Immortal Highlander remains a leading crossover

Capable, powerful and fuel efficient — even in non-hybrid form — the Highlander is a people mover with panache

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Proving it’s as durable as its mythical Scottish namesake — “Ya canna die, Highlander, you’re immortal!” (Sean Connery mode off) — the Toyota Highlander is still here two decades after it launched.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 14/01/2022 (329 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Proving it’s as durable as its mythical Scottish namesake — “Ya canna die, Highlander, you’re immortal!” (Sean Connery mode off) — the Toyota Highlander is still here two decades after it launched.

It’s grown over those 21 years: the first was a slightly enlarged compact crossover with only two rows of seats. Since the second generation and beyond, however, it is a three-row vehicle that isn’t huge, but is hardly compact, either.

Today’s Highlander comes in a variety of flavours, from the base model LE at $44,750 to the full-kilt Hybrid Platinum at $57,490. All-wheel drive is standard on all models.

Supplied The Highlander takes Toyota interiors in a new direction, with fresh styling and impeccable material selection.

Non-hybrid models use a 3.5-litre V-6 engine, which is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s relatively miserly, as engines with 295 horsepower go: average fuel economy is 10.3 litres per 100 kilometres.

The hybrid uses a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, essentially a parallel gas-electric hybrid powertrain that works together through a continuously variable planetary gearset transmission. This, as far as three-ton vehicles go, is miserly defined: average fuel economy is 6.7 litres per 100 km.

Unusual, but appreciated, was that Toyota sent a base model LE. Often, carmakers will send vehicles fully loaded, which can mask some underlying issues with models more likely to end up in average consumers’ driveways.

What was interesting was how little one gives up to stick with the base model: missing were a heated steering wheel, the seven-inch display (LE has a 4.2-inch), LED ambient lighting, auto-dimming rear-view mirror and moonroof (among some other, less noteworthy omissions).

Present were heated seats, power adjustable driver’s seat, and new for 2022, the full suite of Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ features, including radar cruise control, as well as keyless entry and pushbutton start.

In other words, the dealer isn’t lying if it says the Highlander comes “nicely equipped” from $44,750.

A notable omission — considering it’s standard on my personal, mid-grade Mazda CX-5 ($35,969) — is a rain-sensing wiper system, which is only available on Platinum models.

The Highlander doesn’t necessarily standout for any particular part of its design. It’s pretty standard crossover fare, but nicely done, with some good lines and curves to break up the overall look.

Supplied Since its inception as a 2001 model, the Highlander has grown to include three rows of seating and a dominant presence on the road.

Nobody will mistake the Highlander as a Rubicon Trail candidate, but the all-wheel drive acquits itself well in snow, with all four tires locking up and providing excellent traction. For those with still mild but more serious off-road intentions, a Multi-Terrain Select option lets you choose between four modes: mud and sand, rock and dirt, snow and normal. These modes are accessible through a console-mounted knob.

Hybrid models use a rear electric motor to provide all-wheel-drive capability. In either case, the systems can send split torque 50:50 front and rear, with 100 per cent torque sent to the front in normal driving.

The 2022 Highlander offers rock-solid build quality, promises Toyota’s legendary reliability and is a comfortable, capable and efficient family hauler to boot. Now, if it just had a place to heat up my haggis…

kelly.taylor@freepress.mb.ca

Kelly Taylor

Kelly Taylor
Copy Editor, Autos Reporter

Kelly Taylor is a Winnipeg Free Press copy editor and award-winning automotive journalist. He's been a member of the Automobile Journalists' Association of Canada since 2001.

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