Through the years the Toyota Highlander has ranked among the best midsized, three-row SUVs and is among the 10 most popular vehicles among Consumer Reports readers. Why does the Highlander knock it out of the park so often? Well, it has a winning combination of the practicality of a family-friendly SUV with the refinement of a good sedan. Adding to these desirable traits is a long and enviable history of top-notch reliability and a high resale value.

And news for the Highlander only gets better. Updates for 2017 include all models getting the Toyota Safety Sense P suite of safety gear as standard equipment. This includes forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, pedestrian warning, and adaptive cruise control. XLE and higher grades also get blind-spot monitoring. A backup camera is standard.

Other changes for 2017 include a new eight-speed transmission and more horsepower for the 3.5-liter V6, a standard start/stop system to save fuel, a "sporty" SE model, and more USB ports.

Finally, all versions get freshened front and rear styling and a few interior upgrades.

Pricing starts at $31,570 for the front-wheel-drive LE four-cylinder model and climbs to $48,820 for the Limited Platinum Hybrid version. 

2017 Toyota Highlander interior

The 2017 Highlander’s 3.5-liter V6 puts out 295 horsepower—25 hp more than the last one we tested. The Highlander Hybrid is mechanically unchanged for 2017.

Fuel economy with the Hybrid is an impressive 25 mpg overall. The last nonhybrid Highlander we tested returned 20 mpg overall; the new eight-speed transmission might boost this a little.

Another reason the Highlander scores so well in our testing is that it isn’t a physically imposing vehicle, but it still offers a third-row seat that allows seating for eight in a pinch and folds flat easily for more cargo stowage. (It seats seven with optional second-row captain's chairs.)

So with all this new hardware, we recently added a 2017 Highlander AWD XLE version to our test fleet. With the $249 all-weather floor mats as the only extra, our new XLE came to $41,169. So far the Highlander carries on with its refined powertrain, sound handling, and absorbent ride. The cabin is quiet, seats are comfortable, and controls are easy to use even if the touch screen is a bit of a reach. The stop-start feature is unobtrusive and restarts the car quickly.

Lane-keep assist gives you a slight nudge when drifting out of your lane, and the forward-collision-warning alerts do a good job reminding you when you're getting too close to the car in front. We’re no fans of the audible "beep" coming from the lane-departure warning; we’d rather have the steering wheel vibrate in such instances.

Here’s what you should know: There are likely to be many 2016 models still on sale that dealers might want to push for a discount. In fact, Toyota still has the 2016 models available on its online configurator. As of this writing, Toyota is offering about $750 to $1,000 extra incentive on 2016 models over 2017s. It’s certainly tempting, but we think you should insist on a 2017 to get all of the standard safety features. The advanced electronic safety features were available only on top-trim 2016 Limited models, which go for $44,715 (and include the Driver Technology package that has all the safety equipment).

We’d save the $3,000 and get the 2017 XLE. 

2017 Toyota Highlander rear