Just-right exterior and interior size for many families
Very quiet and pleasantly compliant ride quality
Undesirable base four-cylinder engine
Third-row seat isn't as roomy as those in many competitors
Touchscreen and other controls may require an extra-long reach
No available Apple CarPlay or Android Auto
The 2018 Highlander is a large three-row crossover SUV with seating for eight, but optional second-row captain's chairs reduce capacity to seven. Toyota makes six Highlander models: the LE, LE Plus, XLE,SE, Limited and Limited Platinum. The LE isn't a stripped-down model, but its standard four-cylinder engine is a bummer. The LE Plus has key upgrades such as the V6 engine (optional on the LE), a power liftgate and tri-zone automatic climate control, while the XLE, Limited and Limited Platinum essentially slather on luxury features. The SE stands out with unique styling and sportier driving dynamics.
The standard powertrain on the base LE is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine (185 horsepower, 184 pound-feet of torque), a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. The 3.5-liter V6 (295 hp, 263 lb-ft) that's standard on all other trims is optional on the LE and comes paired with an eight-speed automatic. All-wheel drive can be added to the V6 as an option.
Other standard features include 18-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, a windshield wiper de-icer, rear privacy glass, the Toyota Safety Sense bundle (automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, lane departure intervention, and Toyota's Pre-Collision System, which bundles forward collision detection with automatic emergency braking, a rearview camera, rear air conditioning, a height-adjustable driver's seat, a 60/40-split second-row seat (slides, reclines, folds), a 60/40-split third-row seat (reclines, folds), five USB ports, a 6.1-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player.
The LE Plus adds a height-adjustable power liftgate, a flip-up rear window, foglights, tri-zone automatic climate control, upgraded upholstery and trim, a power-adjustable driver seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a higher-resolution 8-inch touchscreen, satellite and HD radio, and a variety of smartphone-connection apps.
On top of the LE Plus' equipment, the Highlander XLE adds a sunroof, roof rails, keyless entry and ignition, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems, an upgraded instrument panel, leather upholstery (first and second rows), simulated leather third-row upholstery, heated front seats, a power-adjustable passenger seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, second-row window sunshades, a 110-volt power outlet, Driver Easy Speak (carries the driver's voice through the rear speakers to distant passengers) and a navigation system.
The SE is equipped similarly to the XLE but has LED running lights, sport-themed styling elements and suspension tuning, 19-inch wheels and sporty interior trim.
The Limited starts with the XLE's content and adds LED running lights, different 19-inch wheels, rear parking sensors, a rear cargo cover, heated and ventilated front seats, driver-seat memory settings, heated second-row captain's chairs (optional on the XLE) and a 12-speaker JBL audio system.
The Limited Platinum gains a panoramic sunroof, automatic wipers, a 360-degree parking camera, front parking sensors, Safety Connect emergency communications, a heated steering wheel and heated second-row seats.
The Limited and Limited Platinum can be optionally equipped with the second-row bench. A rear-seat entertainment system is optional on all but the LE and LE Plus.