The 2016 Toyota Highlander is a midsized, 8-passenger SUV with excellent resale and reliability, carlike driving dynamics and a range of engine choices, including a hybrid powertrain. Roughly the same size as competitors like the Honda Pilot, the Ford Explorer and the Chevrolet Traverse, the Highlander is well known to families with big needs, including a 5,000-lb tow rating when properly equipped. The Highlander also scores well in crash tests, especially on higher trim models equipped with the optional driver-assist systems.
What We Like
Hybrid fuel economy; seating for eight people; strong V6 engine; carlike ride and handling; flip-up lift gate window
What We Don’t
Fuel Economy & Engine Specs
The base Highlander LE comes with a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 185 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. This engine is only available with front-wheel drive and is rated at 20 miles per gallon in city driving and 25 mpg on the highway.
Optional on the LE and standard on all other trims is a 3.5-liter V6 good for 270 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. Front-drive models attain an impressive 19 mpg city/25 mpg hwy, practically identical to the mileage of the weaker 4-cylinder engine. Toss in all-wheel drive, and fuel economy drops by only 1 mpg to 18 mpg city/24 mpg hwy.
The Highlander Hybrid uses the same 3.5-liter V6 only paired with an electric motor to develop a healthy 280 hp. Fuel economy stands at 27 mpg city/28 mpg hwy, but the Highlander Hybrid’s tow rating maxes out at 3,500 pounds versus 5,000 pounds for the gasoline V6 model.
Standard Features & Options
The 2016 Highlander comes in five trim levels and with three powertrain options. Gasoline versions come in LE, LE Plus, XLE, Limited and Limited Platinum, while the hybrid models can only be found on Limited and Limited Platinum trims.
The Highlander LE comes standard with the 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine and includes a rearview camera, 18-in alloy wheels, power windows and door locks, cloth seating, manual driver and passenger seats, a 3.5-in driver information display, heated side mirrors, cruise control, a tilt-telescopic steering column, windshield wiper de-icer, rear privacy glass, 8-passenger seating, sliding and reclining 60/40-split second-row seats, a 60/40-split third-row seat, a 6-speaker AM/FM/CD audio with a 6.1-in touchscreen, Entune infotainment with an iPod/USB interface plus Siri Eyes Free.
The LE Plus adds a V6 engine, a power rear lift gate with a flip-up window, an 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar control, a height-adjustable power rear liftgate, SiriusXM, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, SofTex faux leather seating, tri-zone automatic climate control and an 8-in color touchscreen.
The XLE brings a power sunroof, leather seating surfaces, keyless entry with push-button start, heated front seats, a 4.2-in color multi-information display, an Optitron gauge cluster, second-row retractable window shades, a second-row 112-volt outlet, Driver Easy Speak, an 8-in high-resolution touchscreen with navigation and split-screen display plus Entune Apps for smartphone integration. Options for the XLE include second-row captain’s chair seating and a rear seat Blu-Ray DVD entertainment system with a 9-in display, remote and two wireless headsets.
The Highlander Limited brings upgraded rearview camera with guide lines, 19-in alloy wheels, perforated leather seating, second-row captain’s chair seating, LED daytime running lights, a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors, heated and ventilated front seats, memory for the driver’s seat, a 4-way power passenger seat and a 12-speaker JBL audio system
Options for the Limited include the Driver Technology package that brings Safety Connect (subscription-based; includes emergency roadside assistance and stolen vehicle location), automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, a collision-mitigation system with automatic braking and lane-departure warning.
Last but not least is the Limited Platinum trim that adds the Driver Technology package plus a panoramic sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, a heated steering wheel and heated second-row captain’s chair seating.
The Hybrid Limited and Hybrid Limited Platinum have a unique hybrid display instrument cluster, but otherwise largely follow the feature set of their non-hybrid twins.
The 2016 Highlander and Highlander Hybrid both hold exceptionally strong resale values, even with the low-volume 4-cylinder LE model. AWD models will fetch higher prices in areas where snow is a regular impediment. To get a good idea of the 2016 Toyota Highlander’s price range, we suggest using the used car values at KBB.com. You can also search the AutoTrader Classifieds to see what models are currently for sale in your area.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, has issued the following recalls for the 2016 Toyota Highlander:
- A recall was issued for a possible problem with a disconnected brake fluid sensor, which may result in an inability to detect low brake fluid levels.
- A recall was issued for a Load Carry Capacity label with the wrong information.
Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and if not, will fix the car at no charge to you. You can also check the NHTSA website; simply enter your vehicle’s identification number for a list of performed recall repairs.
Safety Ratings & Warranties
In government crash tests, the 2016 Highlander earned a 5-star overall rating, with four stars in the front crash and rollover tests and five stars in the side impact test. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the 2016 Highlander a Top Safety Pick+ designation, with top marks in all but the passenger-side small-overlap front crash test, which earned an Acceptable grade.
The 2016 Toyota Highlander left the factory with a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile drivetrain warranty. The hybrid model includes an additional 8-year/100,000-mile warranty for the hybrid components. If you purchase your Highlander through the Toyota Certified Pre-Owned program, Toyota will give you 1-year/12,0000-mile bumper-to-bumper protection from the day you buy the car, plus extend the powertrain warranty to 7 years/100,000 miles from the date the vehicle first entered service. This warranty is fully transferable and has no deductible.
Other Cars to Consider
2016 Honda Pilot — The Pilot offers similar stats for interior room, hp and resale, but it doesn’t offer a hybrid model, although its fuel economy figures are slightly better than the V6-powered Highlander.
2016 Chevrolet Traverse — The Traverse isn’t as stylish or powerful as the Highlander, but it does offer a much more user-friendly third-row seat and more cargo space behind said seat. The Traverse’s infotainment and driver assists aren’t as robust as in the Highlander, nor are its resale scores.
2016 Ford Explorer — The Explorer offers more powerful engine choices, a more rugged look and the ability to tackle moderate off-road obstacles. The Explorer offers more high tech features, but its resale numbers aren’t as good.
The Highlander XLE offers just about all the features you’ll need at a very good price. If you find a Limited with the additional driver-assist systems and it’s only a bit more, however, it might be worth biting the bullet to get these premium safety upgrades.