2017 Toyota Highlander

Change Year or Vehicle
$30,630–$46,260 MSRP range

Key Specs

of the 2017 Toyota Highlander base trim shown

Our Take

From the Cars.com Vehicle Test Team

The Good

  • Handling
  • V-6 gas mileage
  • Cabin quality consistent in first and second rows
  • Handy dashboard device tray
  • Huge storage bin between front seats
  • Power-adjustable cushion length available (driver's seat)

The Bad

  • Sluggish acceleration from a stop (V-6)
  • Firm, busy ride
  • Vague steering feel
  • Whistling sound at highway speeds
  • Small third row
  • Apple CarPlay, Android Auto not offered
2017 Toyota Highlander exterior side view

Notable Features of the 2017 Toyota Highlander

  • More powerful V-6
  • New eight-speed automatic available
  • Restyled front end
  • Seats up to eight in three rows
  • Front- or all-wheel drive
  • Automatic emergency braking standard
  • Hybrid version available

2017 Toyota Highlander Road Test

https://www.cstatic-images.com/stock/64x64/90/img1115632532-1502480398190.jpg
Mike Hanley
The Verdict:

The 2017 Toyota Highlander Limited has lots of features for the money, but even with significant updates for the 2017 model year, this three-row SUV falls short of its competition because it doesn't drive as nicely or have as much space.

Versus The Competition:

In our recent 2017 Three-Row SUV Challenge, the 2017 Highlander finished last in a field of four. If it's going to compete with the newest three-row SUVs in its price range, the Highlander needs more: more space, more comfort and more technology.

Last fully redesigned for the 2014 model year, the Highlander received styling and drivetrain updates for 2017, including a new grille and an available V-6 engine that's more powerful and works with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Our test model, an uplevel Limited trim with all-wheel drive, had the updated V-6 drivetrain and an as-tested price of $44,514, including a $940 destination charge.

Exterior & Styling

The Highlander's 2014 redesign gave the SUV a tougher look, and the changes for 2017 take that design theme even further. The updated front end has a huge trapezoid grille with chrome bars that replace the old snoutlike design, but the SUV's overall shape remains the same.

The Highlander's competitors in our Challenge — the redesigned 2018 Chevrolet Traverse, 2017 Honda Pilot and all-new 2018 Volkswagen Atlas — are all bigger on the outside, some significantly so, and the Toyota's smaller size can be felt in the cabin.

Limited trim design cues include smoked headlights, 19-inch chrome wheels and chrome roof rails.

How It Drives

Many modern three-row SUVs drive like big cars, but the Highlander isn't one of them, even with drivetrain updates for 2017.

The Highlander has a firmer, busier ride than the Traverse, which benefits from a longer wheelbase that helps smooth out the ride, as well as comfort-oriented suspension tuning. The Highlander is also louder on the highway than the Chevrolet, with a persistent w...

Last fully redesigned for the 2014 model year, the Highlander received styling and drivetrain updates for 2017, including a new grille and an available V-6 engine that's more powerful and works with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Our test model, an uplevel Limited trim with all-wheel drive, had the updated V-6 drivetrain and an as-tested price of $44,514, including a $940 destination charge.

Exterior & Styling

The Highlander's 2014 redesign gave the SUV a tougher look, and the changes for 2017 take that design theme even further. The updated front end has a huge trapezoid grille with chrome bars that replace the old snoutlike design, but the SUV's overall shape remains the same.

The Highlander's competitors in our Challenge — the redesigned 2018 Chevrolet Traverse, 2017 Honda Pilot and all-new 2018 Volkswagen Atlas — are all bigger on the outside, some significantly so, and the Toyota's smaller size can be felt in the cabin.

Limited trim design cues include smoked headlights, 19-inch chrome wheels and chrome roof rails.

How It Drives

Many modern three-row SUVs drive like big cars, but the Highlander isn't one of them, even with drivetrain updates for 2017.

The Highlander has a firmer, busier ride than the Traverse, which benefits from a longer wheelbase that helps smooth out the ride, as well as comfort-oriented suspension tuning. The Highlander is also louder on the highway than the Chevrolet, with a persistent whistling sound at highway speeds. While the Traverse and Atlas have light, precise steering, the Highlander's is more vague — especially when starting a turn — and lacks feedback.

That said, the Highlander's suspension handles the SUV's mass well; it doesn't feel top-heavy or unstable through sweeping corners.

V-6-powered Highlanders get the new eight-speed automatic. I liked the V-6 drivetrain in the previous Highlander, which used a six-speed automatic. Even though the new transmission helps the SUV get better EPA-estimated gas mileage, the driving experience suffers.

The biggest problem with the new drivetrain is how sluggish the SUV feels when accelerating from a stop. It's very gradual — even when you press the gas pedal a good bit — like the transmission is in too high a gear. Only at midrange speeds does the drivetrain wake up and deliver stronger acceleration. Moving the console gear selector to the S position instead of Drive improves responsiveness a little.

Most trim levels with the V-6 have an auto stop-start system that shuts off the engine when you come to a stop, then restarts it smoothly when it's time to go again. The system includes a timer in the gauge cluster screen that keeps track of how long the engine has been off. I like how the stop-start system won't turn the engine off if you're pressing lightly on the brake pedal, as in stop-and-go traffic.

With its EPA-estimated 20/26/22 mpg city/highway/combined on regular gas, our all-wheel-drive Highlander Limited's gas mileage estimates were the best of the four V-6-powered SUVs in the Three-Row SUV Challenge, though the difference between best and worst combined mpg was just 3 mpg. The all-wheel-drive Pilot was a close second to the Highlander with its 19/26/22 mpg estimate, followed by the front-drive Traverse's 18/27/21 mpg rating. The all-wheel-drive Atlas, meanwhile, is rated 17/23/19 mpg.

The Inside

The Highlander's interior carries over much the same from the 2016 model. Even though materials are consistently good in the first and second rows, an area where some brands like to use lower-grade trim, the overall design looks dated in the face of newer competitors like the Traverse and Atlas.

The cabin does have some elements that set it apart, including a wide device tray at the bottom of the dashboard that also includes a cord organizer. It's one of those things with obvious appeal considering how many people tote smartphones, but you won't see something like it in other three-row SUVs. The storage bin between the front seats is among the largest in the class, with enough room to hold a laptop or purse.

The front bucket seats are comfortable and the Limited's driver's seat features an adjustable bottom cushion extension that lets you vary thigh support, which I appreciated. Of the four SUVs we tested, the Highlander was the only one with ventilated front seats in addition to the heated seats they all had.

The Highlander is, however, missing two popular features common among its competitors: Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity. The Limited's 8-inch touchscreen multimedia system does include navigation and Bluetooth streaming audio, and it was easy to pair my iPhone using Bluetooth. Though the system is easy to use overall, the touchscreen's graphics are basic compared with the Atlas' high-resolution screen.

The optional second-row bucket seats slide forward and back quite a distance. Even though the seats themselves are comfortable, they're close to the floor, resulting in a less-than-ideal seating position.

It's a good thing there's so much second-row seat travel, because adults who dare sit in the third row will need as much space as possible for their legs. With its low seat cushion and knees-up position, the Highlander's third-row seat is considerably less comfortable than the Traverse's or Atlas', and its third-row comfort rating was worst of the four SUVs in the Challenge. The third row's backrest does recline quite a bit, however.

The Highlander's cargo storage was also judged worst. With just 13.8 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third row, it'd be hard to pack for a family trip if all three rows of seats are needed.

Safety

The 2017 Highlander received the highest rating possible in all Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crashworthiness tests, and its standard automatic emergency braking system also earned the highest rating. Its headlight performance was deemed acceptable, which is IIHS' second-best rating. Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded the SUV a five-star overall rating based on its crash-test performance and rollover resistance.  

Other standard active safety features include lane departure warning, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and automatic high-beam headlights.

Value in Its Class

The mid-cycle updates to the 2017 Highlander might have been enough at a different time, but in the face of redesigned and all-new competitors that do a better job meeting family needs, it comes up short. Part of the reason is the new V-6 powertrain and its drivability issues, but this SUV is also hurt by characteristics that are hard or impossible to change without a full redesign — like its smallish cabin and cargo area.

Cars.com's Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with Cars.com's long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don't accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of Cars.com's advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.


2017 Highlander Video

The Toyota Highlander gets some significant drivetrain and styling updates for 2017, but are the changes enough?

Latest 2017 Highlander Stories

What Drivers Are Saying

Exterior Styling
(4.8)
Performance
(4.7)
Interior Design
(4.8)
Comfort
(4.9)
Reliability
(4.8)
Value For The Money
(4.6)

Latest Reviews

(5.0)

very comfortable, heated seats nice

by Gerry from Tupelo MS on April 16, 2018

This is my wife's car and she is comfortable driving it. She really likes the heated seats this time of year. She is comfortable adjusting the seats and steering. Read full review

(5.0)

Best SUV I ever owned!

by DC from Macungie on April 5, 2018

Typical Toyota quality. Great functionality and overall value. Test drove the Honda, Lexus, Acura and decided on the Toyota. Easy to drive, handles well, excellent space and very comfortable. Best ... Read full review

Safety & Recalls

Recalls

The 2017 Toyota Highlander currently has 2 recalls

IIHS Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

Based on 2017 Toyota Highlander LE I4

IIHS rates vehicles good, acceptable, marginal, or poor.

Child Seat Anchors (Latch)

Ease of Use
good

Head Restraints and Seats

Dynamic Rating
good
Overall Rear
good
Seat Head/Restraint Geometry
good

Moderate overlap front

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Left Leg/Foot
good
Overall Front
good
Restraints
good
Right Leg/Foot
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Other

Roof Strength
good

Side

Driver Head Protection
good
Driver Head and Neck
good
Driver Pelvis/Leg
good
Driver Torso
good
Overall Side
good
Rear Passenger Head Protection
good
Rear Passenger Head and Neck
good
Rear Passenger Pelvis/Leg
good
Rear Passenger Torso
good
Structure/safety cage
good

Small Overlap Front - Driver Side

Chest
good
Head/Neck
good
Hip/Thigh
good
Lower Leg/Foot
good
Overall Evaluation
good
Restraints and Dummy Kinematics
good
Structure and Safety Cage
acceptable
good
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is a nonprofit research and communications organization funded by auto insurers.

Manufacturer Warranty

  • Bumper-to-Bumper

    36 months / 36,000 miles

  • Powertrain

    60 months / 60,000 miles

  • Roadside Assistance

    24 months / unlimited distance

CPO Program & Warranty

Certified Pre-Owned by Toyota

Program Benefits

24-hour roadside assistance, trip-interruption services, Carfax vehicle history report, travel protection and toll-free assistance line

  • Limited Warranty

    1 year / 12,000 miles

    Comprehensive: 12 months/12,000 miles from date of purchase. Powertrain: 7 years/100,000 miles from original in-service date ($50 deductible) Note: In AL, FL, GA, NC and SC, 7-year/100,000 mile limited warranty coverage begins Jan. 1 of the vehicle's model year and zero (0) odometer miles and expires at the earlier of seven years or 100,000 odometer miles. Hybrid: 8-year/100,000 mile warranty on Factory HV Battery for Toyota Hybrid Vehicles.
  • Eligibility

    Under 6 years / 85,000 miles

    Vehicles receive a 160 point inspection and reconditioning.

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Highlander received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*

Infant seat

A

Booster

(second row)

B

Booster

(third row)

B
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.
For complete details,

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker