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2017 Toyota Highlander Review: Kids, Carseats & Safety

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.

Multimac: Too Good to be True?


News of the Multimac has been ebbing and flowing on social media for years. It’s making a resurgence again—for understandable reasons—so we felt we should address it.

If you’re not familiar with it, the Multimac is a child restraint system that includes three or even four seats that are installed at the same time into a standard back seat. Various accessories allow the Multimac to accommodate children from birth to age 12, from rear-facing to seatbelt-ready. The four-seater Multimac means that people who previously would have needed an SUV or minivan (or would have needed to put one child up front in a sedan) can now fit four kids in the back of a standard car.

Does that sound too good to be true? Well, it is and it isn’t. The Multimac does appear to meet standards…in the United Kingdom. It does not meet U.S. standards, and therefore cannot be used in the United States. So, if you’re in Europe, the Multimac might be a great option. If you, like most of our readers, live in America, you’re sadly out of luck.

If you’re an American hoping that the Multimac will eventually be available here, don’t hold your breath. There’s currently no way for the Mulitmac to pass U.S. testing. For one, our standard requires child restraints to be installed with a seatbelt or LATCH. The Multimac is installed with bolts and straps, plus legs that extend to the floor. It would fail U.S. testing by virtue of not being able to be installed on our test sled (that has no floor) and therefore we don’t know how it would fare in terms of meeting injury criteria.

Now let’s talk about cost for a moment. A four-seater Multimac with two rear-facing seats is about £2,000. (That doesn’t include the other accessories you might need, but it’s a starting point.) That translates to about $2,500, which is a big chunk of change to drop on a car seat. On the other hand, that’s slightly less shocking when you consider you’re buying four car seats, and it’s probably a lot less expensive than upgrading to bigger car. So you have to keep it in perspective. (Of course, that doesn’t take into consideration the likely astronomical cost to ship it to the United States…plus the fact that it’s illegal to use here.)

Maybe someday U.S. standards will allow for testing of innovations like the Multimac, but change in federal regulations is typically verrrrry slow. Child passenger safety advocates have long encouraged changes, like adding a floor to the test sled to accommodate seats with load legs, but so far nothing has come of that. If you’d like to see changes, contact your elected U.S. representatives and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to tell them we need to update our standards.

And if you’re in the UK, have fun with your new seat!

Nuna PIPA lite Unboxing


Our preview of the feather weight nuna PIPA lite can be found here: https://carseatblog.com/43145/nuna-pipa-lite-preview-pipa-goes-on-a-diet/

To model the beautiful PIPA lite, here’s the even more beautiful baby boy Ben, the newest member of the CarseatBlog family:-)  Congratulations, Katie!

Here’s our first hand look at what’s in the box. (Note that Ben and PIPA lite combined weigh less than the 13.75 pound white Ragdoll kitty!)

Road Warrior: 2018 Honda Odyssey Preview


We had the good fortune to have clear skies and a prime viewing spot for the total solar eclipse at the Tool Shed Corner B&B in wine country near the Shawnee National Forest.  We also had the good fortune to test the all-new 2018 Honda Odyssey on our family road trip this weekend, and it did not disappoint!  The Elite trim provided by Honda had basically everything to keep a full crew of six content through rural roads in downstate Illinois and on our much-longer-than-expected return trip through classic Illinois highway gridlock.  To be honest, just the front seat cooler ventilation and Sirius XM Radio 18 The Beatles Channel was enough to keep the driver happy!


We put some miles and some dust on the ’18 Ody and emerged unscathed for the amazing adventure.  Thanks to Honda Sensing, the Odyssey has a full array of active crash prevention features, including front crash mitigation warning AND auto-brake.  This feature was notably absent from the previous generation Odyssey and disqualified it from winning our Safest Minivan and 3-Row SUV award.  To make up for it, Honda has made them STANDARD on all trim levels from EX and up for 2018!

The Odyssey’s ride was fantastic and soaked up railroad crossings, gravel roads and everything else with ease.  The new 10-speed transmission was silky smooth and power was plentiful, even with a full load of 6 people and luggage.  The Magic Slide seats are very handy for getting just the right seating arrangement.   The 2nd row center seat is just big enough for many carseats and is equipped with LATCH.  It can be removed to create an aisle when not needed.  There are a total of five seats with lower anchors and tethers, plus a sixth top tether anchor for the 3rd row middle seat as well.  While it may not be quite as friendly to 3-across car seats in the 2nd row as the previous generation Odyssey in wide-mode seating, it’s very close, and it’s also likely to remain our top choice for family and carseat friendly interiors!

Inside, the Elite trim has every comfort and convenience feature you could want.  The 4G LTE hotspot kept all the kids happy, as did the entertainment system with wireless headphones and full streaming capbility.  Both headphones and speakers are wired into the handy Cabin Talk feature that allows people in back to hear the driver talking.  And the driver can also keep an eye on the crew with the Cabin Watch camera, a great addition if you have little ones.  Though some found the seats a little firm for their preference, otherwise the 2018 Odyssey was just about perfect for a long family vacay!

Stay tuned for our review video at CarseatBlog.com.  Thanks to Honda and G. Schmitz & Associates for the 2018 Odyssey Elite loaned to us for this preview.