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2019 Toyota Highlander a great choice for families on the go

Toyota’s Highlander SUV has been a strong seller for the company since day one and carries on for the 2019 model year unchanged.

Toyota’s Highlander SUV has been a strong seller for the company since Day 1 and carries on for the 2019 model year unchanged.

That’s OK, it's rock solid reliable and a great family vehicle especially if your family spends time on gravel roads or enjoys the great outdoors where there are no roads. As part of my weeklong testing of this mid-size SUV, my wife and I drove through rural north-central Alberta on a variety of road surfaces with a little off-road excursion at one point, too. Our Highlander Limited AWD was the right kind of vehicle to have.

With a quiet interior, smooth ride and comfortable seats, it allowed us to enjoy kilometres of highway from Mundare, east to St. Paul, looping back along scenic secondary highways through Fort Saskatchewan and back home.

The interior is certainly spacious and absolutely roomy enough for a family of five or six. The third row seat is definitely for smaller kids. But, if no one needs to be seated in the far back, then you gain an enormous amount of cargo space. The middle seat has ample leg and shoulder room unless you have the physique of the Michelin man. Passengers also have cubbies and such to store small items.

So while the Highlander is comfortable to ride in, it is looking old on the inside. The somewhat dated instrument panel could use a refresh as the NAV screen is a little high and far away from the driver. Although this does allow the front seat passenger to control the AC or stereo. Buttons and switches don’t have a quality feel to them. Even the key fob has a ’90s look and feel. Not what I would expect in 2019 with a highly respected, top-selling SUV.

Some good things to note; XLE and Limited models include a remote-operated rear door with jam protection. The rear door also includes a flip-up rear door glass with sunshade. A tonneau cover is standard to hide away your belongings.

Fuel consumption is in the range that I hoped it would be with AWD in a mix of around town and highway driving: 9.5L/100km. At a steady highway speed, getting 8.0L/100km should be easy in a FWD model. There are two Hybrid models and Toyota says the combined city and highway rating is 8.3L/100km. The standard 3.5 litre V6 puts out 295 horsepower which is delivered through a smooth-shifting 8-speed automatic transmission. Towing accessories are available from Toyota dealers and allow you to tow up to 2,268 kilograms (5,000 pounds) whether it’s a boat or small trailer.

The Highlander has enough ground clearance and with the all-season “18 or 19” tires, you should have no problem travelling over rough terrain as my wife and I did on the old family farm near Myrnam and nearby Lake Emilien. This is why I recommend the Highlander to families living in rural areas. The Highlander will take you through the roughest terrain no matter what the conditions.

If considering a hybrid model, Toyota likes to boast that unlike electric vehicles Highlander Hybrids never need to be plugged in as they recharge on the go using regenerative braking to capture and transform energy into electricity and store it in the battery. You can choose between two hybrids.

Pricing for the Highlander starts at $37,300 for the front-wheel-drive LE, which is no stripper model. You get a lot of features including seating for eight. The Limited AWD I drove had no options and was loaded for a starting price of $52,100. The most expensive model in the Highlander lineup is the Hybrid LTD priced at $57,260.

Read more of Garry Melnyk’s Auto Talk at