherette seats, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio, HD Radio, smartphone-linked navigation, an 8-inch touch screen, and a power liftgate.

Toyota Highlander XLE

For $39,120, the Highlander XLE includes leather first- and second-row seats, leatherette third-row seats, heated front seats, second-row captain's chairs, a moonroof, proximity key entry, push-button start, a 120-volt outlet, Driver Easy Speak, integrated navigation, the Entune app suite, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.

Toyota Highlander Limited

The Highlander Limited costs $43,740 and comes with ventilated front seats, a four-way power-adjustable passenger seat, a 12-speaker JBL audio system, and rear parking sensors.

Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum

The range-topping Highlander Limited Platinum will run you $46,860 and includes a panoramic moonroof, a heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats, front parking sensors, and a surround-view camera.

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 2018 Toyota Highlander specs and trims »

The Final Call

The 2018 Toyota Highlander has a relaxing, high-end interior with lots of standard features. It also serves as a comfortable, capable daily driver, as long as you opt for the V6 engine. You could shop around and find midsize SUVs with more engaging handling or more passenger and cargo space, but the Highlander fits the bill as a well-rounded choice in this segment.

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

  • "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
  • "The 2018 Toyota Highlander continues to be the choice for families seeking a safe, secure and comfortable 8-passenger crossover SUV, but one that isn't boring or lacking modern amenities." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Toyota’s midsize crossover is a very sensible automobile, and Toyota is equally as sensible for providing a huge number of buyers with exactly what they want." -- Autoblog (2017)

 

Buying

Expert Advice

Last Updated: December 14, 2018

Strong Sales: The Toyota Highlander is one of the best-selling midsize SUVs so far this year. Sales of the Highlander have increased 13.7 percent compared to 2017 sales numbers over the same period.

Research more buying advice »
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