2015 Toyota Highlander

What's new for 2015? The 2015 Toyota Highlander is essentially unchanged.

With so many people haulers out there, how do you know which one is right for you? Well, let's start with your list of needs. Do you need room for up to eight people? A comfortable and quiet ride? Good performance and fuel economy? How about the option of rear seat DVD entertainment or even occasionally towing up to 5,000 pounds? If this reads just like your short list, then Toyota would like you to take a look at the versatile Highlander crossover SUV. It's back after a thorough redesign last year and better than ever. The 2015 Toyota Highlander, now in its third generation, is a top contender in this family-friendly crossover SUV segment. Tossing out minivans and V8-powered toy box-hauling behemoths, the Highlander is likely the sweet spot for most. Offered in front- or all-wheel drive with a choice of four-cylinder or V6 engines, there are five distinct trim levels from which to choose, each offering increasing amounts of content with few factory options. This strategy makes the process of finding the right Highlander pretty easy.

No matter which one you're considering, know that you'll get a comfortable cabin with plenty of room for your family and their things. The Highlander's second row can be either a three-across bench or a double captain's chair affair with a side table. The Highlander is also pleasant and easy to drive, and with its refined V6 and smooth six-speed automatic, it's also one of the quickest SUVs out there (even among V8s). If tech is your thing, there's enough available high-end gear on the upper trim levels to keep you and your co-pilot "infotained" for days on end.

In light of all these qualities, we awarded a top "A" rating to the 2015 Toyota Highlander. The Highlander has history and the Toyota nameplate on its side, and it's one of our top picks for 2015.

Exterior Highlights
Three-row midsize crossover available in LE, LE Plus, XLE, Limited and Limited Platinum trim levels

The 2015 Toyota Highlander is a three-row midsize crossover offered in LE, LE Plus, XLE, Limited and Limited Platinum trim levels. Eight-passenger seating is standard on the LE, LE Plus and XLE, while seven-passenger seating (featuring second-row captain's chairs instead of a three-person bench) is optional on the XLE and standard on the Limited and Limited Platinum.

The base LE gets things started with 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, heated exterior mirrors, privacy glass, a rear spoiler, cruise control, a rearview camera, fabric seating, manually adjustable front seats (six-way driver, four-way passenger), a sliding and reclining 60/40-split second-row seat, a 60/40-split third-row seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 6.1-inch central touchscreen and a six-speaker audio system with voice control, a CD player, an auxiliary audio jack and an iPod/USB interface.

Picking the LE Plus adds foglights, a flip-up rear hatch window, an adjustable-height power liftgate, tri-zone automatic climate control, upgraded upholstery with synthetic leather (SofTex) accents, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), a leather-wrapped steering wheel, satellite radio and HD radio.

The XLE further adds a sunroof, roof rails, keyless entry and ignition, leather upholstery for the first and second rows (SofTex for the third), an upgraded driver information display, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a 110-volt power outlet in the second row, retractable second-row sunshades, driver voice amplification for communicating with rear passengers (Driver Easy Speak), an 8-inch central touchscreen, a navigation system and smartphone app integration (Entune App Suite).

Nearing the top, the Limited comes with 19-inch wheels, LED running lights, LED ambient interior lighting, second-row captain's chairs, heated and ventilated front seats, driver memory functions, a four-way power passenger seat, a blind-spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alerts, rear parking sensors and a 12-speaker JBL audio system.

There are no factory options available for the LE or LE Plus trim levels. The XLE can be outfitted with the second-row captain's chairs. An optional rear seat entertainment package for the XLE and Limited includes a Blu-ray player with 9-inch display, RCA jacks and wireless headphones.

On just the Limited you can also select the Driver Technology package, which fits the Highlander with automatic high-beam control headlights, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning, frontal collision warning, a frontal impact crash mitigation system (with automatic braking) and Toyota's Safety Connect telematics (emergency assistance, stolen vehicle location and automatic collision notification).

Finally, the top-shelf Highlander Limited Platinum reaps all of the above as standard and further includes a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel and heated second-row seats.

Central touchscreen with improved graphics and functionality, built-in shelf on dashboard, rearview camera, height adjustable power liftgate

Hard plastics that were once the bane of the Highlander have since been supplanted by supple surfaces with fancy stitching at the seams. The gauge cluster has a contemporary look thanks in part to the multifunction information display that sits in the middle (especially the XLE and Limited's larger color version). Although the base 6.1-inch central touchscreen is a bit basic in both form and function, the available 8-inch unit is more satisfying with its improved graphics and functionality.

Toyota has baked a number of handy storage features into the 2015 Highlander's interior. There's a unique built-in shelf on the dashboard, for instance, that can serve as a resting place for phones and other small personal effects. Vastly more spacious is the storage box under the console armrest that's big enough for a large purse.

On the cargo-carrying front, the available height-adjustable power liftgate with memory height settings is a boon in garages with low ceilings. Maximum hauling capacity tops out at 83.7 cubic feet, which is an average figure for this class of vehicle.

The 2015 Toyota Highlander comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, front seat side airbags, a driver knee airbag, a front passenger seat-cushion airbag and full-length side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is also standard.

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