DETROIT – The 2018 Toyota Highlander got a new V6 engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The combination put out 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. What’s more, the Highlander can tow up to 5,000 lbs. It can be equipped with a start stop engine system; we had the all-wheel-drive version.
Obviously, a four cylinder engine is available as well as a front-wheel-drive model. But we had the 2018 Toyota Highlander Limited PLT – V6 AWD. In that guise the EPA rating was 20 mpg in the city, 26 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined. And you get that performance with regular gasoline.
Now standard is the Toyota Safety Sense system. It includes pre-collision with pedestrian detection function with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, lane departure alert with steering assist function, automatic high beams and dynamic radar cruise control.
We sat in our 2018 Highlander and took some notes. We found heated and cooled front seats as well as heated second row captain’s seats. This Highlander had a heated steering wheel too. There was also a kind of cupholder tray apparatus between the captains’ seats that could be folded away when not in use.
The third row 60/40 seats were folded leaving a flat mat covered cargo floor. We had to fold that mat to deploy the seats which were easily reachable. We could also deploy those seats from the back through the power liftgate.
We also discovered the source of a slight rattling from the Highlander’s premium audio system. The woofer is in the liftgate and when the volume is turned up that woofer vibrated and since nothing braces the liftgate, nothing braces the vibrating woofer. Mystery solved.
There was a panoramic roof. It covered the first and second row. Over the first row was moveable, while over the second row was fixed. This Highlander had smart cruise control and there was a TFT screen between the odometer and speedometer.
Overall it was a clean layout. There was an infotainment screen the controls for the audio, home and app system on one side and the controls for the phone and the CD system were on the other. We saw a slot for a Map Card that made us think you had to take the Highlander to the dealer to get it updated.
The Highlander had a button for an overview. Push it and 360 degree overhead rendering of the Highlander appeared on the navigation screen that highlighted the area maybe six-feet around it. We think it was more for security because the regular overview camera came on automatically when we put the Highlander in reverse.
All that equipment notwithstanding, the slickest thing about the interior was the storage shelf. It ran the width of the dashboard with a two or three inch gap to place things on it. At night it was lit by soft blue ambient LED lighting. There was a plug that pulled out so that a smartphone or some other device could be laid down and then plugged into the USB jack or auxiliary jack be low.
There were three USB jacks plus a 12V plug next to them. We checked out the center console and it was deep enough for a sliding tray. At the bottom was another 12V jack. And in the second row at the base of the center console were two more USB jacks and a 120V plug. Every passenger can plug something in, even with the Highlander’s three rows of seats.
The Highlander will automatically shift into all-wheel-drive mode if the system senses wheel slippage or under aggressive accelerations. Normally, 100 percent front-wheel-drive, the Highlander’s all-wheel-drive system is capable of sending 50 percent of its torque to the rear wheels.
The driving characteristics of the 2018 Highlander were very good. It was quiet, the suspension smoothed out the bumps and lumps in the road and handling was good. It went where we steered it.
There wasn’t any rocking or swaying and other than that rattle when we turned the volume up on the audio system, noise, vibration and harshness were minimal. It was a comfortable ride.
It had a MacPherson strut front suspension and double-wishbone rear suspension. The latter is better for handling versus a link setup and the Highlander really did handle well, it stayed glued to the road.
Of course, there were the usual culprits: satellite radio, voice controls, smart cruise control, Bluetooth, power seats and the not so usual like automatic high beams
Importantly, though it had three rows of seats, the 2018 Toyota Highlander didn’t drive big. Nor was the sticker that big: this Highlander cost $47,634 as tested.
Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.