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2017 Toyota Highlander: Refreshed and Improved

The updated 2017 Toyota Highlander will make its debut next week at the New York International Auto Show. It’s a significant refresh for the Highlander, as Toyota is introducing a number of design, engineering and safety updates. The new Highlander arrives in Toyota showrooms this fall.

Charting the Changes

(Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.)
(Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.)

The most notable changes to the Highlander’s exterior involve new upper and lower grille designs with unique finishes for each trim level. For example, a silver painted finish adorns all LE, LE Plus and XLE grades, while a painted chrome finish embellishes all Limited and Limited Platinum models.

From the rear, the Toyota Highlander receives an all-new taillight design. Further, chrome garnishment adorns the rear bumper of all Limited and Limited Platinum models. Three new paint colors are offered, including Salsa Red Pearl, which is exclusive to the all-new Highlander SE.

Six Trim Levels

(Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.)
(Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.)

Speaking of the Highlander SE, the newest grade raises the trim choices to six: LE, LE Plus, XLE, SE, Limited and Limited Platinum. The Highlander SE is the sportiest of the six, and comes outfitted with 19-inch alloy wheels. It also features a sporty dark paint treatment found across the grille, surrounding the headlamp housings and on the roof rails. Importantly, the SE’s suspension system is tuned to deliver a sportier ride.

The interior changes include raising the number of USB ports from one to five. A new brown leather interior comes to the Platinum Limited model, while captain’s chairs for the second row are available for the two top trims. That choice replaces the standard second-row bench seat and drops passenger volume from eight to seven.

The Highlander SE’s interior has its own interior touches, including black-leather seating surfaces. Those seats are visually enhanced with silver stitching and pattern seat inserts, along with a black front tray and matching dash and door inserts.

Engine and Transmission Choices

(Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.)
(Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.)

The standard powertrain on the front-wheel drive Highlander LE remains the 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine, which is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The 2016 Highlander currently makes 185 horsepower and is EPA-rated at 20/25 mpg city/highway with this engine.

All other models are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that currently makes 270 horsepower. The big change for V6 models is the transmission, as Toyota is replacing the current six-speed automatic with an eight-speed. Although fuel economy estimates are not yet available, expect the V6-powered Toyota Highlander to see an improvement over its current 19/25 mpg city/highway rating, especially on the highway.

Also new for 2017 is a stop/start engine system that’s included on all but the base Highlander LE. Like similar systems, power is cut off to the engine whenever the Highlander comes to a complete stop. The engine restarts the very moment the driver removes his or her foot from the brake pedal. This system and the new transmission will optimize the Highlander’s fuel economy.

Standard Toyota Safety Sense

(Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.)
(Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.)

The 2016 Highlander is a Top Safety Pick+ recipient from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the 2017 model gains additional safety features.

A standard Toyota Safety Sense P package brings in a number of advanced features, including a pre-collision system with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. The pre-collision system utilizes a camera and radar to detect objects in front of the vehicle, and alerts the driver as needed. Additional braking force is added when the driver responds, but it also automatically brakes the SUV if the driver fails to respond quickly enough.

The Safety Sense P package also brings in lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control, a pedestrian pre-collision system and automatic high beams. Choose a model from the XLE grade on up and blind spot monitoring becomes standard equipment. Importantly, the top Limited Platinum model gains a multi-camera system with perimeter scan, which supplies a live rotating 360-degree view around the vehicle to ease parking maneuvers.

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Changes

Not to be overlooked when it comes to changes is the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Now offered in four trims, new LE and XLE grades will join the current Limited and Platinum models, giving consumers more choices when shopping for a hybrid SUV. Exterior and interior changes parallel the updates made across the Highlander range.

As before, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is all-wheel drive only and is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine and a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The Highlander Hybrid benefits from three electric motors, giving the current 2016 model a combined 280 horsepower.

2017 New York International Auto Show

The 2017 Toyota Highlander will officially make its debut at the 2016 New York International Auto Show on March 23. It isn’t the only Toyota model debuting, as a not-yet-identified Toyota Prius derivative is also on tap, representing the latest rendition of the world’s most popular gas-electric hybrid model.

See also: 2017 Toyota Highlander For Sale

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