Toyota Highlander Review, A Good Commuter

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Highlander is Toyota’s mid-size crossover SUV which is based on the platform common with Toyota Camry and is on sale since 2000. Toyota Highlander is one of the very first crossover SUVs which is based on a car-based platform rather than a truck-based platform like most other crossovers. Highlander is the crossover counterpart of the mid-size 4Runner which is based on the more rugged and tougher truck platform. Toyota Highlander became the best-selling Toyota model offered in USA in 2006 before it was surpassed by the smaller RAV4.

2021 Toyota Highlander

Interestingly, Toyota Highlander is also known as Toyota Kluger in some other markets including Japan itself. That is due to the trademarked name of Highlander as a trim level for Hyundai Terracan. Kluger name is derived from the German name Klug which means smart or cleaver, therefore Kluger means one who is smart.


Toyota Highlander offered in USA includes are from the fourth generation codename XU70 with reinforced unibody construction present since 2019. The exterior design is done by Masaaki Yagi, not necessary beautiful or eye catching but externally bigger and bulkier than all previous generations, more radical and in line with Toyota’s aggressive design language of recent years.

2021 Toyota Highlander Interior

The platform is known as TNGA: GA-K which is common with fourth generation (XL40) Toyota Sienna and fourth generation (XU80) Toyota Harrier also known as Toyota Venza in North America.

Toyota Highlanders come in nine different trim levels four of which are hybrid trim levels. The gas powered engine available are one 3.5L V6 Atkinson Cycle capable of 295 hp and 263 lb.ft and a 2.5L inline-4 Atkinson Cycle for all hybrid trim levels. The gasoline engine itself is rated at 186 hp and 175 lb.ft but when combined with power output of the whole hybrid system it will reach 243 total horsepower. Transmission choices are two automatics, one Direct Shift 8 speed and one E-CVT with sequential shift mode offered only for hybrid trim levels. Based on trim level an Electronic on Demand AWD with Dynamic Torque Vectoring system for better torque distribution would also be available.

Toyota Highlanders are 7 seater crossover SUVs with optional 8 seater capability on demand. Along with 5000 pound towing capability notable or its unibody construction or EPA estimated 24 combined mpg is a suitable choice for everyday transport applications.

2021 Toyota Highlander

The hybrid AWD Toyota Highlander has EPA ratings of 35 combined mpg which is a best in class performance that gives even more extended driving range.


Toyota Highlanders are armed with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0) which is a series of safety features and assisting systems including pre-collision system with low-light pedestrian detection, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, lane tracing assist, automatic high beam, road sign assist, front and rear parking assist with automated braking and blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert. All are to help Toyota drivers to have a safer driving experience using Toyota’s vehicles.


In 2019 IIHS chose Toyota Highlander for “Top Safety Pick” award. NHTSA also gave away the “5-Star Overall Safety Rating” award for the same vehicle.

The best sales record for Toyota Highlander was back in 2018 when Toyota sold over 244000 gasoline Highlanders in in the USA making it one of Toyota’s best-selling vehicles in that region. The sales figures for hybrid version Highlanders that year was just shy over 3000 unit. The number increased notable for 2019 almost tripling close to 10000 units. Retail pricing range of Toyota Highlander starts at 34,600 USD for the lowest L trim and rises up to 48,250 for top of the line Hybrid Platinum Version before any options are included.

Toyota Highlander Price

With retail pricing range close to Toyota 4Runner, for someone more interested in real life off-road experience than everyday city use, the 4Runner is far a better choice which comes in TRD Pro tuned trim level as the most expensive Toyota 4Runner, starting MSRP at 49,865 USD before options.

What do you think?