2019 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum AWD First Test: Aging but Capable

Which brings us to the figure eight. The Highlander wasn’t the worst performer, but it was far from the best. It rounded the bends in 27.7 seconds at 0.62 g, behind the Pilot (27.5 at 0.63), Explorer (27.1 at 0.66), Ascent (27.1 at 0.63), and, narrowly, the Atlas (27.6 at 0.62). It outperformed the Pathfinder (28.1 at 0.60) and Durango GT (28.3 at 0.60).

Testing director Kim Reynolds praised the Highlander’s power through the figure eight but also noted its drawbacks. “There’s quite a lot of understeer, and it’s very exaggerated if you go too deep into the throttle on exit,” he said. “It feels rather heavy, and there’s noticeable body roll, but it’s pretty well damped.”

In braking tests, the Highlander managed to reach a complete stop from 60 mph in 128 feet. That is a greater distance than it took the Pilot, Explorer, Pathfinder, and Ascent, though not the Durango. Road test editor Chris Walton recorded “pronounced dive, with a bit of front end wander” on the Highlander.

“I can’t imagine a mom with a car full o’ kiddos would feel confident in a panic stop from 60 in this,” he concluded.

Being the top trim model, our Highlander Limited Platinum boasted high-quality surfaces, including the leather seats. But some of the technology left us wanting. Graphics on the infotainment system are a little outdated, and Toyota doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto on the Highlander. There are finicky haptic controls to the side of the 8.0-inch screen instead of physical buttons.

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Priced similarly to the top-trim Pilot, our Highlander Limited Platinum rang out to $48,319. Notable features include heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row outer seats, a 12-speaker audio system, and a panoramic moonroof. Every Highlander comes standard with a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, automatic high-beams, dynamic radar cruise control, and lane departure alert with steering assist.

Although the second-row seats are a bit heavy to slide fore and aft, we like the simple and easy mechanism for folding them flat (first pulling the lever on the seat back and then the lever on the seat bottom). Predictably, there’s not much room to spare in the third row, unless the second row is pretty far forward. With the second-row seats positioned with maximum legroom, there’s no way I could get my 5-foot-3 frame into the rear seat comfortably. Not that I expected to, but I find it’s not always an impossible task. When I recently drove the Ascent, I could fit my legs comfortably in the third row with the second-row seats pushed all the way back. The Ascent has nearly identical second-row legroom to the Highlander (0.1 inch difference) but 4 inches of extra legroom in the third row.

The Highlander is neither the quickest nor the best handling large crossover. On the plus side, it’s a quiet cruiser that has plenty of cargo space and room for passengers in the first two rows, if not the third. Frankly, it’s surprising the Highlander is as competent as it is given its age. A fully redesigned Highlander could come as early as next year, and thanks to TNGA, it will be well positioned to catch up to some of its more refined competitors.

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2019 Toyota Highlander Limited AWD (Platinum)
BASE PRICE $48,055
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, AWD, 8-pass, 4-door SUV
ENGINE 3.5L/295-hp/263-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
TRANSMISSION 8-speed automatic
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 4,631 lb (55/45%)
WHEELBASE 109.8 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 192.5 x 75.8 x 70.1 in
0-60 MPH 7.2 sec
QUARTER MILE 15.5 sec @ 92.5 mph
BRAKING, 60-0 MPH 128 ft
MT FIGURE EIGHT 27.7 sec @ 0.62 g (avg)
ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY 169/130 kW-hrs/100 miles
CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.87 lb/mile

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