$24,923 - $36,749

2018 Toyota Highlander Performance Review


Performance: 8.0

The 2018 Toyota Highlander has mediocre overall performance, with a tame base engine and dull handling. An optional V6 is more powerful, though, and the SUV does have a comfortable ride. Fuel economy estimates are about average for the class.

  • The Highlander's dynamic strong suits have always been quiet operation and creamy ride quality, two traits that carry forward unchanged. … The down side of this is leisurely responses in situations where the driver might prefer quicker zigs or zags, accompanied by substantial body motions. However, this is not uncommon among vehicles in this class—comfort is the priority—and like most of its competitors the Highlander is certainly competent, devoid of unpleasant dynamic surprises." -- Kelley Blue Book (2017)
  • "Everything about the powertrain oozes smoothness—this V-6 is absolutely imperceptible at idle and inaudible in normal driving. The transmission's light throttle shifts are perfectly imperceptible, too. The car glides off the line as if were powered by an electric motor. The steering feels like it's assisted with ball bearings, and no matter what you ask of it on the rough off-road course, the Highlander's suspension refuses to make a harsh noise, slam into its bump stops, or lose composure." -- Motor Trend (2017)
  • "Most people, most of the time, will like the XLE the most. A little softer and equipped with what feels like lighter steering effort, the XLE is simple and easy to drive. Aside from a slight wavering in power delivery under part-throttle acceleration, I detected nothing amiss as far as driving dynamics are concerned." -- J.D. Power (2017)

Acceleration and Power

The 2018 Highlander comes standard with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. This combination produces 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. An optional 3.5-liter V6 produces 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque, and it's paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The base engine gets an EPA-estimated 20 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway, while the V6 gets 20/27 mpg city/highway. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid earns up to 29/27 mpg.

The base engine can feel underpowered, especially when carrying heavy loads. The optional V6 is plenty powerful, though the transmission is somewhat hesitant as you start moving.

  • The punchy 3.5-liter V6 is now matched to an eight-speed automatic. While the new transmission isn't as smooth as the previous six-speed one, it helped improve fuel economy to 22 mpg overall." -- Consumer Reports
  • "Powered by a recently revised 3.5-liter V6 mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission, the 2018 Toyota Highlander is both powerful and fuel-efficient. Although the standard engine is a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder, its 185 horses haven't kept up with the Highlander's growing dimensions. Trust us, if you carry more than two people, need power for passing and merging or pull a small trailer, the V6 is the engine you'll want (and need)." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • The new V6 engine supplies plenty of power, but the new 8-speed automatic transmission makes it hard to discern the added oomph. Even with the Eco driving mode turned off, the 8-speed displays a tendency to upshift sooner rather than later unless you really mash down on the accelerator, such as when getting up to speed on a short freeway ramp. Then, the Highlander really hustles." -- New York Daily News (2017)

Handling and Braking

The Highlander comes standard with front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive is optional. Ride quality is good, but the handling isn’t at all engaging. An optional sport suspension doesn't offer any real improvements.

  • "Regardless of engine choice, the Highlander makes a great family carrier, with good steering feedback, a tight turning radius, comfortable yet controlled ride and excellent crash-test scores. The sporty SE trim delivers the best handling and looks without any noticeable impact on ride comfort." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • Don't expect much steering feel from the Highlander, regardless of what trim you choose. Sure, the SE may be a little bit tighter, but this isn't a driver's car. It is quiet and comfortable, however, which is probably more important to the buyers Toyota is aiming for." -- Autoblog (2017)
  • SE models, despite what its name and sportier appearance would suggest, don't offer much tangible performance gain. Its suspension updates don't really change the driving experience. The SE may be a touch firmer in the way it rides, but in the corners it rolls just like the rest of the Highlanders. This SUV doesn't like to be pushed, and that's fine. It will handle all day-to-day tasks without strain." -- Cars.com (2017)

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