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Style: Folsom | El Dorado Hills

Rocklin Expert Jeffrey Weidel on Wheels: 2015 Toyota Highlander

Oct 29, 2015 10:31AM ● Published by David Norby

Photo courtesy of Toyota

Answering some of its critics, the Toyota Highlander made some dramatic changes a year ago during its major redesign. The result is a more appealing exterior, a refined driving experience, plus some interior changes that give the Highlander more overall appeal.

2015 Toyota Highlander

  • Performance: 2.7-liter, four-cylinder, 185 horsepower; 3.5-liter, V6, 270 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 24-25 mpg; 18-20 mpg
  • Estimated price: $29,765 to $41,140 
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance: 2 years/25,000; corrosion: 5 years/unlimited

Toyota has quite the impressive lineup when it comes to sport utility vehicles. The list includes the RAV4, 4Runner, Highlander, Land Cruiser, Sequoia, Venza, and the somewhat quirky FJ Cruiser. And if one desires a more upscale SUV, Lexus (Toyota’s luxury division) has a variety of options as well.

Personally, the sport utility vehicle offerings by Toyota have always been a favorite. Whether shopping for a compact SUV or a super-sized model, there is something in the Toyota lineup for everyone. That lineup includes seven SUVs.

One of the most highly rated midsize SUVs is the 2015 Toyota Highlander, a sensible, well-designed crossover. The Highlander is a three-row, family-friendly midsize that’s offered in four trim models (LE, LE Plus, XLE, Limited) and a hybrid version.

The Highlander was redesigned in 2014 and among the most notable changes was the exterior. The “new” Highlander exterior styling is now more appealing to men than its previous bland look.

The exterior was just one of several major changes. Answering its critics, Toyota responded with more cabin and cargo room, and added some premium amenities to the Highlander. 

Major changes 

  • New dashboard. Toyota upgraded from its previously hard panels to curvier surfaces. 
  • Extra 3.7 inches of width added to third row, making Highlander one of the few midsize crossovers that seats eight people. 
  • Refined driving experience, thanks to new six-speed automatic transmission. 
  • Height-adjustable power liftgate with memory height settings

The Highlander provides two engine choices – we prefer the V6 option. The V6 Highlander is a 3.5-liter with 270 horsepower that generates 248 pound-feet of torque. It’s been clocked at 7.3 seconds going from 0-60-mph, which is about a second faster than many of its segment rivals.

The base Highlander (LE) is a front-wheel drive, 2.7-liter, four-cylinder engine with 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.

The Highlander hybrid also has a 3.5-liter, V6 gas engine, but gets assistance from a pair of electric motors to produce 280 horsepower and 215 pound-feet of torque. The gas mileage is an estimated 27-28 mpg.

Interior changes are impressive with the Highlander, which seats eight people and is essentially unchanged for 2015. The gauges now feature a more contemporary look and are clustered together in a sensible fashion. A dashboard shelf is a great innovation and the storage box under the console can occupy a sizable purse. Another positive change is increasing the space to 13.8 cubic feet behind the third row.

We also admire the optional “driver easy speak” that utilizes a Bluetooth microphone to broadcast your voice to third-row folks, the underlying reason is to get the attention of misbehaving kids.

Thanks to the numerous changes, the Highlander remains one of the primary choices in this crowded field of midsize crossover SUVs that includes Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Ford Flex, Mazda CX-9, and Dodge Durango.

Jeffrey Weidel lives in Rocklin and can be reached at

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