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Toyota Highlander Performance

Reviewers agree that the 2015 Toyota Highlander's strongest traits are its soft, car-like ride, composed handling and ample power from its available V6 engine.

  • "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)." -- Edmunds
  • "Of course, nobody buys the Toyota Highlander because it's a hot rod. Instead, Highlander buyers are looking for a solid, dependable vehicle that can handle a variety of road surfaces, from smooth suburban asphalt to concrete Interstate highways, to even the occasional light off-road duty. In each of these situations the Highlander excels, although any off-pavement driving should be reserved only for AWD models." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "It has the elevated road view of an SUV, while still maintaining the comfortable driving character of a car." -- Automobile Magazine (2014)

Acceleration and Power

The 2015 Highlander's base engine is a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 185 horsepower. A 3.5-liter V6 is available, which generates 270 horsepower. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard with either engine. The base Highlander achieves an EPA-estimated 20/25 mpg city/highway, which is good for the class. Front-wheel drive models with the V6 are rated at 19/25 mpg.

Reviewers write that the Toyota Highlander's four-cylinder engine delivers adequate acceleration, though many prefer models with the V6, which they say feel lively and fast. Several also point out that opting for the V6 comes with a minimal penalty in fuel economy. Test drivers note that the transmission is responsive and shifts quickly.

  • "Toyota says up to 90 percent of Highlander models will leave the lot with the 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine, and it's easy to see why. The V6 offers considerably better acceleration than the 185-horsepower 4-cylinder, and only gives up a little in fuel economy." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Most 2015 Toyota Highlander buyers end up with the tried-and-true V6 engine, and it's easy to see why: You get almost the same fuel economy as with the base four-cylinder, along with an extra 85 hp and some of the smoothest acceleration in any crossover at this price. The six-speed automatic transmission works well and provides quick downshifts." -- Edmunds
  • "… the four-cylinder model, which provides ample power despite being charged with the task of propelling a beefy SUV." -- Automobile Magazine (2014)
  • "Under the hood, the base 4-cylinder engine delivers acceptable thrust, but since its fuel economy is barely better than that of the V6, we don't really see the point. Most Highlander buyers opt for the six, and we can see why: It's one of the best V6s in the world, pumping out serious passing power when you need it." -- AutoTrader (2014)

Handling and Braking

The 2015 Toyota Highlander comes with standard front-wheel drive or optional all-wheel drive. Reviewers agree that the 2015 Highlander has a comfortable and serene ride. They say it has composed handling with minimal body lean in turns. Others add that it has accurate steering, though some comment that the Highlander isn't as sporty as rivals like the Mazda CX-9.

  • "The meaty three-spoke steering wheel is precise, and if you drive quickly around a tight turn, the Highlander remains secure, with a decent amount of grip. As long as you're not looking for handling as athletic as the Mazda CX-9's, you'll likely find the Highlander sharp enough." -- Edmunds
  • "Around town, the Highlander's relatively tidy proportions make it easy to maneuver in parking lots." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The Highlander maintains its composure even during the occasional aggressive turn or maneuver, and it conveys a buttoned-down sense of security at all times." -- Automobile Magazine (2014)
  • "Of course, the main purpose of the Highlander is to take bumps and freeway expansion joints in stride -- and here it excels, providing near-Lexus levels of refinement." -- AutoTrader (2014)
  • "I didn't have any complaints about the Highlander's handling, which is surprisingly good for a larger crossover. The steering feel is sportier than that of the previous generation and body roll has been minimized, attributes that allowed me to feel quite confident on the snaking roads that run along the cliffs near Big Sur." -- Autoblog (2014)
Review Last Updated: 8/27/15

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