Turning up the Heat

2017 Highlander: So much more than a standard mid-cycle refresh.
by Dan Miller
March/April 2016
Turning up the Heat
Fueled in part by low gas prices, SUVs have been hot, hot, hot these days—and Highlander is more than keeping pace. Sales of Toyota’s mid-size SUV were up 11 percent through the first two months of 2016 and posted their best February ever.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right?
Not exactly. Toyota, never one to rest on its laurels, is readying an energized model for 2017. This refresh, midway through the current generation’s product cycle, promises to build on the existing momentum.

The big news out of the New York International Auto Show, where this new Highlander was recently introduced, is its top-of-the-line powertrain. It pairs a more powerful available 3.5-liter direct injection V-6 engine with the all-new Direct Shift 8-speed automatic transmission, a more compact and efficient gearbox.
This new powertrain also offers an available Stop and Start Engine system, a Toyota first. The technology shuts off the engine when the Highlander comes to a complete stop and then restarts it when the driver lifts their foot off the brake pedal. Its purpose: to help enhance fuel economy and lower emissions.

Meanwhile, the familiar 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine/6-speed automatic transmission combo will continue to be the standard powertrain on 4x2 LE gas-powered models. And all Highlander Hybrids will stay with an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission.

Tasteful Tweaks
The 2017 Highlander will also benefit from exterior styling tweaks, such as:
  • A new upper and lower front grille design
  • Sleeker rear taillights
  • Chrome trim garnish on the rear bumper (Limited and Platinum models only)
  • Three new exterior models: Salsa Red Pearl (SE only), Celestial Silver Metallic and Toasted Walnut Pearl

Inside you’ll find:
  • Five USB ports (up from one)
  • New brown leather seating surfaces (Limited and Platinum only)
  • Choice of second-row captain’s chairs or a bench seat (Limited and Platinum only)
Remaking the Grade
The Highlander’s grade strategy will also get a bit of a reboot.

Most notably, a sporty SE model has been added to the gasoline lineup. On the outside, it’s set apart by distinctive 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels, a tuned suspension for a sportier ride and a sporty dark paint treatment on the front grille. Inside, SE models get black leather-trimmed seats with silver stitching and pattern seat inserts, a black front tray and matching dash and door inserts.
Also, the hybrid gets two new grades: LE and XLE.
All told, Highlander customers will be able to choose from among three powertrains, six grades and front-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations.

Advanced Safety
Every 2017 Highlander will come standard with Toyota Safety Sense P, a new advanced-safety package anchored by automated pre-collision braking. This bundle of technologies includes:
  • Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection
  • Lane Departure Alert
  • Automatic High Beams
  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control 
But that’s not all. The XLE grade also incorporates Blind Spot Monitor as standard equipment. And Limited and Platinum models will come standard with a Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan. It employs cameras mounted on the front, sides and rear of the vehicle to project a panoramic view of the vehicle’s surroundings on a dashboard-mounted display monitor. Perimeter Scan offers a live rotating 360-degree view around the vehicle, further helping the driver see potential obstacles.
Full details on this updated 2017 model will be released closer to when it goes on sale this fall.
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