Drivetrain upgrades highlight the Highlander refresh, notes Damien O’carroll.
Toyota has given the Highlander a mild facelift for the 2017 model year, but under that slight exterior upgrade lie some rather extensive drivetrain upgrades that bring some pretty serious improvements to the company’s ever-popular SUV. On the outside the Highlander gets a new trapezoidal grille with silver accents and new halogen headlights, along with LED daytime running lights. The GX and GXL models get a new design of 18-inch alloy wheel, while the top-spec Limited model gets a new 19-inch design and additional exterior chrome highlights. The GXL also gains a power rear hatch, while all models now get LED taillights. On the inside there is even less change, with the GX and GXL gaining a new 4.2-inch colour information display, while the GXL also gets a new 8-inch audio display and satellite navigation. The Limited gets a new silver wood grain interior finish, but also gains a whole host of new safety features including Toyota’s Safety Sense suite that adds a pre-crash system, radar cruise control, automatic high beam assist, trailer sway control, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic alert and a panoramic camera system. While things still look pretty similar, the big news comes under the bonnet of all Highlander models with the addition of a new 3.5-litre direct-injection petrol V6 and an eight-speed automatic transmission. Both the engine and transmission have previously only been used in Lexus models and the engine produces 218kw of power and 350Nm of torque. This means an increase of 17kw and two gear ratios over the previous Highlander, and while the power increase may not see like much, the refinement of the drivetrain makes a massive difference to the 2017 Highlander. The 2017 Highlander range starts at $63,490 for the 4WD GX and rises to $66,490 for the 2WD GXL and $70,490for the 4WD model. The 4WD Limited tops the range at $81,490.