Here Are The Best Year Toyota Highlander and Most Reliable Models

Patrick Oziegbe
Updated On:

Are you in the market for a vehicle that combines performance, reliability, and style? If yes, then you may looking for the highly rugged Toyota Highlander!

But with so many model years to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you especially when you consider there are unreliable Highlander SUV to avoid?

Fear not, because we’ve done the research for you as you practically show you the Toyota Highlander best years.

From the sleek and sophisticated 2022 model to the tried-and-true 2001 Highlander, we’ve compiled a list of the top-performing years based on industry reviews and NHTSA data.

So buckle up and get ready to find your perfect match!

Toyota Highlander best years

Best Years for Toyota Highlander

Top-Rated Years

According to various sources, the best years for Toyota Highlander are 2017 and 2018, with great customer satisfaction and strong performance ratings.

These models have been highly praised for their features, functionality, and reliability.

In addition, the 2014, 2016, and 2021 Toyota Highlander model years are also top-rated (source: 19 Best & Worst Toyota Highlander Years).

2017

This year saw the introduction of an updated version of the Highlander, featuring improved fuel efficiency and a host of new safety features.

Consumer Reports ranked this model highly in terms of performance, reliability, and owner satisfaction.

2018

This model continued the improvements seen in the 2017 Highlander, with excellent ride quality and a spacious, comfortable interior. J.D. Power gave the 2018 Highlander high marks for initial quality and dependability.

2014, 2016, and 2021

These years also performed well in terms of customer satisfaction and overall reliability, making them excellent options for potential Highlander buyers.

Factors to Consider

When choosing the best year for your Toyota Highlander, keep the following factors in mind:

Reliability

Reliability is a crucial factor in selecting any vehicle. The best years for the Highlander tend to have fewer reported issues and better overall satisfaction ratings.

Make sure to check resources like Consumer Reports to find the most reliable models.

Safety

Toyota is known for its commitment to safety, and the Highlander is no exception. Each model year typically comes with various safety features designed to keep you and your passengers safe on the road.

Look for models with high crash test ratings and a robust suite of safety technologies.

Fuel Efficiency

With gas prices continually fluctuating, fuel efficiency remains an important consideration for many drivers.

Some Highlander models, like the 2017 and 2018 versions, boast improved fuel economy, making them an attractive choice for environmentally conscious and budget-minded buyers.

Price

The price of a used Toyota Highlander will depend on factors like the vehicle’s age, condition, location, and mileage. Keep your budget in mind while searching for the best year and be prepared to shop around to find the best deal.

Remember to carefully research and consider each of these factors before making a final decision on the best year for your Toyota Highlander.

RELATED: Between Toyota Highlander vs Lexus RX 350 – which SUV to buy?

Best year Toyota Highlander

2017 Toyota Highlander

Notable Features

In 2017, the Toyota Highlander received a number of updates, enhancing its overall appeal. Not only did it get a refreshed exterior look, but it also introduced some new features to its lineup.

One of the major updates was the integration of the Toyota Safety Sense package as standard equipment across all trims. This package includes:

  • Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection
  • Lane departure alert with steering assist
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Automatic high beams

Another feature to enjoy in the 2017 model is the available blind-spot monitor, providing an extra layer of safety when changing lanes.

The Highlander also offers a range of convenience features, such as a user-friendly infotainment system, a spacious and comfortable interior, as well as three-row seating with ample cargo space.

Safety Ratings

When considering the 2017 Toyota Highlander, you can confidently rely on its strong safety record.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded it an overall 5-star rating, with 4 stars in the frontal crash test category and 5 stars for both side crash and rollover tests.

Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also gave the 2017 Highlander high marks, naming it a Top Safety Pick+ when equipped with the optional front crash prevention features. Key IIHS ratings for the 2017 Highlander include:

  • “Good” in the small overlap front, moderate overlap front, side, roof strength, and head restraints & seats crash tests,
  • “Superior” rating in the front crash prevention

These safety ratings, combined with the notable features, make the 2017 Toyota Highlander a solid choice for anyone looking for a family-friendly midsize SUV with a focus on safety and convenience.

2018 Toyota Highlander

Differences from 2017

In 2018, the Toyota Highlander saw some minor updates from its 2017 predecessor.

Most notably, the newer model boasted an improved reliability score and additional standard safety features, such as blind-spot monitoring.

This feature enhances your driving experience by alerting you of vehicles in your blind spot while attempting lane changes.

Reliability and Performance

When it comes to reliability, the 2018 Toyota Highlander certainly delivers. It has a strong reliability score of 8.3 out of 10, as per U.S. News.

This not only makes it a trustworthy option for your family but also signifies that this vehicle should serve you well for years to come.

The 2018 Highlander’s performance is also impressive, offering a smooth and comfortable ride. It comes equipped with a V6 engine that provides ample power for daily driving and long trips alike.

With this engine, you can expect a fuel-efficient ride without compromising on acceleration capabilities. Some key performance features include:

  • 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque
  • 8-speed automatic transmission
  • Available all-wheel drive for increased traction in various driving conditions

Safety Features

Safety is a top priority for the 2018 Toyota Highlander, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

In addition to the aforementioned blind-spot monitoring system, the vehicle also features a variety of standard safety features that help ensure your peace of mind on the road.

Here are some of the key safety features included:

  • Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection
  • Lane departure alert with steering assist
  • Automatic high beams

With these combined features and its excellent reliability, the 2018 Toyota Highlander makes for a great choice for you and your family.

Highlander Hybrid

Hybrid Versions Over the Years

The Toyota Highlander has offered hybrid versions for several years, affording you more eco-friendly driving options.

In 2006, the first-generation Highlander Hybrid was introduced, combining the benefits of a traditional SUV with improved fuel economy.

The hybrid versions have evolved over time, offering better performance, and upgraded features.

For example, the 2022 Highlander has been praised as one of the best model years, with its hybrid version attracting positive feedback.

Upgrades throughout the generation timeline have included improved engines, transmissions, and battery systems.

Fuel Efficiency

One of the major reasons you might consider choosing a Highlander Hybrid is for improved fuel efficiency.

Toyota’s hybrid technology combines an electric motor and a gasoline engine, allowing the vehicle to switch between power sources or use both simultaneously, depending on driving conditions.

The 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid has an impressive fuel efficiency rating.

According to the U.S. News & World Report, the hybrid model achieves 35-36 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, which is notably higher compared to the non-hybrid Highlander’s ratings of 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.

Your choice to opt for a Highlander Hybrid not only provides better fuel economy but also contributes to reduced emissions and potentially lower fuel costs over time.

Generations of Toyota Highlander

First Generation (2001)

The first-generation Toyota Highlander was introduced in the 2001 model year as a car-based mid-size SUV.

It was built on the Camry’s platform, which made it one of the first SUVs that focused on the on-road experience instead of off-road capabilities.

Throughout the first generation, which lasted until 2007, a few years stood out in terms of reliability and performance.

The 2001 and 2002 models received good reviews, while the 2003-2005 models experienced more issues and are considered years to avoid.

Second Generation (2008 to 2013)

The second-generation Highlander spanned from 2008 to 2013, showing improvements over the first-generation models.

The 2008 model year did well in terms of customer satisfaction and performance testing.

However, there were still some issues in the later years, such as the 2010 model, which is considered one of the worst years for the Highlander.

Third Generation (2014)

Your third-generation Highlander arrived with the 2014 model and was completely redesigned, both inside and out. Some noteworthy years in this generation include the 2014, 2016, and 2020 models, which were among the best years for the Toyota Highlander. In this generation, Toyota continued to refine and improve the vehicle, making it a popular choice for mid-size SUV buyers.

Fourth Generation (2020)

The fourth generation of the Toyota Highlander began in 2020 and continues to the present.

The 2022 and 2021 models received great reviews and show promising reliability and performance. As this generation is relatively new, more data and reviews will become available for you to make informed decisions about the best Toyota Highlander for your needs.

Models and Trims

LE

The Toyota Highlander LE trim is the base model, offering essential features while still providing a comfortable ride. Built on a modified version of Camry’s platform, it ensures a smooth driving experience.

Sport Trim

In 2007, Toyota introduced the Sport trim, which added a touch of flair and performance to the Highlander lineup. This version features a sport-tuned suspension and exclusive exterior styling elements to make it stand out from the rest.

Platinum Trims

For those seeking luxury, the Platinum trims provide premium features such as leather upholstery, advanced safety systems, and cutting-edge entertainment options. These trims are perfect for drivers who want the finest in comfort, technology, and style.

Driving and Performance

All-Wheel Drive

When driving the Toyota Highlander, you’ll appreciate the option to choose between front-wheel drive (FWD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) systems.

AWD enhances your vehicle’s stability and traction, especially in challenging weather conditions or on uneven terrain. This feature can improve your driving experience and overall confidence on the road.

Four-Wheel Independent Suspension

The Highlander is fitted with a four-wheel independent suspension system, providing each wheel with the freedom to move and respond individually.

This enhances your ride’s comfort and stability by effectively absorbing road imperfections. The result is a smoother ride for you and your passengers.

Off-Road Trails

While the Toyota Highlander may not be explicitly designed for off-roading, its AWD system, combined with ample ground clearance, does enable you to tackle some light off-road trails.

So, don’t hesitate to venture off the beaten path and explore the great outdoors. However, always remember to respect the vehicle’s limitations and avoid extremely rugged terrains or high-risk situations.

Engine and Transmissions

I4 Engine

Your Highlander can be equipped with a 2.4L I4 engine, which offers adequate power and fuel efficiency. It’s a good choice for daily driving and moderate loads.

V6 Engine

For more power and performance, you can opt for either a 3.0L V6 or a 3.5L V6 engine. Both provide more horsepower and torque compared to the I4, making them better suited for towing and heavy cargo.

Five-Speed Automatic Transmission

Highlanders with I4 engines often come with a five-speed automatic transmission. This smooth transmission provides decent fuel efficiency and effective gear shifting.

Six-Speed Transmission

If you select a V6-powered Highlander, you will benefit from a six-speed transmission. This setup offers improved shifting and acceleration, ensuring a thrilling drive.

Keep in mind that the 2020 Toyota Highlander has the most reliable V6 engine and transmission combination.

With various engine and transmission options, you can find the perfect combination to suit your needs in a Toyota Highlander.

Safety and Reliability

IIHS Top Safety Pick

Your Toyota Highlander has been awarded as an IIHS Top Safety Pick due to its excellent safety features and performance in crash tests.

You can feel confident in your vehicle’s ability to protect you and your loved ones.

Vehicle Skid Control System

The Vehicle Skid Control System is designed to help maintain stability and control during adverse conditions such as wet or icy roads.

This system works in conjunction with the traction control to prevent your wheels from slipping, ensuring you have optimal grip on the road.

Selective Braking

Selective braking is a safety feature that allows for better control during emergency situations while applying the brakes.

The NHTSA has given the Toyota Highlander positive ratings for its braking system performance, resulting in improved maneuverability and safety.

Extra Features

Alloy Wheels

In some of the best Toyota Highlander model years, you’ll find stylish alloy wheels that not only enhance the appearance but also improve performance. These lightweight wheels reduce unsprung weight, providing better handling and ride comfort.

Redesigned Models

The 2020 Toyota Highlander received a ground-up redesign, making it one of the best model years. These upgrades offer you a fresh exterior look, upgraded interior features, and improved driving dynamics.

Towing Capacity

With some Highlander models, you can enjoy impressive towing capacity, making your road trips and outdoor adventures easier. A powerful V6 engine ensures you have the strength to tow your boat, trailer, or other gear.

Infotainment Options

Your Highlander’s infotainment system comes complete with options like a CD player and AUX input, allowing you to enjoy your favorite tunes. Stay connected and entertained on the go with these advanced features.

Comparison to Other SUVs

RAV4

When comparing the Highlander to the RAV4, the RAV4 is more affordable, with prices starting at $27,975. While it’s smaller, the RAV4 still offers strong performance and fuel efficiency, especially with the hybrid option.

4Runner

The 4Runner is a more rugged SUV compared to the Highlander. It’s built for off-roading and has a sturdier body-on-frame construction. If your adventures call for off-road capabilities, the 4Runner might be a better pick for you.

Mid-Size SUVs

In the mid-size SUV segment, the Highlander holds a strong position thanks to its combination of performance, safety, and reliability.

With a lively 295-horsepower V6 engine and a comfortable, practical interior, it’s a solid choice for families and versatile needs.

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