The new third-generation Highlander will come with the buyer's choice of three different powertrain options. The base model will be powered by a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission with front-wheel-drive. Next up the ladder is a 3.5-liter V6, also mated to the 6AT, which can be had with either front-or all-wheel-drive. Finally, the Highlander Hybrid will be equipped with all-wheel drive, its 3.5-liter V6 mated to an electric motor, all hooked up to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The automaker has not released any specs for fuel economy or output yet, though we're promised increases in both power and efficiency.
While not a revolution in terms of styling, Toyota has cleaned up the bodywork for the new model, offering a crisp, conservative look for the slightly larger Highlander. The vehicle is some three inches longer and an inch-and-a-half wider than the outgoing model, yet it has a lower roofline. Black plastic-clad wheel arches make an attempt to butch up the crossover, though to our eyes, the Highlander still has the look of a minivan around the rear view.
Inside, the most important feature of this model is that it seats eight humans. Beyond that, the automaker is crowing about contrast stitching on the seating surfaces, soft-touch materials on the instrument panel and accents in wood grain, silver satin and chrome. The third row is now easier to access via a sliding second-row point of entry, and is more capacious thanks to 4.3-inches of added width. There's also a raft of newly safety tech including lane-departure warning, pre-collision warning and blind spot monitoring systems.