2019 Toyota Highlander: sophisticated family mover

  • Friday, December 21, 2018 1:30am
  • Vehicles

It really doesn’t matter what vehicle in the fleet you’re driving — Toyota has it figured out.

The 2019 Toyota Highlander SE AWD, a midsize, three-row sports utility vehicle, was my latest test drive and most recent example.

Highlander is a sophisticated family mover (up to seven passengers as configured) that draws accolades for its exemplary safety features, performance and overall drivability. The fact it looks great is a nice bonus.

It also comes in LE, LE Plus, XLE Limited and Limited Platinum trim levels, plus a hybrid version.

My tester was powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 295 horsepower and 263 lb.-ft. of torque that pairs to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Highlander has a 5,000-pound towing capacity and received a 22-miles-per-gallon EPA rating in combined city/highway driving.

The 2019 SE model adds black exterior items including wheels and rocker panel covers, darkened headlights and taillights, as well as black chrome LED fog lights that accented my ride’s Salsa Red Pearl coat of enamel. Inside, unique black leather-trimmed seats feature striking silver stitching and pattern inserts, plus matching dark dash and door accents.

The Highlander shows a mastery of vehicle packaging. It’s just a few inches longer than a midsize sedan yet offers three-row seating and up to 158.7 cu. ft. total cabin volume. A one-step second-row sliding seat function on both driver and passenger sides makes entering the third-row easy. Third-row passengers get a standard recline function.

Even with all seat rows in use, there’s still 13.8 cu. ft. of carrying space behind the third row. Folding the 60/40 split fold-flat third-row seatbacks expands the space to 42.3 cu. ft. My tester had second-row captain’s chairs that were nice, but limit the passenger count by one.

Each second row passenger benefits from a drop-down Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system and two wireless headphones. My adult-aged daughter was upset that she didn’t know in advance, so I was spared listening to another Disney movie again.

Another cabin highlight is the roll-top center console that provides a big, comfortable armrest for the driver and front passenger. Its inner storage box is roomy enough to hold a very large handbag – although we didn’t try my wife’s. I have my doubts about that one.

Other creature comforts included heated front seats, heated side mirrors, navigation with turn-by-turn signals, cruise control, Entune AM/FM/XM/CD audio with eight speakers and Bluetooth, five USB ports, integrated backup camera, three-zone climate control, 12 bottle holders (don’t ask me why) 12V and 120V outlets, moon roof, power lift gate and a tow package.

Highlander comes with Toyota’s Safety Sense P suite of features that includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure alert with steering assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, hill-start and downhill assist control and auto high beams.

Base Price: $42,945

Price As Driven: $45,045

Base price includes destination charge. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturer. List price may vary at local dealerships.

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