What's New for 2018
Since it was just refreshed for the 2017 model year, the 2018 Toyota Highlander carries over without changes.
Top 10 Reasons to Buy a 2018 Toyota Highlander – The Pros
1. Unmatched Standard Safety Features
Every trim level of the 2018 Highlander comes with Toyota's Safety Sense suite of high-end driver assistance features. This package includes Lane-Departure and forward collision warning and braking, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high beams, features that are only available in more expensive trims of most competing midsize SUVs. Drivers can also opt for a unique parking assistance system that includes four cameras for a bird's-eye view of the spot you're seeking out.
2. Outstanding Fuel Economy
While drivers of midsize SUVs expect to pay at the pump, the Highlander is one of the best choices in its class when it comes to fuel economy. You'll get an EPA-estimated 20 city/24 highway miles per gallon with the base engine or 19/26 with the V6 (newly introduced in 2017). Those who want even better efficiency can opt for the 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, named the best midsize SUV by U.S. News and World Report. It comes standard with all-wheel drive and offers 305 horsepower. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates 30/28 mpg when you have the base engine and 29/27 for the three highest trims.
3. High Towing Capacity
When outfitted with the tow package, the 2018 Toyota Highlander can haul up to 5,000 pounds, well above average for the midsize class. This package comes standard when you choose optional all-wheel drive. With above-average cargo space for the class when you fold down the seats, this is the perfect vehicle for a weekend adventure.
4. Luxurious Cabin
With high-quality, soft-touch materials, plush seats, and a hushed interior, the Toyota Highlander calls to mind a much more expensive vehicle. The second trim level, the LE Plus, is an incredible value that offers a luxe leather-wrapped steering wheel, upgraded touchscreen, power liftgate, eight-way power adjustable driver's seat, and tri-zone automatic climate control. Edmunds.com noted that the Highlander is the quietest SUV they've ever reviewed.
5. Comfortable Accommodations
Second-row seats both slide and recline for excellent passenger comfort, and the third row is a 60/40 bench split that allows you to load cargo with ease. Drivers have extensive options when it comes to seating, including standard cloth fabric (which is standard); a choice to upgrade to either real leather, synthetic leather, or perforated leather upholstery; and available heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row seats, and eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat.
6. Intuitive Entune Infotainment System
Toyota's Entune system gets high marks across the board for its ease of use. The 6.1-inch touchscreen is outfitted with Bluetooth as well as Siri Eyes Free functionality; it can also be upgraded to an 8-inch screen. Both versions are paired with a six-speaker audio system. Everyone in your party will be able to charge their devices with five USB ports throughout the cabin, including several on a unique multimedia shelf that allows easy driver access.
7. Unmatched Safety Ratings
Crash test scores for the 2018 Toyota Highlander are among the best in the midsize class. It has a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration. This vehicle also received the Top Safety Pick+ honor from the Insurance Institute on Highway Safety.
8. Sporty SE Trim
Newly introduced for 2017, the SE trim features bold styling and sport accents that set this midsize SUV apart from the crowd. The exterior is outfitted with a darker grille and headlight housing than other trims, along with special 19-inch wheels with black and silver accents. On all trims, last year's redesigned LED taillights and exaggerated grille give the Highlander an aggressive appeal.
9. Off-roading Capability
When you outfit the 2018 Highlander with all-wheel drive, you'll be ready to hit the trails with eight inches of ground clearance, both hill hold and hill descent control, and sharp angles of approach and descent.
10. Outstanding Value
Intellichoice found that the Toyota Highlander has the highest retained value in its class. They also named it as a Best Overall Value for the last six years, a SmartChoice operating costs winner, Lowest Maintenance Cost, Lowest Operating Costs, Lowest Ownership Costs, and Lowest Fuel Costs.
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Reasons Not to Buy a 2018 Toyota Highlander – The Cons
1. Cramped Third Row
Though the interior of the 2018 Highlander is generally comfortable, those in the third row will experience below-average leg room. This area is best suited for child passengers and may be too cramped for adolescents and adults, especially on longer trips.
2. Uninspired Handling
Although the Highlander delivers a smooth ride, many reviewers were unimpressed with the sluggish handling and noted body lean on sharp curves. However, braking is reportedly strong and confident based on drive tests.
3. Weak Base Engine
While 2018 Highlander drivers have a choice of two powertrains, the base option is a relatively weak 185-hp 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. The other powertrain, a 295-hp V6 with an eight-speed automatic transmission, is a better choice.
How it Stacks Up to the Competition
Drivers who want an expansive third row and don't mind paying more for active standard safety features may prefer the 2018 Honda Pilot, also a strong contender for those who want powerful performance. If off-roading is a priority for you, you might want to try the 2018 Toyota 4-Runner.
Despite the drawbacks, though, the 2018 Toyota Highlander deserves its high ranking among drivers and industry experts alike. It's a great all-around midsize SUV that offers incredible amenities for its relatively low price. The 2018 Toyota Highlander is an excellent bet for most families.
• Why buy a 2017 Toyota Highlander? w/ pros vs cons