Sunday, December 13, 2015

The 2016 Toyota Highlander - Car

The 2016 Toyota Highlander offers four-cylinder, V-6, and Hybrid models, with a choice between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive for much of the lineup.

And across that lineup, the Highlander has some similar driving traits: it's smooth and fuel-efficient.

Toyota Highlander

The base 2.7-liter four-cylinder comes coupled to a six-speed automatic and is offered only with front-wheel drive. It's smoother than you might expect from such a big-displacement four, and it makes a meaty 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.

Most models will come with the 3.5-liter V-6, with 270 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque; it's also teamed up with a six-speed automatic, but can be paired with either with front- or all-wheel drive. It's smooth, relatively strong, and surprisingly fuel-efficient.

Toyota Highlander

At the top of the powertrain lineup is the Highlander Hybrid; There's a 231-hp version of the 3.5-liter V-6 and an electric motor in front and in back, netting 280 hp. The engine and front motor are liked to a planetary-type variable power-split device, like Toyota's other vehicles with Hybrid Synergy Drive.

What makes this a bit different is that all versions of the Highlander Hybrid have through-the-road all-wheel drive courtesy of the rear motor, which means the hybridized engine/transmission power the front wheels, while only electric power passes to the rears for better mileage.

Toyota Highlander

Beginning this year, all V-6 (non-hybrid) Highlander models include a towing package that allows them to tow up to 5,000 pounds; four-cylinder versions are rated at a puny 1,500 pounds.

Toyota reworked the Highlander's front strut and independent rear suspension for better handling, and much of its substantial body lean was tuned out with its last 2014 redesign. Ride quality is no longer cushy, but it's on the correct side of firm for a vehicle in this size class. The Highlander's firmer-feeling electric power steering is excellent. It's as if all the invisible handling screws have been tightened a few complete turns, without ruining its family-wagon fundamentals.