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The Brief: 2017 Toyota Highlander SE AWD

I’m not exactly sure what’s going with Toyota transmissions these days but as I write these lines, I’m already on my next product from the Japanese giant and it’s major flaw is located between the engine and drive wheels. And it’s the same with this Highlander.

2017 Toyota Highlander

Toyota’s 3-row large midsize CUV has been a safe bet since it hit the ground rolling just over 15 years ago and continues to be just that today. The reasons are simple enough: the Highlander is roomy, well appointed and manages family duties like a champ. It’s not exciting but it’s good.

The standard 3.5-litre V6 has been around for 10 years and has been tweaked recently to put out more power and torque. To go with the new specs is a new 8-speed automatic transmission. Although the engine has aged, its refinement and newfound oomph are very contemporary. Sadly however, one only gets to experience the engine’s willingness to do its job when the autobox finally decides to react and select a lower gear when accelerating. As well, taking off from a standstill often resulted in a jerk, marring the Highlander’s generally smooth demeanour.

The Highlander offers technology, comfort and a quiet environment but if you’re a mildly, and I do mean mildly, aggressive driver, be warned. You’ll find that steering is light but sharp and handling is good. The vast expanse of glass provides good visibility – the driving experience is more than fine.

A simple re-program could make the big Toyota practically brilliant but unfortunately, it’s unlikely to happen if only to maintain lower posted fuel consumption numbers. On that front, do not expect to average much less than 14L/100km especially if more than half the driving is done in town.

As a final note, a $44,000 Highlander should have a standard heated steering wheel. The driver seat variable power cushion is all but useless when compared to a warm steering wheel, especially in Canada.

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