Entry Price: $36,870
Price as Tested: $49,499

This week, we drive the 2018 Toyota Highlander, delivered with hybrid mechanicals in top class Limited Platinum dress. With a powerful V6 under the hood and a 3,500 lb. tow capacity, this popular SUV Hybrid leaves others in the dust when it comes to acceleration, power and customer satisfaction.

The Highlander Hybrids aren’t cheap, and they escalate quickly in the second through fourth trims of dress. The entry LE starts at $36,870, while the more amenities based XLE pushes the price to $41,970. Next is the Limited at $45,360, while our top ranked Limited Platinum begins at $48,280. The Limited models include just about every feature a luxurious Highlander offers and the only option our tester featured was a $224 carpeted floor mat addition. With $995 added for delivery, it brought the final tally to $49,499. My recommendation is to start with the XLE, which has a decent amount of standard features, and move up from there if you so decide.

With room for seven, midsize Highlander continues to be one of Toyota’s most popular and best-selling SUV vehicles. It boasts “recommended” ratings from just about every major consumer magazine and since its North America introduction in 2001 has been one of the most popular SUVs in America. Nowadays, it seems the biggest decision Toyota SUV consumers have to make is whether to buy a Highlander or its smaller sibling RAV4.

Built in Princeton, Indiana, our Highlander is similar to the gas powered Highlanders as it provides appropriate room for seven passengers thanks to a third-row bench, the latter which comes standard on all Highlander Hybrids. Access to this third row is notable, although adults may find things a bit tight. However, your kids and the pooch will love it.

A total of nine Highlanders are available in 2018 counting the two Limited Hybrid models. Amongst them are five internal combustion gas powered Highlanders and four Hybrids. The entry five passenger gas powered LE starts at just $31,230 retail and comes with a 185-horse four cylinder and six-speed automatic. Once you move up, the V6 couples to an eight-speed automatic which is standard across the V6 non-hybrid line all the way up to the most expensive Limited Platinum gas model, which starts at $46,260.

Our Hybrid tester offers an Electric On Demand AWD system with intelligence, meaning the 4x4 unit starts working when traction loses grip at one of the four corners. All of the Hybrid models come standard with AWD and your dealer will gladly explain all extras, prices and specifications.

Notable is the aforementioned 3.5-liter V6 engine, offering more power and acceleration while delivering very good fuel economy. Delivering a stout 295 horsepower and 263 lb. ft of torque, the final combined output with the electric assist is 306 horses while the fuel mileage is very good with 29 city and 27 highway the EPA estimates.

Significant is the continued progress of Highlander to “near Lexus” esteem in both luxury and ride, especially when you get to the higher priced Limited and Limited Platinum models.

Highlander Limited Platinum standard equipment is extensive, including enhanced backup safety camera, three zone climate control with first and second row controls, power liftgate with jam protection, lots of cup holders, five USB ports with three in front and two out back, keyless entry/start, sliding second row captain seats, 50/40 split fold forward bench third row seat, 19-inch Toyo Open Country tires on great looking Chromtec alloy wheels, heated front seating, power panoramic moonroof with Chromtec rails, SiriusXM, Premium Entune JBL Stereo system with Navigation, Apple and Android compatibility, and much more.

Noteworthy for 2018 is safety, as each and every Highlander comes standard with Toyota’s excellent Safety Sense system, resulting in solid Five Star overall government ratings. Although the ultra high tech safety is not available in the LE series, our Limited features pre-collision with pedestrian detection, lane departure with steering assist, radar smart cruise and blind spot monitoring at no extra cost.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 109.8 inches, 4,861 lb. curb weight, from 13.6 to 78.6 cu. ft. of cargo space, 8.0 inch ground clearance, 38.7 ft. turn circle, and a 17.2 gallon fuel tank.

Toyota Highlander for 2018 is a safe, good looking, extremely reliable SUV that stands out against the competition in a very crowded midsize segment. Expect to see some nice year-end incentives on all 2018 Highlanders.

Likes: V6 hybrid AWD combo, looks, good resale value, quality build.
Dislikes: Third row seat snug for adults, power rear cargo hatch doesn’t open high enough, Limited models expensive.

— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and GateHouse Media.