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Versatile 2019 Toyota Highlander excels as a family vehicle option Featured

Posted On Saturday, 31 August 2019 04:17 Written by
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The 2019 Toyota Highlander won't win any drag races, but it will deliver a safe and comfortable family ride for larger broods. The 2019 Toyota Highlander won't win any drag races, but it will deliver a safe and comfortable family ride for larger broods. Photo by Matt Myftiu/


Many SUVs these days aim for a bit of flash.

Some razzle dazzle to get your attention amid a growing sea of offerings.

But not the Toyota Highlander.

It is what it is. No gimmicks.

It’s an SUV for families who want reliability and versatility. And it delivers.

Let's take a more in-depth look at how the 2019 Toyota Highlander measures up in a crowded SUV field.


The Highlander features an exterior that distinguishes itself with its bladed front grille, and unique lighting designs. It’s not the class leader in terms of looks, and probably due for a redesign, but it’s still a design I could live with on my daily driver. 

The Highlander features 19-inch wheels, automatic headlights, LED daytime running lights, heated adjustable power outside mirrors, and a power liftgate with flip-up rear window.

Inside is where the Highlander shines. You get a power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade, and a design that allows for maximum versatility depending on your needs.

The Highlander can seat 7 people (3 little ones in the tight back row, plus 2 passengers in middle and 2 people up front). The perforated leather seating was very comfortable, even on longer rides. Front seats are heated and ventilated, and sun shades are included on the middle row.

If you ever need to haul cargo, folding down the third row gets you over 42 cubic feet of cargo space, and folding down both second and third rows gets you over 83 cubic feet. 


The 2019 Highlander Limited that I tested featured the more stout of two powerplant options: A 3.5-liter V6 paired with a 8-speed automatic transmission, boasting 295 horsepower and 263 lb.-ft. of torque.

The base engine offered in the Highlander is a more pedestrian 2.7-liter four-cylinder option, with 185 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft.

I would recommend avoiding the base engine and opting for the V6. 

In my experience driving the Highlander, despite its size it still feels pretty light when you are driving and gets around turns well. But even with the V6, it’s not very quick to get moving from a stop. 

Even if you’re not going to be drag racing from the stop light with your kids in the car on the way to soccer practice, settling for the lesser engine will make for a daily struggle getting up to speed in situations where you need some power (like highway merging).

Bottom line here is that you shouldn’t get the Highlander if you’re looking for the most powerful SUV. Because that is not its strong suit. The ride is quiet and comfortable and good for a pleasant commute, but not a leader in brute strength.

My test vehicle featured all-wheel drive, but that’s an optional feature, with FWD being the standard setup for those who don’t upgrade. The Highlander can tow up to 5,000 lbs. — strong numbers for the class.


Families are going to place a premium on safety features, so Toyota wisely loads the Highlander up in this category.

The Toyota Safety Sense P package includes: Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, auto high beams and dynamic radar cruise control. 

The Highlander includes 8 airbags, and also offers a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alert. Other features include hill start and downhill assist control, and rear parking sonar.

I found the Highlander’s infotainment system easy to use by touch and voice overall, but sometimes a bit frustrating because voice commands did not always work on the first attempt. 

The system includes integrated Navigation, and an 8-inch touchscreen with backup camera.

Music lovers are also covered here, as the Highlander features Entune Premium JBL audio, AM/FM radio, CD slot, and a full 12 speakers.

There are 5 USB ports for your use in the Highlander, and Bluetooth for streaming music and phone calls through the vehicle. You also get 3 months of satellite radio free before the subscription fee begins.

One downside is that the vehicle is not compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for phone mirroring, unlike much of the competition.

The official fuel mileage numbers on the 2019 Highlander are 20 city/26 highway/22 combined, and I averaged 21.6 miles per gallon during my time driving the vehicle.

Overall, these numbers are at the top of the class for three-row SUVs — on par with numbers on the Nissan Pathfinder and Honda Pilot, and better than fuel economy numbers for Ford Explorer, Chevy Traverse, VW Atlas, Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade.

So if fuel mileage is important to you, the Pathfinder has you covered. 

The 2019 Highlander that I tested was priced just under $44,935; base price starts around $32K. This is generally the price range you’ll find in this class of three-row SUVs, though a couple alternatives are priced lower than the Highlander.

Don’t forget to factor in the reliability of Toyota vehicles, though. Even if it’s a bit more up front, in the long run it may still be a better value proposition.


The Highlander is not a flashy vehicle, but it's a reliable and safe Toyota SUV with a ride quality that’s not exactly powerful but still strong enough for most families, and that is exactly what many people seeking their next SUV will have on their wish list.

----- can be found on Twitter @AutoTechReview, or stay updated at the AutoTechReviews Facebook page.

Matt Myftiu can be found on Twitter @MattMyftiu.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2019 Toyota Highlander  
  • Price as tested: $44,935 (base price starts around $32K)
  • Best feature: Versatile design for families, reliable, strong on safety
  • Rating: 4 out of five stars   
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Families seeking a versatile, reliable SUV who don't need flash
Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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