$24,665 - $38,246

2019 Toyota Highlander Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2019 Toyota Highlander was new.


Performance: 7.0

The 2019 Toyota Highlander is competent and smooth, particularly when outfitted with the optional V6 engine. In addition to furnishing a good tow rating, this engine is more fuel-efficient than the weaker four-cylinder and is available with all-wheel drive.

  • "Unless you're really pinching pennies and don't care about meandering in the slow lane, skip the 4-cylinder that's only available in the base Highlander. Opt instead for the V6 or the hybrid Highlander, which pairs a V6 with an electric motor. Both offer brisk acceleration, even with a car full of kids. Both are also quite fuel efficient, with the V6 returning up to 27 mpg and the hybrid 30 mpg." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "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 entry-level Highlander LE comes with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine and a six-speed automatic transmission. It takes a lot of effort for this 185-horsepower engine to bring the Highlander up to speed. Fuel economy is typical for an SUV this size, at 20 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

A 3.5-liter V6 engine and an eight-speed automatic transmission are available in the base trim and come standard in all other models. Of these two power plants, the V6 clearly holds all the aces. It accelerates quicker, gets better gas mileage, and is available with all-wheel drive. Additionally, the V6 can tow more than three times the four-cylinder's capabilities, bumping the Highlander's tow rating from 1,500 to 5,000 pounds. It earns an EPA-estimated 21 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

Toyota also offers a hybrid version of this SUV. We review the Toyota Highlander Hybrid separately.

  • "The Highlander's V6 provided impressive acceleration in 2014, and the latest V6 (updated for 2017) only improves upon that capability. The new eight-speed automatic shifts smoothly and is reasonably responsive." -- Edmunds (2018)
  • "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 (2018)
  • "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 (2018)

Handling and Braking

The Highlander's cushy, quiet ride will keep the baby asleep and help the miles comfortably fly by on your cross-country tour. The suspension system absorbs the lion's share of pavement jolts, with the SE trim's sport-tuned suspension adding a small amount of nimbleness. Steering and brakes are competent in the Highlander, and all-wheel drive can be added to any V6-powered model. Front-wheel drive is standard across the lineup.

  • "Whichever powertrain you choose, Toyota's Highlander is an excellent family hauler. It has good steering feel, a good turning radius, and a comfortable yet controlled ride. While still not as athletic or fun to drive as the Mazda CX-9, the Highlander SE brings a little extra spice to the party thanks to a sport-tuned suspension." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "One of the Highlander's best qualities is its ride comfort. This crossover is highly isolated and confident without feeling like a floating barge. Few if any road irregularities intrude." -- Edmunds (2018)
  • "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)

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