2016 Toyota Highlander LE Plus (Review)

The 2016 Toyota Highlander is a midsize 8-passenger, three-row crossover vehicle that has not undergone any major changes from the previous model year, but it is still is a top choice among consumers seeking a crossover SUV that is both spacious and economical.

The Highlander is available in five trim levels- LE, LE Plus, XLE, Limited, and Limited Platinum and in either front or all-wheel-drive with a choice of a 4-cylinder or V6 engine that is able to tow up to 5,000 pounds.

The base LE trim comes fitted with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine with a 6-speed automatic transmission that produces 185 horsepower, 184 lb. ft. of torque, and yields an estimated 20 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. A more powerful 3.5-liter V6 engine is standard for the other trims, but optional for the LE and produces 270 horsepower, 248 lb. ft. of torque, and can be paired with either front or all-wheel drive. The front-wheel-drive V6 arrangement delivers an estimated 19 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway, while the all-wheel drive V6 yields slightly less fuel efficiency at 18 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway.

The LE trim comes with- automatic headlights, cloth seats, a rearview camera, 18-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, heated exterior mirrors, a rear spoiler, manually adjustable front seats, sliding and reclining 60/40-split second-row and third-row seats, CD player, an auxiliary audio jack, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a 6-speaker sound system with voice controls, Bluetooth, a 6.1 inch touchscreen, and an iPod/USB port.

The LE Plus Package adds an 8-way power driver seat with power lumbar, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a flip-up rear hatch window, foglights, tri-zone automatic climate control, satellite radio and HD radio, an adjustable-height power liftgate, a larger 8-inch display, and better upholstery with SofTex synthetic leather accents.

The XLE trim adds heated front seats, keyless entry and ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a sunroof, roof rails, an upgraded driver information display, a 110-volt power outlet, Driver Easy Speak which is a driver voice amplification system to communicate with rear seat passengers, smartphone app integration, retractable second row sunshades, an 8-inch central touchscreen, and a navigation system. A rear-seat entertainment package for the XLE and Limited trims is optional and include wireless headphones, a bigger 9-inch display, RCA jacks, and a Blu-ray player.

The Limited adds heated and ventilated front seats, LED running lights, 19 inch wheels, LED ambient interior lighting, a blind-spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, second-row captain’s chairs, driver memory functions, a 12-speaker JBL sound system, a 4-way power passenger seat, and rear parking sensors. A Driver Technology Package offers frontal collision warning, automatic high-beam control headlights, a frontal impact crash mitigation system, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, and a safety system which includes-emergency assistance, automatic collision notification, and a stolen vehicle locator.

Lastly, the top-of-the line Limited Platinum trim comes fitted with all of the aforementioned features, but also adds rain sensing wipers, a heated steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof, and heated second row seats.

On the road, the Highlander is a strong performer and delivers effortless acceleration that makes it one of the quickest large crossovers available. The Highlander provides a smooth and enjoyable driving experience on a variety of terrains with responsive braking and handles sharp corners with ease, just like more expensive luxury vehicles that I have previously tested.

Standard safety features for all 2016 Toyota Highlander trims include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, a driver knee airbag, front seat side airbags, a front passenger seat-cushion airbag and full-length side curtain airbags, and a rearview camera.

The interior of the Highlander is quite nice with soft touch materials and a contemporary looking dashboard area with a multifunction touchscreen display, which is available in either a 6.1 or 8 inch size.  The 8 inch display in the LE Plus has better graphics, functionality, and is more enjoyable to interact with. In the front and rear cabin, there is plenty of head/legroom for taller passengers and the seats are comfortable, ergonomic, and supportive, however, the third row is a little cramped for adults.  There is a special built-in shelf on the dashboard area that can be used to put small items, such as keys or a cell phone and there is a big storage area below the console armrest that is large enough to store an iPad, purse, or a large tote bag.

Cargo space behind the third row measures almost 14 cubic ft. and when the rear seats are folded down there is an impressive 83.7 cubic ft. of space.

If you have been looking for a crossover SUV that looks beautiful inside and out with a comfortable interior, strong on the road performance, advanced technology, and high end features that are usually only available in more expensive luxury vehicles, then I highly recommend taking a look at the 2016 Toyota Highlander.  The Highlander has a starting MSRP of $29,990 and in my opinion; it is well worth the price.

To find out more about the 2016 Toyota Highlander, please visit- www.toyota.com

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