A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to drive the newest Highlander SUV for a week thanks to to Southeast Toyota.

I have a history with the Highlander. It was one of the first cars that I reviewed when I wrote for Champagne Living exclusively and the first time I drove it I actually followed it up by driving a Lexus SUV. While I loved both of them, I was and still am surprised at how much Toyota gives you in this car. It compares very well to the luxury manufacturers, only at a price that’s reasonable. Here’s my take on the newest Highlander.

This time I got a little surprise when the SUV that I was about to drive turned out to be a hybrid. I’d driven my wife’s old hybrid many times. It was a first-generation and was sluggish on the start and I found the CVT annoying. I was about to have a change of heart about hybrids as I stepped into the 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid AWD for a full week, and I’ve never had a more pleasurable experience in a vehicle.  This car is a safe choice for all the right reasons. The Highlander offers a full-sized SUV with a luxury car ride. With a high-quality cabin, sophisticated style, and crisp solid handling,o matter where the road least you, the Highlander will get you there in comfort. An exterior that boasts aggressive lines give this car a macho look with a limo feel ride.  Toyota took a V-6 and mated it to an ECVT transmission making the ride quiet, quiet, quiet. Pairing the V6 with the ECVT made all the difference in the world in a larger car, and I never felt like this one was lagging behind or lacked power.

Seating in this car is more than ample with plenty of accessible storage space available. It is perfect for a family not wanting a mini-van, but just as good for empty nesters like us who love to road trip and live an active lifestyle. This SUV has three-row seating that includes a second row of captains chair for ultimate comfort.

The third row goes down in seconds to create plenty of storage for groceries, sports gear or a foursome full of golf clubs. Even the bag boys at my country club were impressed and particularly liked the ease of using the automatic tailgate. While Florida in summer doesn’t give you a lot of opportunities to access the AWD, I would not hesitate to take the Highlander up to ski country (and the storage space is perfect for all of the snow gear that we generally take up to New Hampshire each winter).

This SUV is completely tech smart and includes an 8-inch touch screen complete with Toyota’s signature Entune Premium JBL®77Audio with Integrated Navigation that includes a full app Suite. Zippy was easily able to sync our phones via Bluetooth for our calls or listening to our favorite music. This is Zippy’s thing and no mine, so I left her to her devices (sic) and she was able to call Ben handsfree in seconds, scanned for her favorite satellite TV channels and we found that new restaurant we wanted to try easily with the large split screen navigation.

Platinum Package

When Toyota drops off a car for us to use, they love sending it equipped with top of the line equipment and you’ll get no complaints from me on that. Our platinum package consisted of chrome wheels, a panoramic moonroof with sunshade, heated leather seats, 2nd-row outboard seats and a heated steering wheel, great for those ski trips we take each winter. The birds-eye view monitor, rain sensing wipers and front parking sonar make this car so easy to keep your eyes just where they should be front and center.

The Exterior Offers

  • Auto on/off headlights with LED Fog + DRL
  • Headed adjustable outside mirrors
  • Adjustable power liftgate with a flip-up rear window

Performance -Standard

  • The Toyota hybrid engine offers a 3.5-Liter V6 Double Overhead Cam (DOHC) 24-Valve direct-injection Atkinson-cycle-capable engine.
  • ECVT Transmission
  • 3500 lbs tow capacity
  • Power assisted 4-wheel disc brakes with Re-gen
  • A temporary spare tire
  • Stop/Start System
  • Electric on-demand AWD with intelligence

Safety Features

As with all new Toyota’s the Highlander comes fully equipped with Toyota Safety Sense P which is an amazing Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. I’d feel absolutely safe letting a teenager Zippy take this car as I know that it has everything they’d she’d need to stay safe on the road.  With 8 airbags, a blind spot monitor and seats designed to lessen the probability of getting whiplash if you’re hit, I’d worry less.

Parking is easy with the hill-start assist control and rear parking sensor that alerts you (in addition to that great rear-view on the screen).

Also included are:

  • rear cross alert
  • smart key
  • a great anti-theft system with alarm and engine immobilizer

But it’s the interior that I really liked with COMFORTABLE seating for seven. The front seats are made of a luxurious perforated leather-trimmed and offer heat as well as ventilation. I particularly liked the 12-way power-adjustable driver’s seat (I am spoiled by this now) with memory function and power thigh and lumbar support, as getting just the right position is key to driving long distances. For the passenger, there is also a 4-way power-adjustable seat. Look to the second row and you’ll see that they also offer perforated leather-trimmed captain’s chairs with side table and yes, even 2nd-row side window sunshades so they can concentrate on their movies or reading without glare.

The model we drove was priced at $48,630, but of course, the price will depend on which equipment package you choose. Any way about it, for what you get, this car is a bargain, as once again, Toyota has created a luxury SUV that I can afford.

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