The 2017 Toyota Highlander SUV is updated with a new eight-speed transmission, more power, and a slew of available safety features.

For years, the Highlander dominated our midsized SUV ratings, scoring the coveted Top Pick crown with its combination of comfort, fuel economy, easy day-to-day livability, and strong reliability. It’s no mean feat to knock such a strong contender like the Highlander out of CR’s top spot, but the Kia Sorento did just that.  

Toyota, not a company to rest on its laurels, just introduced its 2017 model with a clear statement: We’re back.

All 2017 Highlanders will be available with Toyota’s Safety Sense P suite of safety equipment, including pre-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. All models also can be equipped with a pedestrian pre-collision system, which uses a camera and radar to detect objects in the road and prompts the driver to brake with audio and visual alerts. The system will also automatically apply the brakes if the driver doesn’t take action. The XLE trim line will also get blind-spot monitoring as standard equipment.

Top-level Limited Platinum models will come standard with a 360-degree bird’s-eye view camera, using four cameras mounted on the front, the side mirrors and rear of the vehicle to deliver a panoramic view of the vehicle’s surroundings on the dashboard’s center screen.


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2017 Toyota Highlander interior

Other changes for the 2017 model include more horsepower for the 3.5-liter V6, which is paired with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. All V6 models (except the LE) will come standard with a new start/stop system to save fuel.

The base powertrain will remain the 2.7-liter four-cylinder paired to a six-speed automatic transmission. All Hybrid models continue with the continuously variable transmission (CVT). All-wheel drive is standard on Hybrid models; the gas-only versions continue to be offered in all- or front-wheel drive.

A new sporty SE model joins the line and gets 19-inch wheels, a stiffer suspension, and various interior and exterior trim pieces to set it apart from the mainstream Highlanders. The Highlander Hybrid adds two more affordable trim lines (LE and XLE) to accompany the current high-grade Limited and Platinum models.

Depending on the trim level, you have the choice of second-row captain’s chairs (providing seating for seven) or second-row bench seats that will allow you to pack in up to eight people. Finally, the interior gets four more USB ports.

The updates will keep the Highlander competitive, and they address some of our criticisms, such as the limited availability of advanced safety systems. However, we are not seeing measures to address our road test findings that the Highlander is not as quiet or plush-riding as the previous generation.

The 2017 models will hit showrooms in the fall of 2016.

Read our complete Toyota Highlander road test

2017 Toyota Highlander rear