It's a car; it's an SUV – it is a crossover. The Highlander was one of the first entrants in the crossover market. Which is the best year Toyota Highlander?

The Toyota Highlander is a midsize crossover built on the Toyota Camry platform. It serves as an excellent solution for those looking for a car-like driving experience in an SUV-shaped vehicle.

2018 is the best year for Toyota Highlander as this model comes equipped with numerous safety and technological features. With a seating capacity of up to eight and excellent fuel economy for Hybrid, the 2018 Highlander is an excellent choice for large families who like to travel together.

Toyota Highlander meets most families' requirements and demands in terms of performance, and the hybrid technology is like a cherry on top. It is spacious and comfortable to seat up to eight passengers and makes long highway cruises pleasurable.

Car experts believe that there are hardly any eight-seater vehicles that deliver the fuel economy to match the Highlander. It is a reliable vehicle well suited for large groups or families. The vehicle is available in various trims, which make the Highlander suitable for low-budget buyers.

Best Year Toyota Highlander

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2018 Toyota Highlander

It is a crossover SUV that can seat a maximum of eight passengers across three rows. It flaunts excellent safety ratings, a well-equipped interior, and a V6 engine as an option, making Highlander a popular choice among families.

The 2018 Toyota Highlander is available in a wide range of trims, LE, LE Plus, SE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum. Most of the lineup can be found with a hybrid powertrain, making the Highlander one of the most fuel-efficient crossovers in the market.

Most Highlanders, however, are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine, which can produce up to 295 hp and 263 lb-ft torque. The base trim, LE, is powered by a 2.7-liter, inline-four engine, producing 185 hp. The base variant comes with front-wheel drive only.

The 2018 Highlander looks more muscular than the sporty Mazda CX-9 and the Chevy Traverse. However, it is still a crossover suited better for carpeted roads than unpaved mountains and valleys.

Design

Thanks to its nose and truck-like front grille, the Highlander flaunts an aggressive look. The grille comes chromed on LE and XLE and blacked out on higher trims. With these features, the Highlander seems to be in the middle ground between the stylish and sporty crossovers and the bulky and muscular SUVs and trucks.

Step inside, and the experience takes a significant turn for the better. You will notice that the controls are systematically laid out on the dashboard, and less used or secondary controls are situated to the left of the steering column.

The two-row dashboard is practical and adds to the aesthetics of the interior. It has a storage area for multiple smartphones and pass-through slots for chargers to keep wire clutter out of sight. Every trim has its unique interior finishes, good-quality materials, and a somewhat premium look.

Performance

The 2018 Highlander comes with three powertrain options. But the V6 is the one that we find suits the vehicle best. It makes the crossover responsive and adds to the performance, making it fun to drive.

The base variant, LE, is powered by a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine, which for the most part is ok, but can seem underpowered to driving enthusiasts. This engine delivers 185 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque and is coupled with a smooth and responsive six-speed automatic transmission. When the vehicle is fully loaded with passengers and cargo, the engine does seem to toil a little if pushed too hard.

The 3.5-liter V6 is standard on all other variants of the Highlander, except the LE, which comes with both engines as options. The V6 is coupled with an exceptional eight-speed automatic transmission and allows the Highlander to show its true face. The accelerations are powerful and smooth, making a vehicle the size of the Highlander responsive and fun to drive.

The third powertrain is the Hybrid, which uses the same V-6 engine and combines it with two motors, and to power them, a 45 KW nickel-metal hydride battery. This powertrain produces 306 hp. However, the added weight of the hybrid components results in this variant being slower than the standard V6. The hybrid engine is coupled with a continuously variable transmission that ensures smooth accelerations and a comfortable ride.

Since the Highlander is a family-oriented vehicle, its suspension is designed and tuned to deliver a comfortable ride. On the LE and XLE variants, you will find 18-inch alloy wheels with a high-profile tire. The added sidewall allows the wheels to absorb many dips and crests along the road.

The Limited and Platinum trims have slightly lower-profile tires and 19-inch alloys. They give the vehicle better handling and cornering abilities but make the ride slightly firmer. The SE trim is equipped with a sport suspension, which is firmer and does not necessarily improve the driving experience.

Even with truck-like looks, and an impressive eight inches of ground clearance, the Highlander is not meant for rough off-roading situations. The All-wheel-drive option is designed to deliver more traction and better ride quality on paved surfaces and light snow-covered roads rather than for handling rocks or deep mud. The rear-wheel-drive Highlander might be enough for you if you drive around mostly warm areas.

Space and Comfort

All variants of the 2018 Highlander are designed to be spacious, comfortable, and deliver a smooth and for up to eight passengers. It also offers a lot of flexibility in terms of space for cargo. By folding away the second and third-row seats, you have access to quite a large cargo space.

The front seats are well-bolstered and supportive. The driver gets a power-adjustable seat on all trims, and the passenger gets limited power adjustment on higher trims. The second-row seats are bench-style and feature a 60/40 split. They can slide towards the front and back and have a reclining function. However, a few Highlanders come with captain's chairs in the second row, but that reduces their seating capacity to seven.

The third-row seat is excellent for children but can be tight for adults. This seat is easy to fold down with a tug of a lever, but we miss the power-folding option, even on higher trims of the Highlander.

Moving further behind the backseat, we find a cargo area of 14 cubic feet, which is small and can be used for a large bag or two small ones without stacking. But fold down the third-row seat, and the cargo area expands to 42 cubic feet. With the second-row seat also folded away, you have a cargo space of 83.2 cubic feet. The space inside the cabin remains the same for the traditional and hybrid variants.

There are plenty of storage bins all around the cabin. One feature that stands out is a shelf on the dashboard that is well-sized for smartphones, sunglasses, or your wallet. The material used in the cabin is quite nice. Good quality rubbers and soft-touch plastics cover most door panels and dashboards. On the LE variant, the silver trim on the dashboard flaunts a plastic look, which is replaced by wood-like trim on Limited and Platinum variants. Being a sportier variant, the SE features a separate black trim with leather seats.

Safety

All variants of the 2018 Toyota Highlander come equipped with Toyota Safety Sense-P package. This package equips the vehicle with the following features:

  • Forward collision warning and prevention with automatic braking control. This system detects vehicles and other obstacles in the way of the vehicle and can trigger the brakes to stop or slow down the vehicle.
  • Adaptive cruise control can adjust the vehicle's speed to match the traffic in front. Once the traffic moves out of the way, the crossover speeds up to the set speed.
  • The lane departure warning system reads the white and yellow lines on the road, and if the vehicle is veering off towards any of the lines, it can alert the driver.
  • Automatic high beams system switches the beams to low if it detects any vehicle up ahead.

Combine these advanced features with the following standard features, and you have a recipe for safety and success:

  • Eight airbags, including front airbags for the passenger and driver, side-curtain airbags for all rows of seating, and a knee airbag for the driver.
  • Anchors for mounting child car seats in multiple locations around the vehicle
  • Daytime running lights
  • Traction and stability control
  • Automatic headlights, which can detect low light
  • Tire pressure monitoring system
  • Engine immobilizer with a security system

The 2018 Highlander has received a "Good" rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for crashworthiness. It received an 'Acceptable' rating for passenger side frontal impact. However, the vehicle was awarded the Top Safety Pick status for 2018 thanks to its high safety score and a "Superior" crash prevention system.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration complemented the IIHS by giving the Highlander a Five-Star overall rating. The vehicle received four stars for front driver side impacts and rollover resistance due to its tall and narrow body.

Features

The 2018 Toyota Highlander comes equipped with a broad range of features that are fun to discover and work along with. To cater to a wide range of buyers, the Highlander is available for almost every budget. It comes in six trims, LE, LE Plus, XLE, SE, Limited, and Limited Platinum.

The LE trim, which comes with a four-cylinder or six-cylinder engine, is the base variant for the 2018 Highlander. Even this base trim is equipped with many features, including:

  • Tinted windows
  • Side mirrors with turn signals
  • 18-inch alloy wheels
  • A 6.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system that offers Bluetooth connectivity
  • Rearview camera
  • 4.2-inch information screen in the gauge cluster

The LE Plus trim adds on to the LE with the following:

  • Eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation using a Smartphone's data connection
  • Power-adjustable passenger seat
  • Three-zone climate control
  • Synthetic leather upholstery

The XLE trim is the next up the line, and it adds the following features:

  • A navigation system that does not require any data connection
  • Heated front seats
  • An interesting feature is a microphone above the driver, which amplifies the driver's voice for easier communication to the second and third-row seat passengers.
  • Leather upholstery
  • Power-operated moonroof
  • Optional Captain's chairs for the second row

The SE trim is built with features similar to the XLE trim and adds a few styling cues like black interior and 19-inch alloy wheels.

Next in line is the Limited trim, which is equipped with the following features:

  • Ventilated and heated front seats
  • Heated second-row seats
  • Advanced JBL audio system
  • Memory positioning for driver's seat
  • Optional Captain's chairs for the second row

The Limited Platinum trim features 360 degrees surround view, panoramic moonroof, and a heated steering wheel.

The Highlander Hybrid is available in XLE, Limited, and Limited Platinum trims and comes with all-wheel drive as standard.

Fuel Economy

The V6 variant of the 2018 Highlander is quite fuel-efficient, but the real star in this category is the hybrid variant.

The V6 variant earns EPA ratings of 20 mpg for city driving, 27 mpg for highways, and 23 mpg combined. For the 2.7-liter, four-cylinder engine, there is not much difference in the fuel economy, as the numbers come up to 20 mpg in the city, 24 mpg on highways, and 22 mpg combined.

The hybrid variant with a V6 engine and all-wheel drive can deliver 30 mpg when driving around the city, 28 mpg on highways, and 29 mpg combined.

All 2018 Highlanders come with an auto start and stop feature. It stops the engine when the vehicle is stopped at a traffic light and turns it back on again as soon as the driver removes their foot off the brake pedal. These frequent starts and stops are mostly unnoticeable, and this feature is an important factor in fuel saving.

Price Range of 2018 Toyota Highlander

The prices of the 2018 Highlander start at $25,000 and go up to $41,000. The average price sits at about $33,000. These prices vary according to trim level and the options on the vehicle. They are also affected by location, mileage, and, most importantly, the vehicle's condition.

Running Costs of the 2018 Toyota Highlander

The estimated average cost of using a Highlander is around $5,000 per year. This translates to around $25,000 for five years. This number includes fuel, insurance, routine maintenance, and estimated repairs.

About THE AUTHOR

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

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