2017-2018 Toyota Highlander Review Update: Standard Safety for your Family!

This is an update to our full review of the current generation Toyota Highlander and Highlander Hybrid.  Starting with the 2017 Toyota Highlander, Safety Sense P is standard on all trim levels, thank you Toyota!  That makes it easy to find a model on a dealer’s lot that earns the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award and also makes active safety features much more affordable in LE and LE Plus trim levels.  The 2017 model also has a slightly refreshed appearance up front and in back.  In addition, a revised engine provides more power in V6 models plus improved fuel economy thanks to a stop-start system and a new 8-speed transmission.  As if in response to some of our critiques of the 2014 model, they have also added lower hybrid version trim levels with 8-passenger seating, increased the number of USB ports and removed some confusing guidance about car seats.  All welcome improvements!  The 2018 model is essentially unchanged from 2017.


The second row still offers a 3-row bench standard with 8-passenger seating, shown below with a Nuna PIPA Lite and a Britax Frontier.  Higher trims like the Limited in this review offer a 7-passenger version with a cupholder tray in the center that folds to make a center aisle.  The second row captain’s chairs are pretty standard and work well with most carseats.  Both include lower anchors as part of the LATCH system, and one extra top tether anchor is included in the middle of the 8-passenger model’s 2nd row bench seat.  This center seat of the 2nd row bench is smallish, but should fit some narrower carseats and offer limited 3-across carseat installation potential.  The 3rd row seat is mainly for kids, but could fit smaller adults on a short trip.  Three-across carseats would be difficult in the third row, even if all are narrow.  Unfortunately, there are no lower anchors and only a single top-tether anchor for the center of the third row.


Cargo space is easily configured with a fold-flat 60/40 third row seat.  Folded, it offers plenty of space for a futon and a full load of college move-in gear.  All head restraints adjust reasonably high for most adults and can be removed if necessary for carseat installation.



  1. IIHS Top Safety Pick+ & NHTSA 5-star rating
  2. Toyota Safety Sense STANDARD on ALL trims!
  3. Plenty of cargo space behind 2nd row
  4. Fuel economy good for its class
  5. Improved interior and styling
  6. Smooth, quiet ride and comfortable seating
  7. Improved fuel economy on non-hybrid models
  8. Good visibility, standard backup camera and hands-free bluetooth
  9. Removed confusing restrictions on car seats in the center seats
  10. Solid acceleration and braking for a midsize SUV
  11. Retains an authentic, old-fashioned gear shifter


  1. 2014Highlander8passcrossoverMinimum complement of 2 LATCH positions
  2. 2nd row bench passenger side buckle stalk placement
  3. Third row still not comfortable enough for adults
  4. Blind spot and cross-traffic alert only on XLE trim and up
  5. Safety Connect only available on Limited model
  6. Handling isn’t notable, even for a larger SUV


With standard Toyota Safety Sense and other updates, we highly recommend the 2017 and 2018 Toyota Highlander and Highlander Hybrid.  Some other SUVs only qualify for top safety awards on the most expensive trim level, often only if you can even find the optional and pricey safety tech package on the lot.   It was a runner-up for our 2017 Safest Minivans and 3-row SUVs award, the strictest objective family vehicle safety award in the industry! With standard features, the entry level Highlander LE version with the 4-cylinder engine is a bargain for safety with a street price under $30,000.  We recommend at least the LE Plus model with the updated V6 and 8-speed transmission.  Surprisingly, it achieves a little better fuel economy than the 4-cylinder model, mainly because of the stop-start system.  The Hybrid LE is also an excellent choice with 8-passenger seating and excellent fuel economy.  The Limited AWD version in this review has an MSRP of around $43,000.  All trim levels have front crash prevention with auto-brake standard, so really any Highlander model is a great choice!

Thank you to Toyota and DriveShop for the Highlander loan used in this review.  All opinions are my own and as always, no other compensation was provided.