First Impressions

Everything the old one had, but better. The new Highlander GX seems to be taking the best of what its predecessor did well at and built upon it.


The Test Drive

It had been four months now since I last went to Toyota’s drive day to check out the “then to be released” Highlander. Back then the strongest features that the Highlander left on me were the refined lines and hard edges that made it feel more Euro in looks but brought in some cues from the American scene. These new looks were a strong point of difference from the previous gen2 Highlander  which was more subtle, under designed in ways and softer all round. So with that in mind and after spending time with other similar midsized SUVs, I felt that the Highlander in comparison feels a lot more swollen on the exterior from the drivers seat, and definitely looks “big” from the outside. But it all disappears when you feed in the power and pull away, you can really feel and hear the gears engaging and the sound from the the 3.5L V6 isn’t too bad. However you are instantly reminded of the size when you have to turn quickly. The heavy steering starts to roll the body slightly and there is a bit of lag after exiting a corner.


This is no nimble “car” like SUV that many other manufacturers aim for. Toyota seem to have just accepted the fact it’s not a car, and have just ran with the best of what the Highlander can offer: a commanding view over the road, plenty of interior space and a grounded, powerful vehicle you can feel safe in. Nowhere did the driveline feel out of balance,  and the responsive acceleration and firm brakes bring it all in. When giving it some gas, the gear shift up through second to third felt violent and rough. Manual sequential shifting solves this problem if you are looking for smoother acceleration performance. Fuel consumption isn’t flash but what else would be expected of a V6 moving over two tonne, we were getting between 10-11L/100km around town and on the motorway. Toyota’s 3.5L V6 with it’s VVT-i and Electronic Direct Injection runs well and there is plenty of low end torque with 337 Nm of torque which is great for towing with a rating of 2000kg braked.


On the inside the driver has a great view over the road ahead, the same can’t be said about rearward vision. The small rear window and large D pillars limit line of sight and blind spot areas are also extra difficult to check. I found myself second guessing if it was clear to change lanes and had to trust what I could see in the side view mirrors often. This could have been remedied with blind spot mitigation sensors which weren’t available in our vehicle but come standard in the more high end Limited and Limited ZR models.


Media and climate controls are nice, simple and no nonsense, though some of the layout is a bit odd.  The temperature dial is just out of reach and requires a little extra effort to reach over and adjust. All of the center dash controls should be easily accessible while driving and not distract from the road. The way all of the buttons and dials have been carefully spread out makes it feel as if the designers had too much space to work with and not enough functions to fill it with. Overall the whole interior is quite spacious, continent sized armrests with a slider styled lid-compartment that can fit some seriously sizeable things, a handbag or a frozen chicken maybe. Being a mid sized SUV the Highlander does have the option to lift up a 3rd row of seats to hold a maximum of eight people, handy for extra guests or family.


What’s it up against.

The Highlander sits in the middle of the group for price, but the new 3.5L V6 pushes it ahead of the rest for power output. And for internal luggage capacity it’s up there with the best of them,

Brand / Model Engine Power Fuel L/100km Luggage Capacity Price Highest to Lowest
Audi Q5 SUV 2.0L In-line 4, Diesel 130kw / 380Nm 5.9L/100km 1968 Litres $89,900
Ford Territory SUV 2.7L Diesel 140kw / 391 Nm 9.0 L/100km 1153 Litres $69,990
Toyota Highlander GX 3.5L V6 Petrol 201kw / 337 Nm 10.6 L/100km 1872 litres $59,990
Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2 L Petrol 145 kw / 436 Nm 7.3 L/100km 2024 Litres $57,990
Holden Captiva 7 SUV 3.0L V6 Petrol 190 kw / 288 Nm 10.1 L/100km 930Litres $43,490



Pros Cons
  • lots of passengers features
  • space and storage
  • carries up to eight people
  • heavy steering
  • no blind spot detection/ poor rear view vision
  • larger of the medium sized SUVs


What do we think ?

The Highlander has become the best all-rounder SUV Toyota offers with a strong combination of pulling power with luggage/passenger capacity, good all terrain capabilities all at not too steep of a price if you’re wanting more than the Rav4 can offer, but not quite ready to cough up for the price tag of a Land Cruiser. Toyota’s creative approach to the passenger space with a new look at dash area design, incorporating free flowing storage options and integrating multimedia connectivity cleanly is welcoming. With a fresh rejuvenated look to the interior, the Highlander GX we drove is a hearty piece of gear that’ll be just what you’d expect, and more.


Rating – Chevron rating 3 out of 5


Toyota Highlander GX

Vehicle Type Front Engine, AWD, Mid size SUV
Starting Price $ 59.990 NZD
Tested Price $ 59.990 NZD
Engine 3.5 L V6 Petrol, 201kW, 337 Nm
Transmission 6-speed automatic with sequential shift .
Kerb Weight 2005 kg
Length x Width x Height 4865 x 1925 x 1730 mm
Cargo Capacity 1872 litres (2nd row seats down, to ceiling)
Fuel Tank 72 litres
Fuel Combined – 10.6 L/100km, 246 g/km CO2
ANCAP Safety Ratings 5 Stars


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Tom Lo
Filthy tidiness is probably how I would describe my passion for anything with a motor. I enjoy the perfection, purposefulness, and thought put into the design and assembly of cars....but I do love to see them been thrashed and covered in brake dust, dirt and blood. You gotta use it to love it in my books.



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